The full-blown pool party – it’s a concept I’ve dwelled upon only on some deep subconscious level since knowing I would move to the US – land of the Playboy Mansion and the Bellagio. Being Winter in New York, I thought I had loads of time to psyche myself up for a wild w end get away to Vegas where gorgeous half naked Play Things strut around palm lined pool sides whilst their bronze bods are hosed down with fountains of Cristal.
My window of preparation closed on me quicker than expected. I found this e mail in my inbox from one of my new dude friends this morning:
I’m having a few friends over to Le Parker Meridien near 56th and 6th Ave, 7pm – 10pm.
Heated rooftop pool + fun little suite. Cocktails and swimming etc.
Please come and bring a girl-friend. We have TOO MANY DUDES.
Shit. On the one hand, that sounds phenomenal. On the other, he definitely said SWIMMING. Which means, not fully clothed. Honestly, I can’t think of anything more unappealing. I don’t even like stripping down on sunny beaches with real friends. I learnt to swim after I started school, I’ve never owned a bikini I feel good in and there is invariably some sort of hair situation i.e. at least one area that is not in an optimum growth phase for public display.
Thinking, however,that it would be selfish to hog such a cool invite , I forwarded it on to my roommate. The American one from Pennsylvania who didn’t want to live with guys because of what her parents might think. She would definitely not want any part of this carefully constructed perve-fest. Well, getting home tonight I realised she may be 4 yrs younger but she has obviously been in NYC a lot longer than I have. She wanted to know whether I thought it would be cool if she got there before I do. Like, when next are we going to have access to a heated pool in the middle of Winter? Plus her spray tan from Beach Bum that she got last week has not quite faded yet and..oh yes, and she is 4 yrs younger than I am and has the body of a nymph.
I might need a few cocktails before I literally take the plunge into the same rooftop hotel pool I swam in 2 years ago on my only visit to NYC with my only long-term boyfriend. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to let some fratty Texan dudes, my vanity or my roomie’s enthusiasm stand in the way of my Vegas pool side training.
Sometimes you just need a little Time. Time for your mind to be quiet. Time to reflect, replenish. The obvious place to do this is the sanctity of your own home. Apparently not an option to single Londoners sacrificing at least a third of their income to reside in rodent infested house shares. This harsh reality hit me at 5am on a Sunday after a frustrating three hours of tossing and turning to the party sounds of the Euro-tastic revelers in my basement. They’d invaded the night before to celebrate my housemate’s brother’s birthday. Yes that’s housemate’s brother. The guy doesn’t even live here. Don’t get me wrong, I love the odd Erasmus party as much as the next ex-international student but it’s always more fun at someone else’s house, right? Personally, I prefer my first encounter of the day not to be with a drunk person rifling through my dirty laundry in search of his coat.
So if I had been in need of some Time before I was desperate for it now. With over 10,000 inhabitants per square mile in my beloved borough of Westminster, said peace and quiet was always going to come at a price. Hence it didn’t take much rationalization to convince myself that £100 for a deep tissue massage at the Langham’s Chuan Spa was an utter bargain. Sure £100 for an hour’s worth of self-indulgence feels a bit decadent but for a whole afternoon in the sanctity of one of the most delicious hotels in town, it’s a total bargain. Having an unnatural faith in the power of the online review I was expecting a ‘luxury haven …where guests transcend into ultimate relaxation through an individually planned holistic journey…designed to re-balance and revitalize the body and soul’.
More like ‘average massage followed by use of a cramped pool, jacuzzi and sauna polluted by the noise of small children… finished with some ‘contemplation’ time on an uncomfy lounger with only a thin screen separating you from the yapping receptionists ’. If I was being objective I would have to point out that the facilities are really just part of the hotel’s Health and Fitness Centre and if I was staying there I’d be delighted to pop down for a dip in the skinny pool. But don’t pretend to be the ultimate Eastern spa experience. And whatever you’re trying to pass yourself off as, the distinct lack of snacks and reading material is unforgivable. Paying £4 for a bottle of water and having to hunt for the Sunday paper surely does not harmonise one’s yin and yang. All this, topped with the predictable dollop of snobbery fitting of luxury establishments, was a recipe for a thoroughly stressful afternoon.
Luckily we needn’t all make the same mistakes. If you are looking for a quality relaxation experience that won’t leave you wishing you’d donated the cash to the Church of Scientology instead, I highly recommend the Spa London, York Hall. This major VFM option is kindly brought to us by Greenwich Leisure Ltd and Tower Hamlets Council, offering legitimate day spa indulgence for your average frazzled urbanite. A casual £23 gives you access to a pristine hammam with a dazzling array of Turkish Baths, plunge pools and relaxation areas kitted out with reading material, snacks and rehydrants a-plenty. You will leave rejuvenated and with a surplus in your pocket. In my experience, always a clear path to maximum satisfaction.