I think I might have to stop getting massages at general-purpose spas. When I want a relaxing afternoon with a friend I'll just do the cheap thing and get a spa pass without a treatment, or get a facial or a wrap. I'll save my massage money for someone who can actually do a proper job (ie Jutika or Flora).
My old friend Zoe was visiting from Dahn Sahf last week and, Lastminute having sold out of its special offers at Titanic, we decided to stay closer to home and get something in Manchester. The £40 per person offer for a massage and spa at Nu Spa in the Park Inn hotel (a scarily modern shiny black monstrosity round the back of Victoria Station) looked like a good bet.
Hmmm. Very odd massage indeed. No pressure, no depth, no finding a knot and kneading it out. Just 50 minutes of vaguely pleasant but slightly frustrating and ultimately slightly pointless stroking. The leg and arm bits were ok, but if anything the back massage, ie the most useful/necessary bit for most of us, was worse than nothing, because my therapist went nowhere near my shoulder muscles at all, concentrating instead on the surface of my back. This meant that at the end my back was sort of a bit relaxed, but by contrast my shoulders just felt even more tense. It almost felt like the sort of massage various clueless boyfriends used to dole out on a night when you've got a headache and they're hoping that a bit of back massage might make it go away enough for them to get laid...
Zoe also noted that they used one of the massage balms that seem to be becoming popular at many mainstream spas at the moment, and commented that you don't get that feeling that your skin is being nourished that comes with a good-quality massage oil. Zo is used to getting extremely good massages off a friend of hers who is a professional herbalist and all-round alternative treatment type, and like me, she found this one pleasant enough but slightly pointless.
The spa facilities here, however, are quite nice, despite the dire grammar on the website. I'd certainly pay the kind of rates that Sienna at the Radisson charge (£12) to spend a day lounging by the rather elegant pool and using the sauna and steam room. The one drawback here is that, oddly, the two showers in the pool area are both hot, so you can't do the sauna/cold shower routine which is the whole point... doh. The showers in the changing room were a bit weird as well, with a scarily clingy internal shower curtain that gave poor Zo a right fit of a heebie jeebies. But there was a pleasingly large collection of trashy mags by the loungers :-)
A closing recommendation is for one of Manchester's best-kept secrets, the (fairly recently launched) afternoon teas served between 2 and 3.30 in the Sculpture Hall cafe, just to your right inside the main doors of the Town Hall on Albert Square. Proper, served-on-a-three-tier-stand, finger sandwiches, scones, jam and fancy cakes style cream teas. £8.95 for more than even the two of, eating as a late lunch and utterly ravenous, could put away. Superb.
Massage and spa day, £80 for two people, Nu Spa at the Park Inn, 4 Cheetham Hill Road. Tel: 0161 837 8377, email: Pace.Manchester@rezidorparkinn.com