Sunday, 1 March 2009

HOT: The Porchester Spa, Queensway London W2 5HS

London's oldest spa, the Porchester Spa, was HOT, literally. Sunday mornings are women only, and I was surprised that at 9:55am a largish crowd had already gathered, waiting of the doors to open at 10am. It seemed to attract girlfriends and regulars, as many people chatted to each other.

At the entrance I was handed two towels, a blue gingham cotton wrap and a locker key. Initially I was unsure as to whether to change into a swimsuit or participate in the nudefest. Given that everyone else - old, young, fat, thin, white, black, Carribean, Asian and Eastern European - seemed quite nonchalant about letting it all hang out, I decided to benefit from a full body cleanse (no one I knew was there anyway).

The upper level was a Victorian green and white tiled domed space with lounge chairs for relaxing before and after your steam. The lower level housed two Russian steam rooms, so hot that I was unable to see anything when I first entered. There were also three Turkish hot rooms graduating from warm, medium to boiling. The warm room, the tepidarium, was probably no hotter than a really hot day in Queensland, so many people took in magazines and books to read while building up a gentle sweat.

In between the heat you can have a blasting cold shower or bravely dip into the icy plunge pool (I got to my knees before scurrying out). There were also treatment rooms for which you have to pay extra, and I never did find the Finnish sauna cabin.

Once you enter you can stay as long as you like, so I alternatively steamed, showered and read the Sunday Times. A very relaxing way to spend a Sunday morning, and with the added benefits of baby-smooth skin afterwards.

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