Two weeks ago, my two mates and I did something we’d never tried before. No, not ratatouille or Trance, but a Spa Break. What’s more, we did it at a place called The Hampshire Four Seasons, which sounds like a pizza but is actually a posh hotel (the kind that doesn’t sell Tampax from a vending machine out. Or toothpaste by the squirt).
Scary stuff. For my mates and I are knackered 43 year-old mums. We don’t ‘do’ breaks unless it’s a collarbone. And ‘the Spa’ is where we go to buy emergency ham.
But you only live once (though it may feel longer) so this January we did it. We packed our bags, said goodbye to our kids (none of whom were listening) and left a note for our husbands to find when they got out the loo. Two hours later, we were hauling our smelly carcasses through the lily-lined foyer of The Four Seasons and exiting our comfort zone. It was The Muppets Meet Manhattan – the the Fraggles were leaving the Rock – how would we cope?
Well, for those of you who’ve never done a spa break (yes, you are out there, I’m sure – doubtless nursing a verruca and a thing for Sky Sport) here are my Instructive Top Ten Hilton Highlights, as experienced by MUPPETS AT A SPA!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Barely had I reached the hotel, when a charming doorman appeared to take my bag. It was a carrier bag, sadly, containing an apple core and a tinfoil sandwich, but still – he took it. Then he bore it before him like it was 12 cases of Luis Vuitton, and I was Joan Collins just come off ‘Club’.
9. The loos
All of them – even the Gents (I checked). Each cubicle was a mini-Alhambra, and nicer than ANY room in my house.
8. Free bike hire
Normally, my mates would punch anyone who tried to put them on a bike. But because it was free, they made a man get things out of a shed, and together we set off on an elegant pedal round the grounds.
True, Muppet 2 was wearing track bottoms and a beanie that made her look like Brian Harvey from East17, while Muppet 3 wouldn’t shut up about her Sore Bottom, but with the wind in our hair and the rolling hills of Hampshire before us, we made it to….
Not just any bench, however, but The World’s Best Bench – because we’d just settled down for some sandwiches when we realised the bench was on a helipad AND A HELICOPTER WAS NOW LANDING ON OUR HEADS.
At the last second, it landed on the ground instead. But it did then release several passengers, one of whom looked a bit like Peter Stringfellow from behind, and made us feel…
7. The Constant Presence of Celebrity
The cabbie who’d dropped me off at the hotel had alerted me: The place was popular with Premier footballers and Tom Jones – and had once been the residence of Katherine of Aragon.
Later, I asked a doorman if this was true – had Katherine of Aragon stayed there? “It’s possible.” He inclined his head discreetly. “We have so many famous people passing through”.
6. Everyone who didn’t laugh at us
I don’t know what the Hilton is putting in their employees’ tea, but their staff couldn’t have been kinder to us or more forgiving. Particular mention should go to the Grand Vizier of the Reception Desk, who upgraded our room for no apparent reason other than we looked pathetic and kept saying things like ‘I haven’t got my trainers’.
5. Comfy beds
We were 3 women sharing a room…what do you think happened? At 3pm, we checked in. By 3.01pm, we were naked. Come 3.02pm, we were sprawled on our beds in fluffy robes and furry slippers, discussing the proper, long swim we’d take in the pool, once we’d flicked through Grazia, Closer, Hello, OK and the room service menu.
4. The spa
It was like returning to the womb, and finding it spruced up with mosaic tiles and a hot tub. Three tired, middle-aged women, we settled our rumps on to the nearest jet, and as we cackled away in the Jacuzzi felt – briefly, blissfully – like the work-shy cleaning staff of an oligarch.
3. Chocolate brownies in the pool
Not in the pool itself – that would have been a bit ‘floater’ in the water (see Caddyshack).
In the spa reception, however, I found a food station. And at the food station, there were provided for us muffins, tea and brownies. And I did eat of them, and it was good.
2. High tea.
Like the food station at the spa, only fancier and more filling. If I was a sensible bulimic, I’d have chosen this point to retire. Instead I just rested. And resumed.
Slacks straining, stomach lined, I then proceeded to enjoy…
1. An egg in my cocktail.
Yes, the ‘climax’ of every spa weekend – the overpriced drinks – tempted three muppets with blow-dried hair to hit the baronial-styled basement bar.
Here we found a baronial-styled barman who cracked eggs in my drink (still not sure about that one) and denounced Muppet 2 for ‘disliking the taste of alcohol’ (which was news to Muppet 2, who’s been knocking it back since she was 14, and met her husband in Sheikhs Nightclub on Bognor Pier).
So there you have it. To Spa or not to Spa?
I have to say, it was fun. For 24 hours, I lived like Gwyneth Paltrow – or at least how Gwyneth Paltrow would live if she was a bit like Shane McGowan. My mates and I ate well, drank irresponsibly and came home shattered but clean (having showered repeatedly to make use of the free products).
But lasting benefits? Well, my husband greeted me with “You look raddled – but you smell nice.” Which is all either of us have ever wanted. And justifies all the emergency ham I’ll be feeding my kids in perpetuity to claw back costs.