Spa

By Lucianne Lewis

Spending two hours in a luxury hotel while a perfect stranger ran his hands over my body when my husband was away on business may not sound the ideal evening to myself but hear me out…

On a miserable Monday evening I left the sirens and slush covered sidewalks behind as I stepped out onto the 35th floor and made my way to The Spa at the Mandarin Oriental.

After a two-minute form filling session I happily exchanged my sleeping bag coat and thermal boots for open toe pool shoes and a duck egg, blue quilted robe. I was shown through to the water treatment area and left to my own devices to enjoy the relaxing water therapies for thirty minutes before my treatment.

The moment my shoulders submerged in hot water in the oversized tranquility pool was pure bliss. There was a small mosaic tiled enclave in the corner with three buttons, “Fog, Land Rain and Tropical Shower.” The first two reminded me of British summertime and the third option was powerful enough to put out a small fire. Finding this experience more painful than relaxing I moved to the steam room and lay mesmerized by the bubble effect of the water droplets slipping over translucent pinky, purple mosaic tiles and enjoying taking warming menthol breaths deep into my lungs. On exiting the steam room I took the iced towel and felt instantly refreshed as the icy water drenched my hot skin. Finally, I stood under what I believed to be an automatic shower until it dawned on me that it was in fact a row of towel hooks. Thankfully my unsupervised session was over.

A therapist in a sleek black uniform with pepper grey hair and doleful pale eyes approached and said calmly, “Hello Ms Lewis, I’m Jim, I will be taking care of you for your treatment.” The spa had told me that my treatment would be with a man, and that I could change it but being a modern woman I decided to give it a go. From previous experience when a man gives a massage it’s like the Michelin man taking piano lessons with the expectation of a Happy Ending. Despite my calm demeanour, as he came nearer I impulsively grabbed his hand and gave it a firm, “No funny business Jim,” officious handshake.

The bright lights of the city shone through the floor to ceiling windows and glowed off the copper ceiling creating simplistically elegant warmth. In the center of the room stood a crimson bed with what looked like the ingredients for Szechuan beef but were swiftly removed before my treatment.

The treatment started with my private therapist consultation where I was asked “How I wanted to feel after my treatment? “and “What typically was my body temperature?” to determine my personal and current sense of well-being. Apparently to leave my body in a perfect sense of well-being called for a frankincense massage oil that smelt like Vicks VapoRub and contained laughing gas. Blimey!

The combination of traditional Chinese medicine with deep tissue massage techniques delivered a deeply relaxing 90 minute treatment. The highlight of the treatment was the invigorating foot massage where each toe was rubbed intensely between thumb and forefinger which seemed to dissolve any tension left in my five foot nothing frame. So much so that when it came to turning on to my back for the second half I was unable to move a muscle from the sumptuous heated massage bed. Thankfully at the end of the treatment Jim raised the temper pedic bed to a seated position, otherwise I fear I would still be there today.

At the end of the treatment I was deposited in the relaxation room with reclining chairs set out like a first class cabin. I sat there looking out over the city night skyline nibbling dried fruit with a glass of champagne in hand. A fitting end to a first class treatment in a world-class hotel.

The treatment was superb, and the spa team was excellent with every detail considered and executed seamlessly without the guests noticing. Every New Yorker should experience this exceptional spa.

To learn more about the delectable treatment menu visit http://www.mandarinoriental.com/NewYork.

Originally published February 2014
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