The Art of Relaxation

Underneath one of the busiest transport hubs in London doesn’t seem like the most obvious place to seek relaxation. But the spa at the beautiful St Pancras Hotel is an oasis surrounded by metropolitan madness. On a recommendation, Fashionable Mother and I headed there on a rainy Friday morning, welcomed into the heart of the hotel under the fashionable Gilbert Scott restaurant.

The spa is small, a niche gem rather than an all-singing all-dancing retreat, which is sensibly to expect in the middle of a city – they don’t have access to the sprawling estates of say, Grayshott, or Lucknam Park. But what St Pancras has is presented impeccably; a small hydro-therapy pool in a warm tiled basement room, with an adjoining steam room and lovely loungers. It honestly felt a world away from the trains passing just a thick wall away, and with no phone signal to be had, I felt protected by the spa’s secluded, luxury embrace.

My chosen treatment was an hour’s massage, with my very knowledgable therapist asking plenty of questions in advance to ascertain my lifestyle, stress levels and even sleep patterns. While I tend to think I carry stress in my shoulders, she immediately honed in on my pelvis and lower-back, and relaxed me so much I was near to a blissful trance, if not total spa coma.

A pleasing bonus point of the St Pancras spa was the relaxation room – the place you tend to be taken following a treatment. Too many I’ve been hustled into have been too cold, too cramped, devoid of atmosphere or just lacking from the establishment entirely. Although very small (I can’t imagine the spa ever being super busy, with the hotel’s clientele seemingly business and weekend flying visit-oriented) it was perfectly formed – loungers with throws if you feel the chill, candles, light music, plenty of magazines, fresh tea, iced water and even nuts and fruit if your treatment has left you peckish. I could have stayed there all day, but was reluctantly ejected on the promise of afternoon tea.

Afternoon tea! Exciting! Who doesn’t want afternoon tea following a relaxing morning’s spa? Luckily (it was still raining) we needed only to pop upstairs to the hotel’s Hansom Lounge for the St Pancras Afternoon Tea. The ambience was slightly dented by a mass check-out of a business contingent, piling suitcases through the lounge and saying plentiful goodbyes. Luckily the food soon arrived to distract us. Frequent takers of afternoon tea will know the pleasing ritual that is a three-tier stand of cakes and sandwiches, loose-leaf tea and an old-fashionable strainer. Our waitress was lovely and very attentive, offering more sandwiches (fresh walnut bread with honey-roast ham, yes please) and topping up tea as FM and I valiantly ploughed through the mini patisseries. Victoria Sponge, Mille Feuille and chocolate mousse pots (oh my) got the better of us, but really only because we made the rookie mistake of binging on warm scones and clotted cream, the central staple of a good tea.

When we left the hotel the rain was still coming down hard, in fact, the only thing I’d add to the experience is a hotel-based blow dry bar, but hey, my hair may have been past saving but my muscles, mind and stomach were satiated indeed.

St Pancras Hotel and Spa.

St Pancras Spa

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A Load Of Hot Stones And Fat Chips

Think spa, and giant pebbles probably don’t immediately spring to mind. But one of the best treatments I’ve ever had at a spa is the traditional hot stone massage. If you’re already a fan of the classic massage, or don’t really respond to the usual finger prodding, try stones – the therapist coats you in oil before using a hot smooth stone in each hand to firmly stroke and massage your body. The heat is an added bonus to removing any knots, my shoulder blades had never felt so free.

I had my latest hot stones treatment at the Macdonald Bath Spa hotel, with my friend Miss Spa Girl. The general spa environment was average, and I’m never a fan of children allowed in spa swimming pools, but there you go. What was really nice was the service, we were met throughout the day by a succession of pleasant people, which isn’t always a given in a chain hotel environment. I would have sold my soul to keep my therapist on tap, but that might have been my post-treatment euphoria (although she was fantastic).

It was therefore nice to continue a sensory-filled day with dinner at Cowshed, a Bristol hotspot on the Whiteladies Road. Miss Spa Girl and I reminisced about old times by parking on the street we lived on at Bristol University, and shaking our heads at all the changes to our old haunts (honestly, five years away isn’t that long, is it?). As a red meat girl, I love steak, but only a *good* steak, and Cowshed definitely delivered. We all commented that the described ‘fat chips’ were more ‘obese chips’ which can only ever be a good thing where chips are concerned.

A trip to an old uni-favourite bar made us feel, if not old, then definitely ‘grown up’, perching on hard seats and attempting a serious conversation about customer service values over the loud music. Honestly, with those types of conversations, and a penchant for massage and a good quality spa robe, I really am turning into my mother.

Bath Spa Hotel.
Cowshed Bristol.

Hot Stones