Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Getting Steamed Up: Columnist

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Getting Steamed Up: Columnist

Article excerpt

My sister just treated me to a spa weekend and it was an eye-opening experience. The hotel was five-star luxury from start to finish - television hotel inspector Alex Polizzi would have been lost for words. Everything was as it should be, including a nightly turn-down service in case you were too exhausted from sitting in a sauna all day to pull back your own top sheet, and two obliging doormen with big black Mary Poppins umbrellas to protect you from inclement weather. It was undiluted extravagance. And the spa was even more decadent. Fluffy robes and matching slippers on our arrival, top-brand toiletries to use in the shower at the end (most of which ended up in my handbag, alongside the swag from breakfast - a croissant, a muffin, a slice of Gruyere and a tiny pot of jam).

Short of following you home and doing your marking, the spa designers had accomplished everything in their power to help you relax. There was piped ambient music, twinkling coloured lights and an assortment of steam rooms where you could sweat out last night's Rioja while listening to whales making love. In order to foster a sense of grandeur, they'd also given the steam rooms Romanesque names such as the Tropicarium, the Caldarium and the Tepidarium. Presumably calling them the Humid Room, Hot Room and Lukewarm Room failed to convey the requisite sense of imperial grandeur.

The fact that spas such as this are still flourishing in a recession is testament to the rupturing of the economy. In the US, this economic inequality is shameful: in 2010, the top 1 per cent of earners took home 93 per cent of the growth in incomes. …

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