Testing out Nirvana Spa, one of the home counties’ most talked about spas…
I am now 10 weeks post spinal fusion. Things still aren’t as perhaps they should be with the same lingering pain in my upper back, lower back and hips. Even the tiniest of improvements are treated with celebration right now though and the fact that I got through a weekend of presenting at conferences (which I may add included spending a night in a 10 bed dorm in a YHA and standing for 8 hours solid) is worth an afternoon off and a visit to the most talked about spa in our area.
Husband, whilst pursuing the image of the alpha-male-beer-drinking-rugby-watching Dad, is infact a secret spa enthusiast. Having discovered this early on in our relationship, I have positively encouraged this interest. We have sought out spas around the world, lounging in steamy pools in from Rotoroa (New Zealand) to The Blue Lagoon (Iceland). Hilarious memories abound, from being hosed down naked by a 4 ft indigenous Ecuadorian to realising clothes were optional in a Polish spa. The arrival of 2 pairs of little legs means spas generally no longer feature in our life and so my Christmas gift to him of a spa experience at Nirvana was noted as not so selfless.
The beautiful listed building surrounded by rolling hills image nestled in my head is abruptly destroyed when we pull up in the car park of a one storey 80’s building which is made up of several blocks. Have we accidentally turned into a school or a medical centre?
It soon becomes clear however that Nirvana is all about what’s on the inside. Impeccable service greets you at “check in” and once you are ushered through the glass doors you are no longer in a building near Wokingham, you have entered a parallel world of serenity. The spa has created a vacuum where all to do lists, work/children stress and ‘life-min’ disappear through the soothing wall murals and in flows a feeling of intense relaxation.
This is no ordinary pool/sauna/jacuzzi combo. Nirvana is a labyrinth of calming options and its pools use mineral water sourced from beneath the spa itself. The hydrotherapy pool contains spa jets and numerous places to perch and let the bubbles caress away your aches and pains. If you don’t quite appreciate it you can dip into the 20 degrees plunge pool next door and banish any cobwebs.
The Thermal room has a flotation tank which apparently is unique in the UK. A floatation session involves floating in spring fed, dead sea salt water looking up at a starlit sky (this is at an extra cost). In front of the tank is a huge sauna and salt inhalation steam room, and If cold is your thing there ‘s an ice bath and ice rub station. I manage a dip to my waist, but Husband (and most other patrons it seems) simply cannnot not be persuaded to try.
The middle of the spa is dome roofed atrium called the “Roman Bath” . Think lots of glass and soothing murals of flamingos and peacocks looking out at perfect blue water horizons . The light, the palm trees and the intense tranquillity of the pool make it a place you feel drawn to. White robed people lounge on the antique style sun-beds, some reading, some eating, some drinking , some sleeping, some talking in hushed tones and some simply contemplating life.
Through more roman archways we find a cafe, again frequented only by white robed people, serving yummy food, cakes, herbal tea, Prosecco and with a fantastic salad bar. Something about the calmness and the sea of white robes reminds me of some sort of cult or communist camp. It occurs to me how strange it is when peoples identities and individuality are concealed by wearing uniform white robes.
Beyond the atrium of the white-robed camp is there is more. No self respecting spa would be complete without a myriad of treatments and this is no exception. The treatment rooms are set around one of 2 tepidariums, so if a massage doesn’t relax you enough you can drape yourself on the ceramic heated loungers and let the heat gently flow into your bones, soaking up the positive ions emitted by the candles and the giant Himalayan salt lamp.
More Jacuzzis, saunas and another huge pool and then its time for some actual exercise. Oh yes, activity of this sort does happen here. Oddly enough though that the jetted swim lanes are completely empty all afternoon! If you haven’t ever tried the continuous swimming jets just imagine swimming against some kind of tidal wave in a pond. Its fun, exhilarating and of course brilliant for the old heart rate. We manage 15 minutes of thrashing about until we give up and retreat back to the Jacuzzi, which is handily positioned right next to the swim lanes.
Whether it was miserable day in March or not, the heated outdoor pool and 4 garden hot tubs entices us outside for more exhilarating relaxation.
Once we have excitedly tried everything we flop down onto a lounger and just fall into a serene daze before trying each facility again. The 3 hour “Time Out” experience which we have booked includes a very useful extra half an hour at the end as “check out” time which I admit I spend some of savouring my last moments in the spa. I am eventually dragged out kicking and screaming by Husband. Within 3 hours we had managed to achieve a state of relaxation, which given our hectic existence is a pretty spectacular success story from Nirvana.