|BODY & SOUL SPAS (THE TIMES NEWSPAPER)
Body & Soul Spas
From three in a tub in Cyprus to rambling country house hotel in Dorset there are child-friendly spas that make life easy for all the family.
Stressed? Just chill with the kids
Up until last week I could not recall ever getting into a spa bath and enjoying it. Maybe it’s because I’ve done it only in a public baths and sitting in bubbling water clashing knees with semi-naked strangers as we try to “relax” strikes me as faintly ridiculous.
But I have now discovered the perfect spa bath experience and it is this: sitting outdoors on the balcony of your luxury hotel suite in a private hot tub, listening to the ocean waves break against the rocks below, while sipping cold beer from the mini-bar.
This is how we ended every evening of a blissful stay at the Azia Club and Spa near Paphos, Cyprus, our two-year-old daughter in the Jacuzzi with us, because everything here, down to the tiniest detail, is designed to make even the most stressed soul relax. Not just in the spa but at every step until you go to bed.
I had wondered if I’d be intimidated by such opulence. I like nice hotels as much as anyone but working-class chippiness means that I usually avoid scarily posh spas like the plague as they make me tense up rather than chill out. But the Azia manages to do fabulous luxury without snootiness or crass ostentation, a rarity these days. Its concept is one of “barefoot glamour”, luxury that is understated, not in your face.
Huge effort has gone into little details: unusual lamp bases made from driftwood, exotic fresh flowers in your room, a sweeping wrought-iron staircase banister designed to look like flowing seaweed. There is nothing bilgy or brash here; only earthy colours, natural materials and an air of calm.
It was blisteringly hot, so each morning we ate breakfast under the trees on the terrace before lounging on the shaded wooden love seats dotted around the lich gardens overlooking the sea.
The Asphodel spa was open from 8 a.m. but I went in the afternoon when it was too hot to move. Walking into the spa is like entering a tranquility capsule: the constant sound of running water, essences of ouzo and anise, and relaxation rooms where you can lie in privacy curtained by white-muslin drapes. The variety of treatments (it is an Elemis Spa) is huge, ranging from anti-ageing facial to a two-and-a-half hour “renewal ritual”, which includes an infrared body-healing sauna.
Being a traditionalist I first went for a back massage which was so good that I fell asleep and afterward enjoyed knot-free shoulders for the rest of the holiday. Two days later I had an hour-long facial that involved rose-petal cleanser, ginseng toner and the most gorgeous lavender compress which cleared my blocked sinuses.
The hotel proved a kid’s club to baby-sit while you are being pampered and the spa also does shoulder massages for children, though mine couldn’t be dragged from the kids’ pool to have one
In the late afternoons when it was colder we walked along the cliff paths looking for fish in the little rock pools. The hotel doesn’t have a beach to speak of, but a short walk takes you to a secluded cove where a stream runs down into the sea; perfect for children to play in. In the evening we had dinner in the “amphitheatre” – tables set on wide descending steps that are filled with cerise flowers in full bloom – overlooking the sea while a violinist played in the corner.
They have done a clever thing at the Azia and its crucial to people like me who get uneasy in overly elitist joints where you are terrified of crumpling the cushions. They have created an ambience in which you feel you are being permanently pampered but not permanently watched. The staff, all super-friendly, seem to anticipate your need without being intrusive.
The best compliment I can pay them is that we all left feeling relaxed and totally invigorated. If you are going to indulge yourself, I doubt you’ll regret doing it here.
Quality of experience Excellent, the therapists are friendly. Treatments are all Elemis and beautifully done. Children are welcomed and not scowled at.
Ambience Tranquil, with a slight Eastern feel. Spotlessly clean. Indoor pool, steam room, Jacuzzi, jet massage, sauna, yoga room.
Food Emphasis on fresh. All flowers and fruit at the hotel come from the nearby Morokampos Plantation. Different dinner themes each night. Excellent choices for kids; for example, fish fingers made from freshly caught fish.
In crowd well-off families, thirty something couples.
Wallet watch treatments range from a back massage, Cyp36, to intimate moments renewal ritual for couples, Cyp192 per couple, lasting two-and-a-half hours.
Need to know package from Cyp910 per person. The price is based on two sharing and included sever nights in a Mountain View room in the Azia Club and Spa, private return car transfers and return economy flights with British Airways. Book through Essential Escapes, www.essentialescapes.com, 020-7284 3344.