Some years ago, after a particularly enjoyable spa experience at London’s swanky Sanderson Hotel, I knocked over a megastar’s daughter.
I was sitting at the bar, luxuriating in a post-facial glow, and didn’t see Lourdes, Madonna’s eldest child, squeezing past me. The poor wee thing cannoned off the window and stumbled to the floor before picking herself up, dusting herself off, and wandering over to her mum waiting in the foyer.
As spa stories go, it’s hard to top that anecdote. But I’m always open to new experiences, particularly if they involve a full-body massage. And what better place to indulge than the former Free Trade Hall in Manchester, in its day host to the great and good of the music world and, most memorably, the venue where Bob Dylan “went electric” in 1966.
Unlike some hotel conversions, the 21st century version of this building retains much of its original charm. Today it is a five-star Radisson Blu Edwardian, Manchester Hotel, located on Peter Street in the heart of the city. In fact, one of the most appealing aspects of the spa is its heritage; my only complaint is that the beautiful brick curved ceilings, which were once part of the chill-out area of the Sienna Spa, have been covered over with a garish ceiling feature.
Still, I suppose that’s a minor quibble when you’re taking your mum for a jolly nice pampering for Mother’s Day. Ahead of March 16, the Radisson Blu Edwardian, Manchester Hotel is offering a selection of Mother’s Day packages, all of which are guaranteed to keep you in your mum’s good books for some considerable time to come.
We plumped for the Indulge Spa Day, a right royal treat which includes a 60-minute full-body massage, a 60-minute ESPA skin solutions facial, and afternoon tea in the hotel restaurant. At £125 per person, this is the most expensive option. Would it be worth it?
The answer is yes, yes and thrice yes. Man, I love a good spa. I’ve been to a few in my time and not all have left me with a Zen-like calm. There was the masseur who kept leaving the room to answer the phone and open the front door, not to mention the one who asked me to strip naked in front of her so “we can get started”. Pop your clothes on the chair, you won’t be needing those is not the best marketing ploy for return business.
Then there are the spas flooded with daylight which, in addition to the soft lilt of pan-pipes, come with an additional soundtrack of the No 73 bus. It’s bloody hard to relax when all you can hear is the screech of brakes and an electronic voice telling you to have your ticket ready for inspection.
Thanks to its lower ground location, one of the joys of the Sienna is the total absence of street noise. In addition, the lighting is all candles and dimmer switches. If there’s anywhere likely to make you forget the grind of everyday life, it’s here.
Of course, being British means we do find it hard to relax, particularly when we’re stripped down our knick-knacks in front of a total stranger. I suppose I’m what you’d call a spa veteran but I still find it hard to unwind. I often envy C3PO – able to switch his brain off with a simple click. Ah, if only wishing made it so.
Then there’s massage etiquette. When is a good time to scratch that itch on your nose? You’re face-down on a heated table, letting a random person lather you in hot oils but, wow, your nose is itchy. Shall I wait until I turn over? Can I deal discreetly with said itch? Should I try and forget about my itchy nose? Oh god, ALL I CAN THINK ABOUT IS MY ITCHY NOSE. Now other thoughts crowd my mind. Should I get quiche or salad for my tea? Should I get quiche and salad? What kind of salad should I get? Do my cats miss me?
For this reviewer at least, the only way to totally relax would be to fall asleep. But that would be akin to kipping on a flight in first class – you’d miss all the good stuff.
But I digress. Put simply, and despite my inability to completely chillax, the Mother’s Day pamper package is bluddy wonderful. The hour-long massage was sheer heaven and the facial was, to my surprise, even more tranquillising. Well, apart from the bit where the wonderful Jade showed me my skin under an ultra-violet light and it looked like I was auditioning for Shaun of the Dead. Me mum had a fabulous time too which, to be honest, was what it was all about.
The Mother & Daughter Indulge Spa Day includes full use of the Radisson Blu Edwardian, Manchester Hotel’s Health Club Facilities. It also includes a 60-minute Swedish full-body Massage, a 60-minute Espa Facial, and afternoon tea in the Opus Restaurant.