Oh, how I have missed the singular extravagance of a spa. Bubbling thermal waters, low lighting and the restorative flutter of relaxing music go a long way to relieve stress - that familiar foe. This morning, I hot footed it to ESPA Life, the golden spa which sprawls over four floors of London’s Corinthia Hotel, for its 7am opening. For a few blissful hours, I was transported.
Given the hotel itself is closed (until Stage Three in the roadmap out of lockdown kicks in on May 17), the doors to this grand Thameside establishment remain locked but the masked manager flung them open for me and I slipped out of central London and into calm. Save for one businessman in the lobby, it was empty - but that made my visit feel all the more special.
A masked receptionist greeted me in the spa, leading me to a changing room with my own locker and a fluffy white robe inside. So far it was all familiar from pre-Covid times.
My first stop was the gym where Callum Jackson, the director of FitSpace in Chelsea, was ready to train me. FitSpace, a boutique fitness studio focussing on holistic wellness and popular among young, cool west Londoners, has partnered with the Corinthia’s gym to offer residents and members bespoke training. Jackson was wearing a mask but told me I didn’t need one. And if I’d rather he didn’t wear one either, that was fine, too. After all it was only the two of us in the gym.
Jackson led me through a bespoke low-impact strength and conditioning workout and gave me extra tips on managing the tibia injury I’m currently battling. I found his mix of core, glute and calf exercises along with TRX and weighted lunges just what I needed - a long-term approach with none of that showy sweaty nonsense some trainers pull out of their hat just to impress on the day. Jackson listened and adapted: the mark of an excellent trainer.
I have been hellbent on getting back into a swimming pool since they closed last year, but I spent last night’s swim in my local Richmond lido muscling my way past a sedate cohort of hairy men who had booked into the ‘fast’ lane. I had to change by the pool, in full view of the top deck bus passengers waiting at traffic lights on the main road, trying not to flash them. All this meant I was ready for something a little more relaxing, so the minute I finished my last TRX dip, I changed (in splendid isolation) and headed to the Thermal floor.
The dark wood interior, lit by flambeaux, was a complete contrast to yesterday’s fast-lane fiasco. I was the only person on the whole Thermal floor, which includes a nine-metre swimming pool, vitality pool, ice fountain, marble heated loungers and sleep pods (the sauna and steam room are closed until May 17). You have to make hour-long reservations in advance - a new pandemic-era rule that means it’s only ever you or your bubble in there.
I began my 60 minutes of solo pampering at the ice fountain, using big scoops of ice flakes to release tension in my shoulders, where lockdown stress and work-from-home slumping have affected me the most. From there it was straight into the swimming pool, heated just enough to mean you can float without needing to keep warm by swimming. The vitality pool’s jets offered a waterfall massage targeting all those stiff back and neck muscles. I almost nodded off on the heated marble lounger, lulled into a trance by the flickering light of the torches.
The hour flew by but I took my time dressing in the marble changing room. Stocked with ESPA’s bergamot and jasmine shampoo, conditioner, soap and moisturiser, and kitted out with hairdryers and mirrored vanity tables, it was a final moment of glamorous tranquility before I had to step back out into our strange new world.
Save for the masked staff - and the impossibility of ordering a drink from the hotel restaurant - my spa morning didn’t feel sterile or marred by the pandemic. It was, dare I say it, blissfully normal; well, the lavish side of normal. If a spa day felt good before, it’s transcendent now. Lockdown has enhanced the therapeutic benefits of a five-star spa, and the added privacy is extra special.
As I left, I spied three different couples sipping teas and awaiting treatments, which start from 10am. If only I’d taken the whole day off…
Whitehall Place, SW1A 2BD; corinthia.com/london/
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