What is it that makes career-driven women so set on scheduling that all-important spa treatment into their monthly diary?
Is it the lure of distraction from every day life? The chance to momentarily block out the reality of work deadlines and meetings? Or the appeal of being given ‘permission’ to close your eyes and conjure up visions of paradise in your head, while the soundtrack of crashing waves washes over you?
For me, it’s all of the above. And with this in mind, my friend and I paid a visit to the newly-opened Imagine Spa at the Hilton to see if it was all that the hotel chain empire promises to live up to.
On its own site away from the bustle of Heathrow Terminal Five, the spa is most likely a welcoming haven to jet-lagged business travelers who need somewhere to stop over in style.
But on closer inspection, it seems this five-star retreat which officially opened at the end of 2011, may well become an established spa destination in its own right.
While I drank a cup of mint tea and perused over the ‘menu’ of treatments, I felt like I was choosing a starter from a Michelin-star restaurant. Treatments like the ‘Raindrop Massage’ the ‘Scentao of Asia Massage’ and the ‘Khanya of Africa Massage’ begged to be picked. And as I glanced out of the window to the Boeing 747s taking off, perhaps I didn’t need to be on a Boeing 747 to experience the exotic.
In the Moroccan-esque surroundings of the spa lounge, I opted for the Khanya of Africa treatment and my guest went for the Scentao of Asia. I wanted to leave this Thames-Valley retreat feeling energized, not hypnotized. And this treatment promised to do just that.
As we were led into a ‘couples’ treatment room I grimaced a little. Neither of us had experienced massages ‘in company’ before. Thinking it might be more suited as a romantic gesture on Valentine’s Day or for an anniversary, I was pleasantly surprised. As the sound of panpipes washed over me, I became blissfully unaware that I had company. A ritualistic foot cleanse followed and several hot stones were placed around my body to radiate warmth. A sweet aroma then surrounded my senses as the therapist smoothed Marula massage oil along the back of my leg. With only momentary checks that the pressure was comfortable, I let my mind drift to my ‘guilty pleasure’ – my imaginary paradise beach in far away lands.
While my guest experienced a more deep-tissue experience through the use of hot stones, Ginkgo Biloba, Green Tea and Ginseng, my therapist used less intense massage techniques and eased my muscles with ‘ritualistic’ African stones.
The 90-minute experience was completed with a light scalp massage and a couple of hours in the tranquil spa.
I felt heavy-limbed but nicely revitalised and my skin blissfully smooth. As I contemplated my thoughts from the heated pool-side lounger, I decided one thing: this was a taste of the exotic I had to come back for – and you don’t even have to board a plane.
Imagine Spa, Hilton Heathrow Terminal Five, Thames Valley, London, Tel: 01753 766476
by Lucy McGuire