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The view from your bale
Safaris and spas – two hotel-related things that we either love (the latter) or know we would love (the former). So we’re all over the Spa Safari that Nihiwatu on Sumba - an island in the Indian Ocean 250 miles south-east of Bali, and an hour’s flight from Denpasar – will launch next month.
It’ll take an entire day, the spa safari, crossing the island to Nihi Oka, a clifftop bale (traditional open air pavilion) overlooking the ocean below. You can get there either by foot (90 minutes) or – the luxury option – by car. Because why would you work up a sweat when you’re about to get slathered in fine oils?
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A while back, we wrote about the Hard Rock Hotels' Rhythm and Motion Massage. Continuing the rigorous research, our newest contributor, Linda Marcisano, put herself on the table to experience something called "Synchronicity."
I walked into the treatment room at the Hard Rock Punta Cana for the “Synchronicity” massage ($210 for 50 minutes) only knowing that music was involved. Upon spotting a guitar lying on the massage table, I started to panic. Would I be serenaded during the treatment? Would an aging rock star (preferably Bon Jovi) appear to perform a solo? Would my masseuse, who didn’t appear musically inclined, use one hand to knead and another to strum?
But I'm getting ahead of myself. The Rock Spa has quite the prelude to the actual treatment, so let’s start there.
I arrived 30 minutes before the massage (it was recommended to check in an hour before but we were in knee deep at the casino’s craps table) and led to the locker room where I was introduced to a guide. Whereas other spas show you where the amenities are and let you have at it, the Rock Spa actually accompanies you, kind of like a circuit, recommending how long to use each and in what order.
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We are, of course, spa fanatics at HotelChatter, but if we had to pick just one skincare brand that we would chase to the ends of the earth, it'd almost certainly be Ila, a supremely decadent UK brand that calls itself "beyond organic" because it really is something more than a box-ticking exercise - it uses "wild-harvested" biodynamic ingredients from artisan sources around the globe, and Ila products are genuinely unlike any you've used before.
Ila has been hovering around hotel spa land for a couple of years now, but it has just opened its first standalone spa - or Ila Only, as it calls it - at Raas in Jodhpur, India. Treatments are pretty affordable, starting from 2800INR, or $46. Oh, and the treatment rooms look divine.
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If you thought the ladies of Manhattan have the best kept nails around, you need to see the women of Paris – all those monochrome outfits wouldn’t half look boring if they weren’t accompanied by a flash of color in the talons area.
In fact, nails are so crucial to the French look that Park Hyatt Place Vendôme has just opened a nail suite, run by beauty brand Kure Bazaar. Suite 601 has been completely retooled as a salon, with a tongue-twister of a name: The Nail Suite By Kure Bazaar in Suite 601.
French manicures, normal manicures, pedicures and “luxurious nail rituals are on the menu”, at this, Kure Bazaar’s first nail salon. And if you’re into all things eco, you’ll love that Kure Bazaar nail varnish is 85% natural ingredients. No, not naturally occurring paint and oils – ingredients like wood pulp, cotton, wheat, corn and, um, potatoes.
Couples' massages. Romantic or creepy?
There are plenty of hotels which offer exclusive rental of the spa, of course, but none quite like this experience at the Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia.
The Puerta Privada deal not only nets you out of hours access to the Joya Spa (along with two other couples), but makes an evening out of it.
Step one: Knock on the (closed) door of the Moroccan-inspired spa, and whisper the night’s password, speakeasy-style.
Step two: Follow your butler (butler!) to your spa suite (suite!) which comes with a terrace, private pool (pool!) and view of Camelback Mountain.
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You may or may not know Neal’s Yard Remedies, the original organic, slightly hippy UK skincare brand. If you have, you don’t need us to sell it to you. If you haven’t, get hold of some, now –it produces some of the most wonderfully scented, naturally made products you’ll ever find, as well as herbal teas, supplements and all that hippy jazz.
Although a few of the Neal’s Yard branches in London do spa treatments, it’s more of a buy-to-use-at-home range, which is why this news is so important: The first non-UK Neal’s Yard spa has just opened at Vivenda Miranda on the Algarve in Portugal.
The hotel is on a bit of an eco crusade, focusing its food on local and seasonal produce, introducing vegan, gluten free and raw food dishes, and revamping the spa, which opened June 1. They’re also introducing “lifestyle retreats” focusing on meditation and raw food, in conjunction with Neal’s Yard – from £1395 for a week, see here for further details.
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Clarins is kind of the Ryan Reynolds of the beauty world: a solid little worker that’ll do a good job, but looking a bit dated amongst the
Benedict Cumberbatches and Channing Tatums Ilas and Amalas. But anyway, you know it’s good, and it’s probably time you gave them another whirl.
And here’s somewhere nice to do it: the Royal Palm Marrakech, which lies eight miles out of town, has just opened a Clarins spa, or Spa by Clarins, as they call it.
The spa has been “designed to resemble a Moroccan palace” – you’ll have to take their word for it, as they haven’t photographed it yet – and the menu is a beautiful array of Moroccan-inspired treatments, such as the perfumed “Supreme Rose” massage, the ghassoul body wrap, and, of course, a traditional Moroccan hammam ritual.
There’s something about the Intercontinental Park Lane that makes a tiny part of us die inside with every visit. Yes, they’ve been renovating the rooms to de-drab them, and yes, the views can be awesome, but it always feels so… sterile.
Having said that, we’ve always given props to the spa for having good therapists and decently priced treatments, considering its surroundings.
And this summer, the treatments have got even more appealing, with the introduction of Ayurvedic-inspired Sundãri treatments.
There are lots available – see the menu here – but they’ve kicked the program off with special offers on two treatments: a “Facial, Massage and Floatation Bed Offer” (a 30 minute massage, 30 minute facial and 20 minutes lying on a floatation bed) for £65 instead of £112.50; and the signature Sama treatment for £90 instead of £135. This takes 90 minutes and packs in loads of stuff: a feet-in-hot-towels thing; a “cleansing back ritual”; an Ayurvedic massage; a hand and food massage to relieve “stress and negativity”; facial cleanse and exfoliation; a Marma massage; and a scalp massage.
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Wild roses outside the Grüner Baum: probably thrown into the treatments too
Ah, Austria, country of mountains, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and holistic healthcare. Eco spa treatments here are nothing new, of course – this is the country of salt caves and hay wraps and oil baths – but an organic spa in a soon-to-be organic hotel doing treatments involving mare’s milk? Why, colour us Cleopatra. Yes please!
The Grüner Baum is a family-run, 100-year-old, 80-room, four-star hotel in Bad Gastein (Salzburg province), which is currently transforming into an entirely organic hotel, from the food to the cleaning products. The conversion will finish next year, but they’ve just completed the most important part: the spa.
Forget Clarins or even Amala; at the Grüner Baum, you’ll now be treated with products from Marías Organic Care – not just organic, but local, too, as they’re based in Salzburg. And not just organic and local – organic, local mare’s milk. Yum.
When Hard Rock introduced their Rhythm and Motion spa treatments earlier in the year, we, along with everyone else in possession of common sense, heard the “gimmick” klaxon. “The world’s first fully immersive music-centric spa menu utilizing amplified vibrations, pressures and patterns, as the foundation of its treatments,” heavy-breathed the press release. “Bass vibrations ripple through the massage table as treble beats come from above, sending pulses through the body and leaving guests feeling energized and invigorated.” What rot, we thought. Vibrating, titillating rot.
And then we tried one.
A couple of weeks ago, I stayed at the Hard Rock Palm Springs, one of the first to get “the dome” (the treatments are referred to as taking place “under the dome”). Being a massage fiend, I wanted to see what the pulsating “Synchronicity” massage was like. First impressions weren’t great: the spa is small with just four treatment rooms and a tiny, not very atmospheric, relaxation room. The signature Hard Rock pre-treatment guitar on the bed was fun, but “the dome” looked like one of those hair-setting bowls at old lady salons.
The massage started to a soundtrack of chill-out music, and just a hint of a vibrating bed underneath me. Just as I’d thought: gimmick. Rub, dig, swirl, should have chosen a normal massage, rub, dig, swirl, stop trying to identify the music, rub, dig, swirl OHMYGODWHATISHAPPENINGTOME.
Possibly not the scrub selection
First it was massage with beer. Now it’s with bourbon. Are Four Seasons trying to tell us something?
First comes the scrub: a wicked scrub of brown sugar, ginger, pecan and Kentucky bourbon. Then, once your pores have been suitably boozed up (and back bacteria slaughtered by the bourbon), comes the massage – not just any massage, but one with hot stones.
Does it get any better than a bourbon scrub and a hot stone rub? Indeed it does. The treatment ends at the bar: not the poncy spa bar, but the actual hotel bar, Allium, where you’ll sample its signature single-barrel bourbon. Presumably you’ll be expected to change out of your robe for this part.
Hombres! Try a “Mexican beer and lime facial”, which whisks up Corona and egg yolk to make a hydrating, skin-elasticizing facial. The process takes 75 minutes and costs $185.
Chicas! If you don’t fancy beer on your face, try a Margarita Medley treatment. You’ll get a marg (or, as they say, “spagarita” – it’ll never catch on) to accompany a lime-based massage of the hands, feet, head and neck.
Hombres y chicas! Just try them both.