Spa day!

Back when I was a university student, I used to think that life was pretty hectic at the end of the year. There was all that studying to do, all those exams to take, all that packing, and, of course, summer employment to find. Until this year, I didn’t really have any appreciation of just how incredibly stressful things were for all the other people involved in the end-of-semester routine–the academics who had to grade a mountain of papers in very little time, and the administrators who had the monumental task of turning a collection of grades from individual assignments into final averages for each course, across the year, and–for graduates–across the entire academic career.

Thanks to the fact that I was one of those overworked administrators this year, my schedule over the last couple months has been absolutely crazy. I’ve been arriving early, leaving late, working through lunch, sometimes getting to the end of the day and realizing I hadn’t even made time to take a “comfort break.” Towards the end, I also started waking up in the middle of the night, pondering how best to tick off all the things on my to-do list. Needless to say, this left me feeling a bit weary.

To give myself a light at the end of the tunnel, I booked myself a spa outing on the Saturday after the last day of term. Originally, I was just going to go for a couple of beauty/relaxation treatments and then return home, but then I realized that the date of my outing coincided with the first full day of the Falmouth Sea Shanty Festival. I couldn’t bear to return home to a long evening (and night) of boisterous maritime music right on my doorstep, so I also reserved a room at the historic Falmouth Hotel. Decadent? Yes–but also delightful.

2014-06-13 17.01.27
The vegetarian grill

In a way, the celebrations actually began the night before, with an end-of-year BBQ arranged by the geographers in our college. We all chipped in a few quid and brought our own main dish, and the organizers went out and purchased all the rest. It was an amazing feeling, after so many weeks of preparation, to finally click the button that released all the grades to the students, then walk outside to a beautiful Cornish spring evening, drink a freshly made mojito, gorge on a juicy burger, and then finish it all off with some homemade cupcakes and chat with colleagues.

2014-06-13 17.02.05
Our sun-drenched patio, through the haze of smoke wafting up from the grills

The next day, I slept in until 8 AM (pretty impressive for me), ran errands at a leisurely pace, and then made my way to St. Michael’s Hotel and Spa. It’s only about a fifteen-minute walk from my apartment, but although I regularly walk past the hotel, I’d never actually been in. Unsurprisingly, given both the location and the time of year, there was a wedding party lounging in the front garden upon my arrival, and I felt a bit awkward strolling up in my casual attire and backpack. It is quite a nice hotel, and I certainly didn’t match the look of the other clientele. Luckily, there is a separate entrance for people who have come to use the spa/pool/gym facilities, so I was able to duck out of the way and make sure I didn’t accidentally photobomb the bride and groom.

St. Michael's entrance
Right this way for rest and relaxation!

I had scheduled both a Swedish massage and a manicure, but I wasn’t sure about the order in which they were going to be given. Part of me wanted the manicure first since I knew the massage would leave me in a stupor, but part of me wanted the massage first so that I wouldn’t be totally groggy when it came time to walk up the street to my evening accommodations.

It turns out that my “beauty specialist” (Carly) had planned for the latter option. I started with a full hour of massage on my back, shoulders, legs, and arms. It’s always amazing to me how quickly the time can fly when you are getting a massage. An hour of any other activity–grade entry, for instance, just to use a recent relevant example–can drag on seemingly forever, and yet a massage seems to be over in the blink of an eye. I could feel Carly locate and attack several knots–mostly in the shoulder area, and likely stemming from the hours of computer time I’ve put in over the past several weeks. There was one point, between her work on my left and right legs, when I actually began to fall asleep just in the amount of time it took Carly to go fetch a new bottle of massage oil. Clearly, I was exhausted.

2014-06-14 17.18.55
Lubed legs post-massage

The hour was over all too soon, and I was led out into the waiting area to pick my nail polish and allow Carly to prepare the treatment room for Round 2. I looked for a color that was attractive and elegant without being too loud or over-the-top; eventually, I settled for a sparkly gold. It wasn’t until Carly was about to apply the polish that I realized it was not dissimilar to the hue I purchased for my junior prom, for which I wore a (matching) glittery gold dress. Time has obviously not affected my fashion sense too much (for better or worse).

Unlike the massage, the manicure provided ample opportunity for me to chat with Carly, which was a little awkward. She was very nice, but I was still a bit dazed from the massage and was therefore struggling to have any coherent thoughts. We did, however, manage to discuss the ins and outs of beauty school (I find it amazing that each student is expected to learn things as diverse as manicuring and massaging, rather than specializing in one particular area), the purposes of the various things that she was doing to my hands, and also the fact that one of the folks in the wedding party upstairs had set fire to the banquet table during dinner.

Painted nails
Gold and sparkly

My nails looked quite lovely when Carly had finished, but they were still in a delicate state. I was escorted to the Relaxation Room and advised to wait at least ten minutes before touching anything; at that point, all of the varnish and protective coats should be dry, allowing me to pick up my bags and head off. Unfortunately, as is typically the case when I paint my nails, I managed to brush one finger against something within about two minutes of completing the manicure; this left me with nine beautiful nails and one with a little scar. *sigh*

relaxation room
The “Relaxation Room” at St. Michael’s

Waiting in the Relaxation Room was a bit weird because I couldn’t really do anything. I wanted to look at my phone but couldn’t yank it out of my bag. I wanted to read a book or magazine, but couldn’t pick one up. I wanted a drink of water, but couldn’t figure out how to extract my bottle from my backpack. Luckily, my ten minutes of waiting passed about as quickly as my 60 minutes of massage, and I was soon able to head out into the absolutely stunning evening.

Falmouth Hotel
The grand old lady of Falmouth’s waterfront strip

I made my way up the road to Falmouth Hotel, which I’ve only visited once before. That previous trip was associated with an education away day, and involved one of the hotel’s meeting rooms; I’d never previously been upstairs to one of the guest rooms. My room was a tiny little space on the top floor, with a window overlooking the back garden. It was oriented in the general direction of my apartment and, to my horror, I could actually hear the sounds of sea shanties wafting in on the breeze! Luckily, the noise wasn’t overwhelming, and I was able to drown it out with a bit of music from my MP3 player.

Once ensconced, I immediately set about the very important task of giving myself a facial–one of those girly activities that is much easier to accomplish either when the menfolk aren’t at home, or when you are away from the menfolk. My typical “treatment” involves a series of three different masks, and as each one worked its magic, I sat in the wide window seat, basking in the sun, listening to music, and playing word games on my phone. Much better than worrying about students’ grades.

After all of that was done, I took a quick shower to rid myself of the excessive amounts of massage oil still glistening on my skin; actually, I was so well lubricated that I’m amazed I’d been able to sit down anywhere without sliding off the seat. Feeling limber and refreshed, I headed back downstairs to take a stroll along the seafront. On the way, I paused to admire the dramatic lighting in the main stairway of the hotel:

The simultaneously spiraling lights and staircase made me think of DNA

The evening had gotten much cooler, but it was still really lovely. There wasn’t much of a breeze, and the water was incredibly calm; rather than hearing the waves rushing towards the sand, I could only detect the faint sound of them lapping ever so softly at the edge of the beach. By that point in the evening, many people had headed back inside, so I pretty much had the sidewalk to myself.

Pendennis Point sunset–one of the best views in town

I headed down towards the Swanpool Nature Reserve so I could sit on my favorite bench and take in my favorite scenery. I love walking around at twilight, which I have always found to be a magical time of day. It is nice to live in a place where it is safe to do so, and where you can enjoy such a gorgeous landscape when you do. I sat for a while, listening to music and watching the quaking-grass shiver in the light breeze that was just beginning to roll in off the water. Beautiful.

quaking grass
Quaking-grass waving gently in the golden sun

Before it could get too cold or too dark, I eventually left my perch and headed back towards the hotel, where I sat in the lobby for a while to take advantage of the free Wi-Fi. When I’d had enough of being beaten at word games by my friends and family (how rude of them!), I headed upstairs for a blissfully calm and quiet night of sleep.

I’m going to need a few more relaxing weekends to fully recharge after this crazy semester, but my spa day certainly went a long way towards getting the process started. Perhaps I should treat myself more often. =)