Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Getting hot and covered in mud (Happy Birthday Eleanor!)

Today is my youngest sister’s birthday. She’s in Germany somewhere on a army-type camp (never sure how to explain it), probably spending the night in a field, firing carrots at the enemy. Because that’s how she rolls. Just graduated, just 22 and already Eleanor’s embarked on a long list of adventures and travels to make you (read: me) jealous with plenty more in the pipeline. She’s pretty amazing.

Eleanor and me celebrating her birthday last year

Last weekend we got to hang out. We had both gone to Bristol to see friends. I picked her up in the morning in a snazzy hire car - way cooler and cuter than I am - but hey, we can pretend! Since life has been pretty full on and stressful for Eleanor with finishing a law degree and trying to figure out what to do with THE FUTURE I wanted to take her to a spa. Bath Spa was all booked up on this only-possible-weekend-to-meet-up so I took to Groupon to do what it does best: provide an obscure offer in an obscure place. To be fair, Groupon has served me pretty well over the years (this is not a sponsored post, by the way!), but there’s also been a fair share of it-looked-better-on-the-inter-web. I’m not a spa expert either, so wasn’t too sure what to look for, but in the end went mainly by location and the fact that food was included.

When I say I’m not a spa expert, I mean I’ve never been to one. Neither had Eleanor. Don’t think my mum or other younger sister have. My twin sister went once and said she felt like she was in a cult, got bored, and freaked out by a ‘sleeping room’. We’re not really a family that chills. We’re a go for a bike-ride/long walk/swim in the sea/play a board game type of family. (I’m sure if someone paid for us, we wouldn’t say no - and a massage is ALWAYS welcome in my book - we’re just more likely to spend money on other things).

So anyways, we really didn’t know what to expect, as we drove down on a sunny Sunday along winding country lanes in Devon to the Dartmouth hotel. I was quite grateful for the snazzy hire car as we parked up alongside golfers, spa-visitors and families out for Father’s Day lunch. Our beat up, dirty old Passat we used to have wouldn’t have blended in so well! We tried (and probably failed) to sound vaguely like we knew what we were doing as we received our white dressing gowns, towels and flip flops. We decided to embrace the experience and go to eat lunch in our gowns - cuz that’s what you do, right? So weird.

After sparkling wine, salads and celebrating the wonder of creme brulees, we hit the steam room, pool, jacuzzi and sauna. It was then that I learned Eleanor doesn’t cope to well with getting really hot. Which is kind of the main focus of all of the aforementioned ‘activities’. I mean, the activity basically is sitting and sweating. So it didn’t bode so well for the included special treatment of our spa day. I’d never heard of a Rasul mud treatment before I booked this. The photo on the website shows a woman lying naked on tiles, covered in mud. I assumed it wouldn’t be quite along those lines and reckoned giving your skin some tlc is never a bad thing. So it was with curiosity that we stepped into the Rasul room - for which we were given the keys to lock and left to carry out the treatment with just ourselves and the obligatory buddha statue in the corner to keep us company.

We didn’t get naked, although pretty close to be fair, and we proceeded to cover ourselves in sweetly smelling mud - white on the face and brown on the body. It really did smell nice, and had a consistency of melted chocolate. Where does this ‘mud’ come from??! We felt - and looked - a bit like tribal desserts once we were done. For once I didn't have my camera with me - probably a very good thing!

Then came the steam, filling the room as we sat on our tiled chairs, trying to relax. The whole relaxing bit never really happened. As I said, Eleanor doesn’t like getting too hot. She’d also forgotten to remove her contact lenses. The mud proceeded to melt on her face and run into her eyes and mouth, which she had to keep spitting out on the ground. Charming. She had to open the glass door of our steam room (Eleanor did mention gas chamber at one point, which really added to the chilled vibe… NOT) to cool down a bit and dripped mud over the floor. After several minutes we started using the salt (again, smelt really good) crystals as exfoliation before at last, the steam subsided and the showers above came on. They were advertised as rain-like. I’d say that was a bit far-fetched, definitely more like a standard shower. And they were hot. Then Eleanor found the hose with the cold water in and got so excited it may have sounded like she was having a little TOO much fun (I think this is designed as more of a ‘couples’ experience…). The mud washed off pretty quick, we got bored of the non-rain-like-showers, so we exited, having tried to mop up some of the mud dripped on the floor. We then wandered up to the bar for a drink, obviously still in our robes even though no one else there was, before getting on the road to Cornwall.

We looked less like this...

 And more like this...


So that was our first spa day. Eleanor was slightly traumatised by the Rasul, and both our heart were pounding for quite a while after because of the heat (it gets to nearly 50 degrees). So not exactly relaxing. But our skin did feel smooth afterwards and hopefully it appreciated being de-toxified. And it was fun(ny). And great to have plenty of unhurried time to catch up in a beautiful countryside setting, with the sun shining so we could sit outside in our robes and enjoy the gentle summer breeze. So it definitely was a treat. Next time we'll try get all the women in my family along. The spa won't know what's hit them.

Happy birthday little Pike, love you loads. x

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