Monday, 15 February 2016

GUEST POST: My Visit to the Aveda Spa at The Scotsman Hotel

Give Yourself the Spring Clean Treatment in Edinburgh this February

It’s that time of year again when the optimistic ones amongst us start their spring cleaning. For many, February signals a time to get our lives back in order, new starts and fresh ideas. We all know it’s supposed to happen in January – the New Year’s Resolution period where we chuck out Christmas trees and frantically join fitness groups. But in reality, the endless drizzle and return-to-work slump make us sluggish, so changes go on hold for a month. Fortunately, Spring’s blossom-covered, daffodil-scattered head is just starting to peep over the horizon.

This year, I’ve decided to apply the spring cleaning process to ME as well as my home. Now don’t get me wrong – I do wash. I’m a big fan of baths: wallowing around hippo-like under a blanket of bubbles is one of life’s great pleasures. But I’ve decided I need to take better general care of my bodywork because I’m starting to show some wear and tear. There are visible chips and dents and if I’m not careful, my bumper might fall off altogether. A regular service is in order and in Edinburgh there’s only one place to get the kind of attention I need.

Aware of my MOT mission, a kind aunt treated me to the ‘New Year, New You’ offer from The Scotsman Hotel for Christmas. I’d been for cocktails and a festive meal at the hotel before – both decadent and delicious – but I’d never been to the spa. This was finally my chance to be pummelled, polished and slathered in good stuff by expert hands and I couldn’t wait. So I finally chucked out the remnants of Christmas stodge left in the house, dusted off my gym-wear and headed to the Aveda Scotsman Spa & Health Club, gift-card in hand.

I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from the spa before I arrived. The foyer, bar and brasserie at the hotel are so classically Edwardian with polished wooden panels, stained glass and marble columns everywhere – was this Art Deco glamour extended to the spa? I suddenly felt very out of place in my scruffy (and slightly tight) gym kit but the staff greeted me with warm smiles and helpful directions. I couldn’t have been more wrong about the furnishings downstairs though – or more pleasantly surprised.

As I descended the stairs into the basement level (where a cool 20,000 square feet of space is dedicated to relaxation – a slight improvement on my own 5x9ft bathroom) I was taken aback by the décor. The spa has a sophisticated, minimalist design – all contemporary metal panelling, slick granite surfaces and chic spotlighting. I instantly felt my stresses melt away in this underground hideaway – the street noise evaporated and the muted colours were already lulling me into a hypnotically soothed state.

My first port of call was the gym… a word which usually strikes fear in my heart. But if I was going to enjoy some of the luscious spa treatments on offer later, I had to earn them first. It was my first gym experience in three years – my first ever yoga class – and try as I might to tell myself I hate exercise, I really did end up rather enjoying it. The Scotsman Hotel studio is well-equipped and the instructor endlessly encouraging and energy-boosting. Soon I understood my Downward Dog from my Baby Cobra and was feeling my body unwind. After the class, I had an unfamiliar feeling of wanting to do more… so taking full advantage of this strange compulsion, next I headed for the pool.

Having not worn my cozzie in a while, I was relieved to see there were only two other people in the pool – so I made a dash for it. No sooner had I entered the water, than I felt my self-consciousness ebb away as quickly as my muscle pangs. The pool is kept at an inviting 30 degrees which is, not only like a big warm hug in the middle of winter, but the optimal temperature to help you get the most out of a swimming workout. The room itself is a stunning structure, featuring Scotland’s first stainless steel pool, and it certainly makes for an interesting swim as you take in your sleek, urban surroundings. I found myself doing more lengths of back-stroke than usual, just to enjoy the view.
Once I’d completed 20 lengths (a number I was quite pleased with – I’m no Rebecca Adlington) I sprawled myself out on one of the pool loungers for a well-earned rest… but the Tropical Showers were calling me. I mentioned before my love of baths, well if I had a shower like this in my home, I’d never leave the bathroom. The idea behind the steamy, fragrant heat of these showers is that, post-swim, they keep your muscles supple at a nice warm temperature – perfect for those about to enter the steam room (as I was, naturally, going to do). I needed all the toxin-sweating, circulation-improving, ache-soothing help I could get… so reluctantly prising myself away from the exotic stream, I entered the steam room.

This time, I was the only one in there – I felt like Viking nobility! I found a spot and allowed the humidity to settle around me, soaking my skin and I slowed my breathing. The Scotsman uses eucalyptus essence in the vapour of their steam room, so those with a lingering winter cold will find instant relief. By the time I climbed out 15 minutes later, my body was feeling amazing and my head pleasantly dozy – this was exactly the TLC I knew it was craving… and then it was time for the follow-up Arctic Shower. From my reading, I knew that following the extreme heat and moisture of the steam room with a burst of cold water is essential. It allows your body to regulate a normal temperature again and for your freshly-cleansed pores to close up. Knowing this fact, is very different to actually taking a step into something that has ‘Arctic’ in the title. I took a deep intake of breath and reminded myself it was all part of my Spring Clean project. It was certainly invigorating and my drowsiness was gone in an instant.

For the final part of my Aveda Spa visit, I was led into the treatment room – think serene Indian retreat – by a welcoming therapist. I had pre-booked my Stress-Fix Body Massage (though my morning so far had definitely helped wash some of those stresses away already) and had looked forward to this session all day. This bespoke massage means the therapist really listens to you first to find out your problematic areas. Then once they start, they listen to your body, identifying unknown weak spots, muscle knots and joints that need extra care. I’m not quite sure how 60 minutes passed, but in a blur of deep tissue massage and reflexology, relaxing music and aromatic oils, the masseuse informed me we’d come to the end… until next time.

After a hot shower, blow-dry and cuppa, I practically floated out of the building and glided down the street back home. Anyone who saw me – a large tranquil smile spread across my face – probably thought I’d either struck gold somewhere on The Royal Mile or sampled one too many cocktails at North Bridge Brasserie. But I honestly felt better than if both those things had happened! I was finally able to give that bodywork the much-needed care and attention it needed and in the most stylish, luxurious surroundings the city has to offer – this is one Spring Clean that I won’t mind keeping up all year round.

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