By Betsy Rothstein - 09/29/05 12:00 AM EDT
Spending the afternoon at the brand-new Willard spa is something of a delicacy — it is an experience to relish at least once in a lifetime and, if at all possible, repeated as soon as the bank account recovers.
Step inside the lobby of the magnificent Willard InterContinental hotel and tall green stalks of fragrant, fresh white flowers — calla lilies, stargazers, carnations and roses — greet you. It’s Old World opulence that transports you from the Type A rush of Washington to a place where leisure is the order of the day.
Travel upstairs to the second floor spa, known as I Spa at the Willard, and the style is a shock to the system — but a pleasant shock. Everything is ultramodern — from the dark slate floors with smooth stones to the clean lines to the sparse furniture.
“Ms. Hill, right this way,” a woman says, showing me to the women’s locker area. My name is not Hill, but somehow the front desk got confused. No matter what I say, this is my name for the day.
Elegance is everywhere. I am given a robe and slippers that are three sizes too big. (Thankfully I don’t kill myself walking around in them.)
My first treatment is a facial that will be specially tailored to my skin. I am told the oxygenating facial would be too harsh, so we go with the signature Jurlique facial (price tag: $140), an Australian product line made with herbs, flowers and essential oils that are plant-derived. The room is beautiful, with candles and potpourri. A bolster is slipped beneath my knees.
The process is thorough. Two cleansers later — one to eliminate surface impurities, the other a foaming substance — I am ready for a shoulder, arm and face massage and the dreaded part of any facial, the extractions. The pain isn’t so bad, but as soon as they are done, I fall fast asleep as an antioxidant mask is applied. Next up: recovery mist, recovery gel and a vitamin peel, along with face lotion, eye cream and lip gloss.
In my spa-like haze, I wander back to the relaxation room to await my body-champagne scrub (price tag: $150). I brace myself as I prepare for another butchering of my name.
“Ms. Hill, I’m ready for you,” says Angela, the esthetician who will give the spa’s signature treatment.
Once in the treatment room, I am handed spa briefs, a disposable-diaper-like material that I’m expected to wear. As uncomfortable as they are, I do as I’m told for the sake of the story.
First things first: It’s time for a light exfoliation. But there really isn’t anything light about it. Once the grainy cream is on my skin, Angela pulls out a large scrubbing brush that momentarily frightens me. It’s not as soothing as I’d like, but I know my skin will soon be buttery soft.
The next thing that happens is that a half-bottle of bubbly champagne is poured all over me. Apparently the grapes serve as antioxidants. It’s colder than I’d like, but again, for the sake of the treatment I will persevere.
After I am covered in seaweed mud, Angela wraps me in a giant piece of foil followed by a blanket with a heating pad. I rest for about 20 minutes, at which point I’m unwrapped and sent to the shower area, which has an amazing 12 spigots and a rain shower. I pass on the rain shower, as she tells me it might be a tad too powerful (I imagine getting shot out of the room and take her word for it).
The last step of the treatment is a moisturizing body milk.
After saying my goodbyes, I’m ready to return to the real world. The sun is shining, the Capitol is gleaming straight ahead down Pennsylvania Avenue, and I’m as relaxed as any reporter could be after having spent three hours at a luxurious spa.