Getting a feel for island life
Salt, sun, a soak and cedar — Willow Stream Spa's newest treatment promises to deliver Bermuda in one room.
The two-hour True Bermuda Signature Expression was launched in time for Bermuda Day; it is touted as giving visitors with limited time a taste of the island.
Spa director Jane Turner said: “Having been here at Christmas and then at Easter and Mothers' Day, and seeing how everybody treats these fantastic traditions and how families get together, I wanted to try and bring some of that to people so that they can feel they do know a little bit about Bermuda.
“We want locals to come in and be proud of this fantastic island and everything that it holds.”
What luck! They were equally keen to have my feedback, to see if it matched up to my Bermuda.
The promise of hot feet on asphalt, sand everywhere, dips in bath-warm water, sweet flora in the sticky air — that's the quintessential Bermuda summer.
While it captured those things, it went a few steps further.
Each guest is greeted with a welcome drink — iced tea with watermelon and orange — and a rum cake the size of a madeleine.
A renewing salt scrub was followed with a hot cedar massage, after a long soak in a hot tub with flower essences harvested on the island.
The full-body massage is completed with a warming body wrap and scalp massage.
They had me at “bath” — a luxury in water-limited Bermuda. After weeks of barely a sprinkle, it was the ultimate indulgence.
I took the liberty of topping up from the steaming tap. Lead therapist Catheriona Cormack pointed out the footrests, necessary “so you don't float away”.
The Atlantic sea salt scrub with royal poinciana oil exfoliates and removes dead skin cells.
“To fluff off the skin for summer,” Ms Cormack explained.
She focused on all the areas that a bikini won't hide — almost everywhere. Never have I been so happy to have sand in the bed.
The custom oil was created by Lotus Wei, a company that deals in flower essences. They've updated the age-old practice to benefit 21st-century ills.
Aromatherapy works by choosing a scent that smells best in that moment; flowers call to you by sight.
Looking for something “specifically Bermudian” the team invited Lotus Wei founder Katie Hess to the island to harvest the local flora.
After scouring the Botanical Gardens, she chose the royal poinciana.
Oils from the scrub are seeped into the bath's water; drops of the flower essence are put in cold water to drink.
Ms Turner described the benefits as “twofold”.
“You're using it for the scrub and, because it's still on, it's actually helping in the bath as well to soften and nourish the skin. They can be used externally and taken internally.”
For me, there was a sense of familiarity — like the best hug I ever had.
The flowers are purported to carry healing properties; according to Ms Turner the real magic comes from the smell.
“The oils are beautiful. They do have some healing effects on the skin, but it is more about the fragrance, the inhalation of the fragrance and how the brain works to remember these things.”
Catheriona tackled my problem areas — my upper back and inside the shoulder blade, where most of the lactic acid that causes knots is held. She described it as “an occupational hazard”, from days spent writing at the computer. She rolled the Bermuda cedar wands over the muscle to give a deep, firm massage. It helped release tension and eased my knots, a technique borrowed from the Chinese practice of bamboo massage.
The Fairmont Southampton's own Ernie Ogalesco made the heated rods from cedar sourced by spa manager Ashley Shepard. His talents are utilised for many special events at the hotel including ice sculptures and pumpkin carving.
“Traditionally that type of massage is done with a hollow bamboo. As far as I know there's no one else in the world that uses those,” Ms Turner laughed.
I was massaged with an aromatherapy blend, of bergamot, ylang-ylang, tea tree and pine, with cedarwood at the base.
Chosen to “help you switch off” the mix is considered a good antidote to stress, known for helping relax the body and mind.
It's also beneficial for various skin concerns, such as very dry or flaky skin and dandruff.
“It's a really balancing oil. Whether you're feeling low or stressed, it will help to bring you back to the balance line,” Ms Turner promised.
Their body velvet is a rose-based, conditioning body cream, more like a butter than a lotion.
The heat of the wrapping opens the pores, making the skin more susceptible for product absorption. When I am unwrapped the product has completely absorbed and after four days, my skin is noticeably softer.
“We want it to work on various levels — not just to release the tension of the muscles,” Ms Turner said.
“We wanted to look at it mind, body and soul.”
While it may only be a taste of Bermuda, it's certainly the Bermuda I would choose to live in.
True Bermuda Signature Expression: $369
Contact Willow Stream for more details: 239-6924