I settled into a cab, jet-lagged and fuzzy after an overnight flight from Boston followed by a connection to Manchester and a short train ride to Leeds.
But I had my eye on the prize. I was on the end run to Oulton Hall, a sanctuary where I anticipated sweet relief in the form of chocolate — spread all over my tired, aching body.
As the former grounds of an 18th-century mansion, Oulton Hall had everything I long associated with the English countryside — landscaped gardens; a quiet, romantic aura; and, of course, gray clouds looming overhead.
The spa is nestled within Oulton Hall’s extensive grounds, neighboring its 27-hole golf course and clubhouse restaurant. Farther down the property’s winding driveway is its 152-room hotel which, unfortunately, I did not have time to tour. If it is like the property and small buildings I passed on my way to the spa, I imagine it has the essence of English romance that will forever remind me of the Brontë sisters.
A small path through manicured gardens led to the spa, where I was quickly escorted to a dimly lit waiting area lined with candles. Although the expansive space would have echoed any sounds, the area was completely silent with the exception of the occasional melodies of wind chimes.
After about 10 minutes, a smiling young woman greeted me and gave me a short tour around the building. As we wove in and out of both single and double treatment rooms, a relaxation room and a pool area, I noted the spa was the perfect combination of contemporary and classic.
I had arranged to receive the spa’s Chocoholic’s Delight, a chocolate exfoliation and wrap treatment. As a lover of all things chocolate, the treatment sounded too delicious and unusual to pass up. I had never experienced a wrap before, so I was not sure what to expect; but the thought of a 45-minute treatment centered around chocolate seemed like just the thing to revitalize me from my long trip to Leeds. Besides, it sounded much more appealing than the spa’s algae wrap.
My treatment began with an exfoliation using Germaine de Capuccini’s Choco Scrub. As the product contains small bits of chocolate, the sweet scent filled the room immediately. The therapist rubbed the coarse product over my arms, legs, back and stomach. With a quiet laugh, she told me that while the chocolate wrap was certainly not the spa’s most popular treatment, it was definitely the messiest. I soon understood what she meant.
With the saccharine scent still emanating from my skin, the therapist began the wrap portion. She covered me with a warm substance that resembled pure chocolate syrup. The novel sensation of stickiness covering my body was enough to make me feel a little uneasy; I silently hoped it wouldn’t make its way into my hair. While the therapist continued to apply the product, I tried to relax but could not ignore the gooey, messy feeling of chocolate syrup dripping down my skin.
Once all of the chocolate-infused product was applied, I was wrapped up tightly in what felt like plastic wrap and covered with a warm blanket. Being so tightly bound, I was finally able to forget about the strange feeling of being covered in chocolate and simply relax. While I waited for the wrap to work its magic on my skin, the therapist gave me a scalp and neck massage.
About 20 minutes later, after drifting in and out of consciousness, it was time to get unwrapped and into the treatment room shower. As I scrubbed the hardened chocolate off my skin, the enchanting aroma filled the room; and I was once again satisfied I had chosen the chocolate wrap.
After a great deal of scrubbing, I stepped out of the shower for the last part of my treatment. The therapist covered me in Germaine de Capuccini’s Rich Cocoa Body, a thick cocoa butter designed to lock in the moisture from my wrap and further nourish my skin. After being completely covered in chocolate, the sweet-scented moisturizer felt like the icing on the cake.
In the relaxation room, I began to appreciate the effects of the wrap. My skin felt soft and moisturized. My therapist instructed me to drink lots of water, as it is important to stay hydrated after a wrap treatment. Lying on one of the room’s nine beds, I couldn’t help but close my eyes as music quietly played in the background and the scent of chocolate surrounded me. I must have fallen asleep, drifting in and out of candy-coated dreams.
It was the perfect way to recover from my long journey. Just as I had hoped, I felt rejuvenated enough to handle the rest of my busy day, despite the fact that I was running on only a few hours of sleep.
Although my therapist told me cocoa is used in spa treatments due to its nourishing and hydrating qualities, I have heard the evocative smell and taste of chocolate can soothe the soul as well as the skin. Even in ancient times, the Mayans and the Aztecs regarded it as the food of the gods, using it to treat a wide variety of ailments. Modern studies have also shown that the production of opioids and endorphins triggered by the sweet treat can help people feel relaxed and heal pain. As I lay in the relaxation room at Oulton Hall, the scent of chocolate radiating from my skin, I became a believer in both the modern and ancient healing properties of cocoa.
The Spa at the Oulton Club
De Vere Oulton Hall
Yorkshire LS26 8HN, United Kingdom
tel 44 113 282 1000
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