We tried several treatments at the Macdonald Monchique Spa, the first of which was the Caldas cleansing ritual (90 minutes, €100).
My therapist, Rafaela, took me through to the treatment room, consulting my consultation form on the way. I had written that I wanted to be "relaxed" at the end of the treatment and she smiled, saying this was a very relaxing treatment indeed. She gave me three options for the oil: lavender, orange or eucalyptus. In a mellow Mediterranean mood, I went for the orange.
We began with me lying face down on the wide and comfortable heated treatment bed. The Caldas cleansing ritual is a very deep skin cleanse, with smoothing and soothing along the way. Rafaela started with my back. First, she used a citrus-scented gel to clean my skin, removing it with a warm flannel. She then massaged in orange oil, sprinkling salt on top to make a scrub. After a firm scrub, more warm flannels wiped away the salt. Next, a foaming cleanser, which Rafaela made sure smoothed my skin even further by donning a loofah glove to massage it in. More foaming cleanser, and this time she smoothed my skin with a sponge. Finally, once my back was sparklingly clean, Rafaela applied more orange oil and massaged my shoulders and spine, finding knots in my lower back I didn't even know I had. Once my back was super smooth, she repeated the formula on the backs of my legs and, once I had turned over, the front of my legs then each arm. The whole process took an hour and a half, after which I was possibly the cleanest I have ever been. Each limb felt not only sublimely smooth but also relaxed, thanks to the massage.
As a final touch, Rafaela presented me with the glove and the sponge she had used so I could take them home and continue the good work. The Caldas cleansing ritual is an excellent treatment to schedule for the start of your holiday in Monchique as it exfoliates your skin well and leaves you in good shape to go to work on your tan.
The Espa aromatherapy massage (55 minutes, €85) was another relaxing experience. How can a combination of lavender oil and hot stones be anything but? My therapist, Rute, started on my back, smoothing on the oil, then using the hot stones for deeper pressure. She moved to the backs of my legs, the soles of my feet, then my arms. She finished with some work on my neck muscles, moving my head from side to side, stretching out the tension, and the final grace note was some scalp massage -- a divine touch.
We recommend this massage for near the start of your holiday, too: it will soothe away your work-related stresses and strains and leave you free to relax and enjoy the fresh mountain air, summer sun, and the delicious Portuguese food.
The Monchique Cosmetics Bio Skin Life facial (60 minutes, €80) is a treatment to have just before you get on the plane so you can go home nicely smoothed and taut.
The treatment started with a foot massage. I could tell that the magic of Monchique was working as there were far fewer knots in my feet than usual: a sign that I was unravelling. Rafaela cleansed my skin first with Comfort Cleansing Milk which contains extract of medronho, a local fruit, then with Active Cleansing Foam with aloe vera; in fact, all the Monchique products felt very gentle and natural against my skin. After an enzymatic peel, Rafaela applied a gel accompanied by facial massage, tracing figures of eight around my eyes, along with some firm pinching of my eyebrows and jawline. She painted on a cold lifting mask, and smoothed this over and over my skin; I don't think I have ever been massaged by paintbrush before. After Rafela removed the mask with warm flannels, she applied serum, intensive eye cream, moisturiser, lip balm and -- as we were in sunny Portugal -- some sunscreen.
After all Rafela's attention, my skin felt soft and smooth, and positively shone with good health. The facial was the perfect finishing touch to a soothing and relaxing few days in the peaceful mountains at Macdonald Monchique Spa in the Algarve.