17 November 2009

Mint, black pepper and honey

There are massages that put you to sleep, massages that tickle, and massages that hurt. The best kind leave you feeling like you need a little lie-down to savour the feeling.

Well, I don't know. Every second venue seems to have added "…& Spa" to its name, building a fragrant and hallowed space through which white-clothed therapists move with quiet purpose.

I wonder: nowhere outside a spa is that mood of quiet purpose to be found, not even in an intensive care ward. Do they train them thus at spa school? Do they have to practice being as quiet yet purposeful as the water feature in the corner? Or is it just part of the personality of people attracted to this kind of work?

The downside of the proliferation of spas is that so many offerings are afterthoughts, and it shows. Gimmicky spa menus and perfunctory slaparounds are terribly disappointing.

At the Constantia Uitsig Spa, like every other facility on this dream wine estate in the Constantia Valley, you'll find the real deal: a solid, spacious, classical venue, with impeccably trained and skilled staff, and excellent facilities. The place rings with integrity, and the signature treatment – Les Aromes du Vin (literally, the fragrances of the wine) – sums that up.

What is it?
Les Aromes du Vin is a two-hour treatment in two phases: a thorough exfoliating body scrub, followed by an extensive aromatherapy oil massage.

My therapist offered me three bowls of oils: peppermint, black pepper and honey. When you taste Uitsig wines, these are three of the flavours you'll find tracking around your palate. I chose the black pepper for my massage – that's the invigorating one, and goodness me I feel a need for invigoration – so the other two oils were blended together with vine bark and sugar to make the body scrub.

There's nothing like a proper, professional exfoliating scrub. Even with the best intentions and the canniest bath accessories, you cannot by yourself get to the hard-to-reach parts that someone else can; nor can you get the sustained action they can.

The massage can be adjusted to your preferences, and mine required sternness. My muscles were frozen into speedbumps up and down my back, but with firmness and patience, my masseur beat them into submission, tactfully not commenting on the obstacles. Aaah.

What does it feel like?
Rinsing the scrub off is paradise: your body emerges from the grittiness like polished marble. And it sucks up the oils, becoming pliable as vellum.

The environment is perfect: dim lighting, a soundtrack that avoids the whale-music camp, conversation when you feel like it, all the information you want (and nothing more). The change rooms and showers are the best.

Would I recommend it?
The treatment itself is part of a package that also includes lunch (valued at up to R200) at any of the estate's restaurants, which include the award-winning La Colombe restaurant. I'd opt for the Constantia Uitsig restaurant, though: it's an intimate venue just a stumble from the spa, with a lovely light menu, and glorious views through the vineyards on to the Constantia hills.

I had a sublimely classic tomato tart, a hearty Caesar salad, and a huge sigh of happiness.

Highly recommended.

Where to get it
Les Aromes du Vin is unique to Constantia Uitsig Spa and costs R985 all in. The rub-a-dub-dub combo of exfoliation and massage is, however, a spa standard, so if you can't get first prize, you'll still be able to get a similar treatment elsewhere.

(Heather Parker, Health24, November 2009)


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