All I want for Christmas is you (or a massage from one of these places)
Nothing says ‘Maybe this year won’t be so shit’ like having a stranger stroke your spine while you cram your face into an ill fitting U shaped pillow. If I sound like I’m being sarcastic - I am not. Treatments are excellent, EXCELLENT last minute presents as all they require is a couple of clicks or a phone call then writing all the details in to a card you’ve bought yourself.
It is however quite important to have a handle on household admin before you charge in planning massages all over the place. Don’t just pick a date out of the hat, it will almost certainly fall on a school play/hospital appointment/meeting with an estranged parent. No one wants their Christmas present to be ‘rearrangement of a facial’ (Incidentally I was once gifted the most beautiful luxury 90 minute massage at a notoriously busy spa for the exact day I was meeting a friend who was only in the country for a week. The mixed emotions of gratitude/not wanting to hurt feelings/confusion at what to prioritise around the whole thing caused such anxiety it warranted a massage in itself).
When it comes to people touching me, I’ve always been a believer in ‘You get what you pay for’ so WARNING: some of these are on the pricey side.
THE PIG AT BROCKENHURST
It’s Christmas, and you deserve it, so why not go all out and get a 2 night stay? The original Pig in Brockenhurst is a bougie wougie Beatrix Potter playground, all herb infused gins and roaring fires to stoke and naughty sows to stoke as well. It’s billed as a ‘restaurant with rooms’ and indeed the food, all locally sourced from within a 15 miles radius, has caused many a lusty weekend to be stripped of desire after overstuffing myself with delicious things and ending up like a pilates ball.
But the best menu for my money is still the treatment one; secluded potting sheds only accessible by candle lined bridges over lakes, giving the impression of being completely secluded and at one with nature. I once had an out of body experience during the Indian Head massage of my life. Then the woman told me I had a spirit animal with me and that animal was a fox and I’ve lived my ‘His Dark Materials’ fantasy to this day.
Continuing on from their ‘We’re absolutely bonkers we are!’ branding, the spa treatment menu feels all a bit wacky at first glance in that it’s never entirely clear what you’re getting/what’s going to happen to you when you do. E.g. ‘Synaesthesia Spa Treatment’ - eh?
That said, once you get over the psuedo-spiritual jargon the treatments are absolutely wonderful, and I appreciate the theatricality of the whole thing - curated music, pyjamas to wear, on occasion even a sort of story to accompany the rubbing. Nestled in the back of selected stores, the treatment rooms feel thankfully removed from the Lush shopping experience i.e. they don’t smell like you’re trapped inside a car air freshener. I had the ‘Hard Day’s Night’, which was accompanied by a reworked Beatles soundtrack, lots of stretchy contortions (they call that Shiatsu) and aforementioned PJs. It was……well, lush.
Plump plushness and 50 shades of beige from the brand that has bovine puns down pat (sorry). There’s not much else to say about Cowshed, each branch is a treat to spend time in (except Selfridges, but a spa in a department store is a total contradiction in terms no matter how wealthy the patrons). It’s vegan & they do a great line in maternity treatments which aren’t always possible at other spas/I’m told can sometimes instil mums to be with worries re: whether the therapist will take care of them properly. I find the facials especially good.
AVEDA HAIR INSTITUTE
I first came across Aveda treatments when they popped up in the secret Liberty beauty rooms (this is a thing, they have pop up menus there all the time as well ones that are there full time, type ‘Beauty treatments Liberty’ in to google. It’s tremendous because you can redeem money spent on massages against products in the beauty hall, everyone’s a winner).
Aveda also breaks the ‘stick to what you’re good at’ rule. Consider the world of takeaways. If your local pizza delivery of choices started branching out in to curry, chances are not only would the curry be crap the pizza would start suffering as a result of divided attention. I have pretty much the same opinion of salons - once a nail station gets installed it’s time to say goodbye. Happy to inform though that Aveda, famed for swishy hair, don’t half know how to rub you down good. The Aveda aroma massage is the one.
This is a very handy app and I feel modern just having it. Specialists come to your damn house! Provided you live in London, soz. With them they’ll lug massage tables and tan tents (for gods sake give them a hand). ‘Where’s the catch?’ There isn’t one really; prices are very reasonable, they often have deals, you can choose whatever time you wish & request a previous therapist should you get attached. They do a great spray tan and I for one find it much less weird getting naked for someone in my house than in a shop. It all makes one feel much cosier and happier than the woman in the picture would suggest.
THE WALK IN BACKRUB CLINIC
Again, London based SORRY SORRY. If you haven’t yet discovered these boutiques nestled in to some of the West End’s teeny tiniest alleyways all I can say is you’re welcome. Few things in life are more relaxing to me than a massage chair, or ‘monkey chair’ as I prefer (in that if you took a picture of someone in it then photoshopped out the chair you’d have a perfect ape shape. Aaaaaaand I’ve finally cracked). You can’t book these so a voucher will just have to do, and at around a quid a minute it’s a total bargain.
‘It’s not a facial’ says the website, ‘It’s a workout’. It is a facial though. A therapist (perhaps they prefer personal trainer?) stretches your face around and it’s excellent for those with sensitive skin as they don’t always use serums, you can consult. In what they call ‘High energy kneading movements’. LOL BREAD FACE!
I’m being quite disparaging here but I actually really enjoyed my time at facegym, and the very fact that the word ‘gym’ was involved made me feel good about eating a ton of Thai later. I first found out about it years ago when I read that its founder Inge Theron was left housebound after a facelift and wanted to come up with something effective and non invasive. No arguing with that.