I love a good spa. But part of that love comes from the fact that it always feels like an unnecessary decadence.
No matter how many times I indulge, I spend much of the time lying on the massage table/lounging in a bright white dressing gown/inhaling aromatherapy essence wondering if this is really how I should be spending my time and money. Is this a Northern thing? Do we worry about wasting cash on stuff we don’t need and could live without?
This building is famous for its heritage: as the Free Trade Hall it hosted the great and good of the music world, most memorably it was where Bob Dylan “went electric” in 1966. Today, it retains much of its original charm. In fact, one of the most appealing aspects of the spa is its location: nestled under the brick curved ceilings which have been lovingly preserved. You might say you could see the bones of the building (if only that were true of myself; my ribcage has long since been covered over by three years worth of Lancashire cheese and onion plate pies).
On the day I visited, the spa was relatively quiet – just the way a good Northern girl likes it (we’re not that great at relaxing). From the off, the staff made me feel at ease and, after many years of submitting to posh people in London spas, it was a relief to hear a familiar accent. The GHD straighteners in the changing room boded well, as did the roomy lockers with enough space to shove in my backpack and coat.
I was, er, taken care of by a lovely girl called Megan. Unlike many people in her profession, she listened carefully when I listed my ailments and waxed lyrical about my dodgy back. If it’s possible to feel at ease dressed just in your knick-knacks in front of a complete stranger, Megan made it so.
I’d opted for a 60 minute aromatherapy massage (with ESPA goodies). Pushing aside thoughts of “what the hell do I think you’re doing you posh numpty”, I submitted to Megan’s soft hands and gentle voice.
It quickly became evident that serious thought had gone into the comfort of customers in the Radisson spa. Many places of this ilk are full to the brim of unwelcome chatter and noise. And it’s rare to find yourself prostrate on a massage bed without the struggle to fit your arms on the same space: most are too narrow. Mercifully, the Radisson’s haven from home suffered from neither of these common ailments. The vaults were silence itself and the bed was proper comfy.
But there were some familiar sounds. I’d barely shed my clothes when the quiet echo of pan pipes pierced my consciousness. It felt wrong to giggle so I swallowed my chuckles and gave myself over to an hour of pure indulgence.
As far as massages and spas go, in my limited experience there has only been one rival to the Sienna Spa. That is the uber swish Sanderson Hotel in London town. I have a recollection of billowing white curtains (in a Twin Peaks sinister stylee), a man in a white coat telling me I had great skin and a rash encounter with Madonna’s daughter Lourdes. OK, this could have been a dream but I swear it’s true. Whatever you choose to believe, as far as memorable spa experiences go, I tell you that the Radisson was up there. I came away feeling pretty damn pleased with myself and if that isn’t money well spent, well, I don’t know what is.
By Helen Nugent
What: Sienna Spa
Where: Radisson Blu Edwardian, Manchester City Centre
More info: for a 5 star hotel, the prices are pretty damn reasonable, www.siennaspa.co.uk/home