“Ding, dong, ding, dong”. Cheers, Luxus readers! Big Ben and I send our hearty regards from the marvelous city of London, England. It’s brilliant to be back here and it’s an honor (or shall I say honour ) to share highlights of my recent London spa trip with you. This bustling, diverse, and often gray, charmer of a city is a second home to me and I fall more in love with it upon every return.
Though an American, I’ve lived, schooled, and worked in England and without renouncing an ounce of patriotism, I can easily say that London provides a type of historical richness and intellectual stimulation that few cities can equal. It’s a place that cultivates critical thinking without sacrificing soul and creativity and you’ll find the town rich in both.
Brimming with charm and charity, Londoners are undeniably friendly to visitors and will easily go out of their way to assist. They’re likely to call you “Love” and “Darling” and you will doubtless experience at least one unexpected kiss on your right cheek during a farewell. That’s right, when in Europe you will be kissed, and often. Kissing aside, if you’re new to world travel, London is the perfect place to begin; and if you’re an old soul like me, it’s a city that begs a return.
On this particular return, I was eager to explore The Connaught Hotel, a luxury boutique hotel in London’s exclusive Mayfair district. Gwenyth Paltrow and her husband, Coldplay’s Chris Martin, went public with their praise of the Connaught after living there while work was completed on their Holland Park home. Paltrow applauded both the style and service of the hotel on her personal website, and the hotel continues to enjoy a five star rating. My particular mission was to see if the hotel’s Aman Spa was equally as praise worthy.
Upon entering the hotel, I was impressed by the artful combination of old world leather and wood and art deco black marble and mirrors. The elegant setting is cozy yet surprisingly sleek. The hotel grew increasingly modern as I maneuvered through the white stone halls, past the purple velvet armchair, past the outdoor Zen garden, and down the elevator to the basement.
Yes, the basement. I wasn’t thrilled to learn of the Aman Spa’s location as I have an ongoing struggle with basement spas. Too often they suffer from low ceilings and lack of natural lighting, and convey overall cave-like qualities. Even as I was warmly welcomed at the spa entrance, I was trying to recover from the surprise of the spa’s smaller-than-expected size. This is definitely a more “intimate” spa space, with four treatment rooms and one couple’s room.
I arrived early for my services and was immediately brought to my treatment room by my therapist, who was polite and professional and took every care to ensure that I felt at home in my suite. The Southeast Asian inspired suite featured natural materials and included a side vanity room with a sink and private shower.
Apart from two decoratively carved sliding doors, the suite was simple, clean, and adequate. Neither the spa décor nor my treatments featured superfluous elements and I think it fair to say that “simplicity” is one of the spa’s key features. This can only work, I believe, if the quality of the treatments themselves take center stage. In this regard, the Aman Spa did not disappoint.
High Tea at The Wolseley
A short seven minute walk from the Aman Spa will have you seated in arguably one of the best high tea establishments in London. The Wolseley on Piccadilly is a café-restaurant modeled in the grand European tradition, serving a full Afternoon Tea from 3:00 pm on weekdays and 3:30 on weekends. Please make reservations to avoid a long wait and dress sharply. Tea for two with tax is approx. £ 50.
Phone: 020-7499-6996 www.thewolseley.com
Having arrived at the spa after a rain drenched stroll through the streets, a warm and soothing foot bath accompanied by hot ginger tea was just what I needed to ease into a state of calm. Like the massage that was to follow, no scented oils or perfumes were used, but the effect was still soothing.
My Holistic Massage was a comforting mixture of Thai massage and slow and steady muscle work. My therapist had over thirteen years of specialized training, and I found the treatment knowledgeable, relaxing, and balanced. I appreciated that at no point did the massage produce a level of pain. This was a solid treatment even without being extremely specialized.
For my second treatment, I selected the Holistic Aman Signature Facial. This hour long indulgence was slow and dream-like. If you are a tired traveler or a stressed soul who just needs to escape for an hour, this is the treatment for you.
My therapist used the perfect degree of gentleness and the treatment was never abrasive. Though not a clinical facial with a magnifying glass and extractions, this was absolutely lovely with 100% organic exfoliates, serums, and creams. A honey mask was applied at one point and I experienced a spa first as my therapist tapped their sticky fingers up and down all over my face, slowly lifting my skin each time. It felt like a hundred little kisses all over my face. A comatose-inducing face massage followed, encored by a pressure point scalp massage that produced a truly healing state of relaxation. I highly recommend this calming experience.
At the conclusion, I was discouraged to learn that there wasn’t enough time for me to shower in my spa suite. Instead, I was escorted in my robe through the lobby, past the pool and into the women’s locker room. What’s the point of having a spa suite if you can’t enjoy it afterward?
The spa pool, I should mention, offers the best ambiance in the spa with its darkened waters and impressive illuminated waterfall. If Bruce Wayne kept a pool in the bat cave, it would look similar. The pool is free when you purchase at least two hours’ worth of treatments.
My overall impression of the Aman Spa at the Connaught was mixed. Is it a great place to go for professional therapists and solid treatments? Yes. Is it where you’ll go if you want to relax for hours in a spacious setting with ambiance and distinctive touches? Probably not. The spa is missing a certain “unique” factor, which the predictable music and lack of apparent scents and refreshments all testify to.
Like Gwenyth and Chris, please do relish a stay at the Connaught. And while I hope you get the chance to enjoy the Aman Facial, perhaps you’ll enjoy spending most of your time above ground soaking up the beautiful atmosphere of the hotel and the delicious French food served in its two restaurants. Aman Spa: 3.5 Stars.