Spa Spy slipped on her glad rags for a Spa Party at Sopwell House in St Albans, a rather chic golf club and elegant hotel with its own spa. The hotel and 14 treatment rooms have recently had a revamp: I love the dramatic new glass entrance – it’s stylishly modern but maintains its rakish Regency air. I booked into one of the beautiful Mews Suites, and once I stopped tweeting about my OWN PRIVATE HOT TUB strolled over to the spa to prepare for the evening’s events.
The spa is through the hotel, and although wandering about in robes is actively encouraged, I always find it a bit awkward when everyone else is fashionably attired. However, when I popped into the Brasserie, there were plenty of diners in robes helping themselves to tasty buffet treats. Past the spa reception, spa guests can access the pool area which has a starlit steam room, glass fronted sauna, two Jacuzzis and plenty of comfy recliners as well as a warm mosaic bench. Doors at the back of the pool and the exercise studio open out onto a secluded spa garden, a large manicured lawn surrounded by a tall hedge so you can lap up the sun, or enjoy a yoga class, without fear of being overlooked.
I opted for the ESPA Energy Balancing body treatment with hot stones (110 minutes £125) and a mini Personalised Facial (25 mins). I liked the way my therapist Emilia let me choose which products I liked: it felt like a collaborative and personalised consultation. She also checked which parts of my body I was happy for her to work on.
We began with an all over invigorating body brush followed by a Relaxing scrub – flakes of salt in a delicious ESPA oil. I was happy to have it on my décolletage and around my breast, but Emilia did check this with me first, as people can find it quite exposing. After I had showered, I lay on my front preparing for the bliss of an hour of hot stones. It really was divine: stones on the hot side, which I like, and the heat oozing blissfully along my limbs. A nice touch was her placing a stone on the small of my back while she worked on my legs. It was particularly soothing on my calves and thighs, front and back: I loved having the hot stones pressed into the balls of my feet.
The treatment also included a scalp massage and ended with the facial. I can’t think of a better way to prepare for a party – an ESPA facial always removes about ten years from me, while the massage left me energised and relaxed with glowing, silky skin.
Back through the hotel – slightly embarrassed with my crazy hair after the scalp massage – I relaxed for half an hour to let the oils soak in, then washed my hair and slipped on a little black dress.
The party was held in a large bright conservatory leading out onto a stylish veranda. A large white rabbit and lots of hats and cards signified the Alice in Wonderland theme, with balloons and a wonderfully eccentric mad hatter’s tea spread laid out in the traditional garden room. There were tables displaying products by ESPA, Clarins and OPI, who have just launched their limited edition Alice Through the Looking Glass 2016 range.
I was handed a large glass of Pimms and led to a chair, where one of the therapists gave me an amazing back and shoulder massage: the same effect as a glass of fine wine but obviously without the detriments. “What I great way to start a party!” the woman next to me exclaimed.
Other guests were also enjoying spa treats, including hand massages, sampling a huge range of products and enjoying Clarins make-up consultations. Even children had their nails and faces painted with glittery Wonderland swirls.
Next I had an OPI manicure and chose my Alice colour – OPI I’m Gown for Anything! A pretty creamy lilac that has garnered lots of compliments since. Fellow guests’ fingers were being adorned in a variety of blues, reds and golds. I loved my choice and a week later it still looks perfect, despite tapping away at my computer keys.
As I let my nails dry, I chatted to glamorous Swiss Spa Consultant Martine Fehr, who divides her time between here and Zurich. She was involved in the launch of the ESPA Life at the Corinthia, so clearly knows how to throw a classy party, but I wondered why these events were so rare in Spa World.
“Usually Spas have events around Christmas,” Martine said. “But we wanted to celebrate the beautiful gardens here at Sopwell.”
Indeed, once my nails have dried, I pop outside for a spot of downward dog on the rolling lawns (with a proper yoga instructor, I hasten to add; it’s not my party trick).
The first Summer Spa Party at Sopwell was held last year and was a huge success, Martine said. This year, after some crazy British weather all week, the evening is lovely, the sun setting beyond the ancient trees as guests enjoy a delicious barbecue buffet on the veranda.
It all feels very virtuous, which leaves room for some of the naughtier deserts - strawberries dipped in chocolate and macarons with clock faces. It’s not often I wake after a party feeling and looking so good: in this new Wellness era, Spa parties should definitely be the new rock’n’roll.