He may be more at home in the Emirates Stadium but the Bedford Lodge gives our reporter a well needed break
WHEN someone says “spa”, my initial word association-style reaction is to think of the Belgian Grand Prix. The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, to give it its full name, is a favourite on the Formula One calendar for silly boy-racer man-children like yours truly, with all its super-fast turns through dense European woodland and screeching engines and 180mph overtakes and bonkers first corner six-car crashes. Ah, get a breath of that petrol.
Life, at least from my perspective, is more about that kind of thing and less about lying in a dimly lit room while a stranger rubs pink mud into your head. But is there a place for an Arsenal-obsessed workaholic urbanite in these alien surroundings? Is a detox-ing weekend spa break a good chance for lager-swilling city boys like me to get some much-needed relaxation – or is it just plain boring? I went to find out.
Bedford Lodge is a hotel in Newmarket that recently underwent a £9.5m makeover and added a “luxury destination spa”. Arriving by train, it’s not all that surprising that the first thing you notice about both the town and the hotel is the sheer horsiness of it all. There are horses everywhere; racing spaces, exercising paths, a horseracing museum, statues of horses, pubs named after horses.
The hotel itself is next to the Shalfleet stables; you open your curtains and are greeted by the heads of racehorses sticking out from their own, more rustic accommodation. The art on the walls is of horses. You can’t move for the things.
I headed straight for the new wing, where I’d been instructed to drop in for two hours of treatments. I was ushered through the grand spa area, complete with a big warm pool that pumps jets of water from all directions, massaging parts of your body that you barely even knew existed.
Upstairs I was introduced to Julie, the unfortunate beauty therapist who’d drawn that day’s short straw and was tasked with conducting my 120 minutes of supposed pampering. We went through into a warm, dark side-room where there was indeterminate musak playing.
“How would you like to feel after your treatment today?” was Julie’s opening gambit. I looked at her blankly.
“ALIVE, Julie,” is what I should have said, grabbing her collar. “I want to feel more alive than anyone’s ever felt before!”
But I didn’t say this, and instead muttered: “Umm, relaxed? But I have dinner afterwards, so not like so relaxed that I’m asleep or anything.”
“Ok – relaxed but not too relaxed,” she responded.
“Yep.” Great stuff, Harris.
There were more questions. “What type of skin do you have?”
Skin type? “Erm, I’m not sure – B?”
“I don’t know really. It’s a bit freckly.”
“No I mean is it oily, or maybe dry…?”
“Ah right,” I said, glad for the elucidation. “Sometimes my face is a bit dry.”
She scribbled a note.
“Do you follow a facial programme?”
You what? I’ve had job interviews easier than this. “Umm – well I sometimes use a scrub on it, and my girlfriend tells me to put moisturiser on but I don’t usually bother.”
Julie, an affable type, smiled and scribbled another note, doing a remarkably good job of concealing how appalled she must have been by my hopelessness.
With the Q&A over, I was soon face-down on the bench having some kind of scrub applied to my back and legs. After a pause, a light steam began to rise through the gap that you put your face in.
“I’ve prepared an inhalation pool for you,” Julie explained. “Breathe in deeply three times.” I obeyed, despite suspecting that the “inhalation pool” might be a surgery-style general anaesthetic that would allow her to make off with my iPhone and wallet.
It wasn’t though, and the herby water, or whatever it was, had a nice, soothing effect. The whole experience, in fact, was soothing, and when she finished by explaining which areas of my face require more “regular hydration”, there was a moment when I considered converting to this strange church of caring about what you look like. It seems like an awful lot of effort, though.
Following the session I braved the wintery conditions and jumped into the rooftop hot tub, from where one can lie back in its steamy luxury and gaze up at the stars – a most pleasing way of passing some time, marred only slightly by the noise from the nearby main road.
Sticking to the programme, dinner that night – in the rather excellent on-site Squires restaurant – was alcohol-free, accompanied solely by mineral water. This inevitably made proceedings a tad more insipid than usual, but in a way it was refreshing to finish an evening meal at a decent hour without having had a semi-drunken moan about something inconsequential.
The next morning was most pleasant too, and notably hangover-free. Indeed it was free of even the slightest grogginess, and I found my mood bizarrely lifted as I happily flicked through a book on my way back to the smoke.
So is this what’s it like, then? Is this how life is if you relax a little and cut out all the noise and booze and work, and… fun? Seems like it may well be. Perhaps you should give it a go.
Prices from £95 per room during March. For more information or to book call 01638 663175 or log on to bedfordlodgehotel.co.uk