Cream teas and champers, or clean eating and chakras? The Spa Spies argue for and against Wellness or Pampering packages in our spas
The Spa Spy
I would honestly shiver with horror if I found myself at a hen party spa day with cream teas and Champagne: it’s so clichéd. And have you ever tried to sip a (plastic) glass of bubbly in a Jacuzzi? I have, and I didn’t feel glamorous, at all - just a bit naff. Pampering makes me think of poodles: wellness is contemporary and stylish.
Wellness is not about being excessively virtuous but feeling balanced and beautiful rather than bloated and bleary. Wellness can make you feel pampered, but in a good way: it’s more about nurturing than indulging. Around the world, spas are embracing wellness and luxury combined – often with an eco-element, too. Pampering is about waste and excess; wellness is about sustainability and long-term thinking.
To create a spa around sustainability and holistic health demands more thought than simply using brand-based treatments and a hotel lunch menu. I like to be inspired, whether by food that is going to give me energy and make my gut microbiota happy; or wellness rituals, such as setting intentions while inhaling a balancing spray, or practising mindfulness in a massage to deepen the experience.
Wellness may be the mot du jour, and some places are jumping on the bandwagon without much thought; but if done properly, wellness brings a creative and innovative element to the spa day. I’m thinking gorgeous décor; beautiful settitngs; locally-sourced, healthy food prepared with care and attention to detail; and treatments that truly take care of you.
Chakra healing with Tibetan singing bowls sounds bonkers but feels divine as well as deeply emotional. You can even have a virtual reality mindful experience – or a real one, sitting in an outdoor pool and appreciating the natural beauty surrounding you. And you don’t need a Prosecco or a scone to feel blissed out. Frankly, I’d rather be a Gwynnie than a Kardashian. Give me wellness over pampering any day.
I feel surrounded enough by people gramming their superfood salads or showing off their lycra-clad bodies. There’s too much ‘wellness’ going on for my liking, most of it ridiculous and a total rip off: spas are places to escape this po-faced puritanical insanity.
In a world gone mad with austerity, and lots of depressing stats about diabetes and obesity, I crave pampering. I want treatments with the words diamond and truffle in them, massages that ease my aching limbs and make me snooze - not stay awake so that I can focus on my calf muscles, as one meditation asked me to do. Why on earth would I pay good money to think about such boring things as parts of my body? I want to drift away on a decadent cashmere-covered cloud imagining I’m gazing into Chris Hemsworth’s twinkly eyes (he plays Thor, by the way).
From where I’m sitting, pampering looks a lot like ‘self-care’ but way more enjoyable. Life can be fast-paced and stressful: some people want to punish themselves further with wheatgrass. I want to relax and feel like a Hollywood starlet. The element of fantasy and indulgence is part of it - pampering is playful and fun, like dressing up as a princess and eating too many Smarties when you’re young.
Wellness belongs outside a spa in the real world. Health shouldn’t be a fad but something you do every day and have fun on your days off. It’s all about balance (to borrow an over-used and somewhat nonsensical phrase from the wellness lexicon). I don’t want to splash out on eating less and having a wispy treatment that does nothing. I have had my chakras realigned, thank you very much, and it was frankly underwhelming. And I won’t tell you where you can stick your kefir and kale smoothie.