“You are going to a spa,” my editor said with a sly smirk on his face, obviously enjoying the idea of sending a man for whom the word “bouncer” is included in any verbal description – to a beauty parlour. “Apparently, men now go to spas,” he offered up as an excuse. “It’s the new squash.”
Well, I am happy to report that the joke is on him.
I entered Laugar Spa – Beauty and Massage Clinic, and was greeted by my masseuse, Anna María. Once my shirt was off and I was lying comfortably, face down, on the massage bench, she started describing the therapy for me.
“We try to focus on what we call holistic treatments. We prefer to work the whole body, or several different areas, instead of focusing on one specific area of the body. We combine something like back, shoulders and face, or head and feet,” she explained as she began working my lower back. “The most popular treatments are the hot stone treatment, and the chocolate treatment.” Chocolate? “Yes, we use a special oil made from chocolate. Chocolate is rich in antioxidants, it is very good for circulation, and it smells good, too.”
After about 20 minutes of a back rub, with relaxing music playing at low volume from a speaker somewhere, I was drifting in and out of consciousness. I could distinctly feel the stress and tension of daily life leaving my body: in that sense, a massage is more akin to exorcism than any other bodily treatment.
“More and more men come here to get a facial treatment,” Anna María told me when the back massage was over. “It has become a popular gift from wives and girlfriends. The golfer’s dream, which is a back and foot massage, is also very popular among men.”
She gave me a sniff of two different bottles of massage oils and explained to me that the facial treatment was really an aromatherapy treatment as well as a massage. “We let people choose between different oils. Different smells have different effects on the body.”
I am also told it takes about seven to eight minutes for the smell to start working, but you will immediately recognise the scent that is most beneficial to your body at that time. “People always make the right selection; you automatically prefer the smell that gives your body what it needs the most,” she said as I selected an oil that smelled vaguely of wood and jasmine. Its name was impossible to remember under the conditions of extreme relaxation, but I was told that the oil is most beneficial to people who are under a lot of pressure.
Afterwards, I was treated to a facial scrub, which removes the dead skin cells from the face, to reveal the new and fresh skin underneath. Then a moisturising cream, with a distinct smell of hemp, was applied to my face. The smell was to cause me a significant amount of trouble later in the day, but compared to the moisturising and curative abilities of hemp cream, it was probably a small price to pay.
Although massage and facial scrubs are an integral part of the operation, the experience is not complete without a visit to the sauna. Actually, calling it a sauna is a gross understatement. The Laugar Spa offers up a massive relaxation room containing seven different saunas, each with a special theme based on aroma, lighting and sound or differing temperatures. There are ice showers, cold tubs and cold-water buckets to cool you off once the sauna becomes too effective.
Also available is the seawater Jacuzzi, and the six-metre wide waterfall, which is set against softly formed granite sculptures by artist Sigurður Guðmundsson. All this may sound nice, but what really blew me away were two rooms situated on the opposite ends of the much larger sauna room. On one end, there is a special relaxation room filled with La-Z-Boy chairs and a fireplace.
“This is where people can go to relax,” Anna María told me. “In here it is forbidden to talk. It is very popular to get massagers in here and give people a shoulder rub before entering the saunas.” On the opposite end is the restaurant, where you can get warm meals and cold drinks. “People often come here to spend the whole day. Getting a massage, eating, going to the sauna and taking a swim.” I daydreamed, briefly, about being one of those people, then fought the smile and nodded, saying I understood how that might be a pleasant experience. Spending a whole day at the überspa. I then tried to drag out my visit, in the interest of journalism, for as long as possible.
When I eventually left Laugar Spa, I may not have looked any less like a bouncer. But at least I looked like a clean and relaxed bouncer.