(Something a little bit different)
It was late summer last year, when my friend Dee and I agreed to make time for a visit to a wellness centre. Just the two of us, and full-on treatments and saunas. As is always the case, actually planning a date and combining two diaries (one of which is very busy), it was eventually the New Year and still no concrete plans!
Then suddenly a great offer online for 2 days at Wellness Centre ‘Zwaluwhoeve’ (which in Dutch means Swallow’s Farm) and a hotel for one night next door. So incredibly cheap we could hardly believe it, so we made a reservation. We are going!
One cold, dark January Wednesday morning off we went, ready to tackle the rush hour traffic on one of the busiest motorways in the country, with our bags, trolleys, beauty cases and such like. It is only when you go away that you realise how many things you need from your bathroom each day! We got there much sooner than we anticipated and had time for a ‘pick me up’ coffee and tea as well.
Checking in, goodness me there are a lot of people arriving here as well. The, only minutes ago, empty car park is now full! Armed with our towelling robes, a stack of towels, plastic bags to carry our things around it all day and the locker key, we went up to the changing room. Even busier up here and sub-tropical temperatures, so you are really glad to get out of your clothing.
After a quick visit to the rest room, then downstairs, with towels and bags, wearing almost impossible to walk in slippers too, we studied the map we had received at the reception.
Where to start? There is so much to do and we have two ‘special treatments’ planned for today as well. Hope there is a clock somewhere because all feeling of time has completely disappeared here in this wellness world.
Having walked round in circles several times, up and down different corridors, we decided to start our day in the herbal bath. Off go the towelling robes, and slowly we go down some extremely slippery steps into warm water and the most delicious herbal aroma filling the air. Despite the huge signs everywhere, saying ‘Silence Please’, everyone is busy chatting.
After our skin has gone wrinkly, we have sat there for quite a while; we take ourselves off to the Sandalwood Sauna, mainly to dry off.
Within seconds, there is perspiration flowing down my entire body. Dee says she doesn’t even feel that warm yet!
We then meander back to the showers, get lost again and decide as it is noon by now, where has the time gone? And yes, we finally found a clock, off for lunch in the restaurant, mainly before the crowds come in and also we have a ‘treatment’ planned for 1pm.
I am so thirsty despite the bottle of Green Tea I have with me, which is empty and I have already filled once with fresh water, and a delicious cheese sandwich on really tasty bread goes down very well.
Off to the rasul, if we can find it. I must remember to tell the woman at reception that it might be easier for guests if you got a copy of the map beforehand, this needs a complete study before you arrive, this complex is so vast! We have all forgotten map reading these days with our ‘sat-nav’s’, which get us everywhere.
10 people (including us) waiting for the rasul. First of all a total scrub with some really scratchy, grain like stuff, and yes, please help one another with your backs, there is a choice of 4 things which we can coat our bodies with: Clay, Coconut, Orange or Chocolate. Each one has a different effect on the skin, from detoxifying, to neutralizing, softening or feeding the skin, the human body’s largest organ let’s be honest. It’s when the man who is holding out the dishes asks: ‘Anyone like a Bounty?’ (A mix of chocolate and coconut) my mind is made up and Dee goes for the Clay. In a darkened room, we plaster the stuff over our bodies and then sit down on a stone bench. Within seconds the room is filled with hot steam and the concoction which we have spread everywhere slowly begins to melt and run into every single crevice. It is incredibly hot; we actually cannot see one another anymore. A few lightening flashes and rumble of thunder and on goes the water. It takes simply ages to actually rinse off this mixture, which has gone from thick cream to slippery, slimy goo!
Eventually when we are dry and re-robed, a cool fresh glass of iced fruit water makes us all feel human again but our skin, oh my goodness, as soft as a baby’s bottom!!
On our way in, we noticed that there is a session planned with singing bowls, including tea that afternoon, but first of all we have to find our way back to the Reception to book. Five people later and consulting our map yet again, we eventually arrive back where our day began at the Reception. ‘Sorry full,’ says the Receptionist and we make our way back to the sauna with the Northern Lights, over 80oC and very hot.
Red-faced like two lobsters, we go out into the fresh air, deciding that it might be better to cool off in the garden than in the deep-freezing cold plunge pool. Not for the faint hearted at all! At that moment, the largest sauna of all spills out a lot of people who look as if they have been boiled in water and they stand there naked in the wind to cool off. I think we will give that one a miss, when we hear them talking about the buckets of ice which has been doused all over them during the cooling down session.
It’s now time for our second treatment and there we go again, with our map, now trying to find the section called ‘Beauty’. We have time and eventually we find it and sit down in the waiting area, actually glad to have a rest. Yes, a wellness day can be quite busy but we both feel that we are giving our bodies and our minds a rest, despite the non-stop talking.
It is then that you realize that a day (or two) out with one of your best friends is incredibly rejuvenating. When you talk about literally everything without any form of judgment and any subject, no matter how important or trivial. You can talk about the things that you often worry about, yes this my friends, is relax, release and rejuvenation of the mind! The added extra is that your body is getting the same!
I have chosen for a Ceylon Massage of my back, neck and shoulders, Dee had gone for the Indian message of head, shoulders and neck. Within seconds I am floating off into another world, this is so incredibly relaxing. The woman who is working thick Shea Butter into my skin has already said that she can see that I am someone who spends a lot of time sitting behind my laptop. How true!
She kneads the knots and such like out of my neck and shoulders and to be honest I would have been quite happy to lie there and have a sleep for a couple of hours. But as it always the case, just as you sink into the most relaxed state of all, the session comes to an end and you have to get up and go.
Thirst brings us back into the restaurant area and we go for a thick, chilled fruit smoothie, which is just delicious. Sitting there gazing out of the floor to ceiling windows we see that the new warm salt water pool, right in front of us and outside is empty, so off we go again. It is much colder now and dusk is descending, as we leave our robes and bags and step into the pool. No one else there, a private moment then? The water is wonderful, warm but not too hot, despite the steam rising all around us. It is so salty it is hard to keep your feet on the bottom of the pool. Dee suddenly starts laughing out aloud as she notices that everything that normally hangs down, following the law of gravity, is uplifted! Yes, we suddenly have perky breasts again and no rolls around our tummies. We laugh so much that a group of 4 women who have just stepped into the pool ask us: ‘what is so funny?’ We can hardly reply we are laughing so much, but when we tell them, the same thing happens of course. Wow this is amazing! If only it was something that remained the same always. No more lifts or Botox, a hot warm salty pool gives you a moment of the eternal youth!
By the time we eventually get out and my Goodness it is freezing in the fresh air now and we hastily put on our robes, we decide one more sauna, not too hot, to dry ourselves off before it is time for dinner.
After a delicious meal and more drinks, we are suddenly tired and decide it is maybe time to call it a day and off to our hotel room. Literally a couple of meters across the road from the wellness centre itself. It was hardly worth actually starting and moving the car. We have brought wine and some snacks. Amazing really how tiring the day has actually been, but we have done a lot.
It feels so good to lie back on the very comfortable beds; pillows propped up against the wall and have a glass of wine, which we drink far too quickly. More talking, more laughing, catch up with our social media, which has been off all day (I must do this more often it is quite wonderful not to have looked at my phone all day) we are ready for bed. Eventually under yet another conversation we both sink off into a deep sleep.
Dreams of things that are possible, things we maybe want to change in our lives, loved ones and we are both totally Zen!
The alarm I set wakes me up. I have actually been awake a couple of time in the night, but this bed is soft and after turning over, sleep continues. A quick shower and an easy snack type breakfast in our room with the things we brought with us, day 2 begins once more in the reception. Fresh robes, new towels, a new map and our ‘special treatment’ of today, the Haman!
You might think having been here all day yesterday that we might have found our way around this web of corridors and rooms, but we have to consult the map yet again to find the rose sauna, the scent of summer roses and soft music sounds ideal. Having spent another half hour in our favourite herbal pool. Today is a day when you are obliged to wear bathing suits and such like. We both agree it feels very different and the people are different too as well. Perhaps a younger group more couples as opposed to yesterday when the majority were women and older men.
The Haman is amazing! It is an ancient ritual of cleaning both the body and the mind and where people socialized as well, not that a conversation is possible. First of all a really rigorous scrub, and then being completely soaped and massaged with olive oil soap. Bubbles which are massive and you can feel as if you are totally immersed in a world of soft soapy bubbles. The massage is good too, and then copper bowls of warm water to wash it all away and then the impossible, trying to turn over and sit up on a very slippery marble high table, when more bowls of water are sluiced all over you. Sadly its time to go, and we make our way back out of this warm little haven, back into what actually turns out to be a mild spring like day. The wind has dropped; being outside is really pleasant today.
Sorry to have to leave around lunch time for another appointment, but we both agree, this has been a wonderful retreat and definitely something we are going to repeat at least every 3 months. We promise one another that. This is really how to relax, take yourself away from the hum-drum of your every day life, shed your clothing and wander around all day in a warm cosy towelling robe and throw any inhibitions to the wind. Talk, knowing that everything you tell one another is just between the two of you, there is no form of comment (apart from positive advice) no criticism, no feeling that you have to rush and do something else this is really relaxing, releasing and rejuvenating not only your body but also your mind.
We thoroughly recommend!!
Back at home, back into the normal routine, I still feel very ‘Zen’, calm and totally rested, so much so, I actually admit I am tired and decide to give myself another day to acclimatize and not do a lot. This feels good, this relaxed state of mind. My skin feels totally amazing, not a rough patch anywhere and incredibly soft.
Can’t wait to go again……