What could be more romantic & simple for Valentine’s than booking a spa day & massage with your wife? Now add into the mix that your wife is a wheelchair user, she’s in chronic pain, wants to feel “normal”, and just for good measure once she takes her hearing aids out she can’t hear you (she might suggest that’s a bonus). Put bluntly, I’m a royal pain in the arse to whisk away on a romantic break.
(Note: these are not my photos- they are from the spa website. It’s against the rules, and just a bit creepy to take photos!)
The Amida Spa in Farnham came pretty close to ticking all of my boxes though. The whole place aside from the extra seating area is on one floor with level access, there is a nice & well equipped accessible changing room, it’s quiet, all the pools have steps in so I could bum shuffle in & out.
So without further ado, 10 steps to chill out the stressed wife:
1. Book a couples massage.
We both had a back & shoulder massage tailored to our stress levels / probability of limbs falling off. I pre-warned the already nervy masseuse that I needed to lipread & to tap me if needed. The Brits aren’t good at this – despite having oiled me up & untwisted my knots for 30 minutes, she was very uncomfortable about tapping my shoulder. For reference: It’s really hard to lipread when you speak slowly & nod. I’m deaf, not a dog.
2. Eat a nice lunch.
We were starving, so we went to the champagne bar for lunch. Unfortunately the “fresh made sandwiches” were premixed so I couldn’t eat any (the irony was not lost). Cue scones for lunch. Meh. Good excuse for cake.
3. The Tepidarium
We’ve established over the years that my tolerance of cold is like my tolerance of people, in that it’s gone down at the same rate that my pain levels have gone up. I’ve essentially become a lizard, spending the colder months laying prone on warm things and only becoming animated once I’m suitably heated. And only really seen by others in the Summer.
With my lizard-like persona, the tepidarium with its heated stone beds was perfect. Like a recliner shaped night storage heater.Joint pain Nirvana.
4. Just keep swimming.
There were actually more than two pools, but we stuck to the two warm ones. The hydrotherapy pool was outside, but once in the water it was toasty & boasted bubble beds, jet/ bubble chairs, massage jets, and 25m of warm water to swim in. It was very similar to the hydro pools that we visited in Germany and in another similarity was also a salt water pool. I was less keen on getting out as the cool 7° air had chilled the leather & metal on my wheelchair so the short trip from poolside to door was FREEZING.
Once inside, we warmed up with a dip in the infinity salt pool. At under 3ft deep, it’s not a swimming pool – more a floating pool. Both pools are in a special quiet area were you are encouraged to keep voices low & not disturb others. In the pool, Mr Geek & I signed to each other as I was without my hearing aids and he couldn’t be loud. It’s probably a good job we were signing as Mr Geek looked at me & said: “looks like a stingers place”. Cue infantile giggling.
We’ve clearly been watching too much channel 4.
5. Get Hot
We headed towards the saunas next. They have a number of different saunas with varying degrees of warmth. Despite my joint-achingly disagreement with being cold, I equally can’t deal with extremes of heat which set my heart rate through the roof. As such, we opted for the herbal sauna which ranged from 45°-65° (as opposed to 65°-85° for the others). I laid down flat as as precaution aside breathed in the lovely woody smell…5 minutes later & the world was spinning at which point Mr Geek rolled me into my chair & carted me out. Ah well, we tried.
We cooled down in the main area with our feet in cold foot spas next to the plunge pool.
The plunge pool provided entertainment for the next 30 minutes as we watched a stream of men swagger up & I’m mere themselves in 1.5m deep icy cold water and instantly regret their decision as their testicles tried to jump to safety up through their body.
6. The Salt Grotto
I was ready for a rest by now (Ikr – it sounds such hard work so far), so we headed to the steam rooms. The salt grotto is a steam room with a difference… in that it’s not steamy. It’s 30-35° mainly because the stone stealing is warmed – There are 2 walls with stone seats, and the third is a deeper seat set into the wall, almost like a double bed (not helping with the only going stingers giggling) – every so often salty mist infused with mint & lemon hisses into the room.
I actually found it thoroughly relaxing in there with the perfect combo of humidity & warm but not too warm. Mr Geek kept himself amused having found that the combo of we skin & humid romantic meant that by moving in a particular way he could make farty noises with his back. Who said romance was dead?
7. More Steam Vicar?
I’d clearly not learnt my lesson with the sauna, because I suggested nipping into the Oriental Steam room. Lured in by the lovely smells radiating from the door, in under a minute Mr Geek was wheeling me back out. The word I was grasping for was syncope, but mumbled something about world going oozey… FOMO strikes again.
8. To Inifinity
After cooling back down, we went back to the infinity pool where I floated on my back ignoring the world until Mr Geek reminded me that we had to go & pick the kids up. By this point we had been hardcore relaxing for 4 hours. I could’ve done more. I hadn’t had a nap on the loungers yet…
9. The Change
The only downside of changing was the lockers being in the male or female changing rooms, and the accessible changing being in a room just off of reception. This meant poor Mr Geek had to collect our things and hobble pack horse style through reception in his rather too small robe. Because the shower & changing is in the same room, we decided to wait and shower at home rather than soak all of our things. Of course by the time we’d driven home, I was exhausted & just wanted to go to bed, then promptly spent the evening scratching my salty covered scalp.
In this case, accessibility was a bolt on thought of after the aesthetics of the spa. People don’t want to be reminded of physical limitations when surrounded by white leather sofas & proseco.
10. Us Time
Ultimately, today was about spending time together which we did in our own unique way. We talked about all sorts, got lost on the way there (this is a ritual which must be followed), & found ways to make a perfectly grown up situation childish. My favourite bit was definately laying in the salt grotto jabbing Mr Geek for communicating to other trapped husbands through echoey fart noises.
So, pros & cons from our perspective?
- Warm pools with steps
- Level access really was level everywhere
- Massages adjusted to how you like them (light touch -> digging with elbows)
- Staff really tried to help without being intrusive
- Everything in the whole place just forces you to RELAX
- Mid heat salt grotto
- Infinity pool is raised so easy to transfer in & out
- Comfy seating everywhere, but arranged so that walkways aren’t cluttered
- Water fountains located throughout & a free lemon water dispenser is in the bar, so easy to stay hydrated.
- Can eat in Robe – not having to constantly dress & undress helps conserve energy
- No pool hoists, so Mr Geek was lifting me a lot
- Unexpected entry fee not mentioned on gym website!
- Only real accessible toilet is in reception – spa toilet is big enough for a wheelchair, but no bars.
- Robes made for tiny people who eat only air – Mr Geek looked hilarious.
- Internal doors are very heavy. Too heavy for me to open.
- No T Loop at reception (& main reception loop wasn’t working)
So overall, a lovely day. It’s not built with accessibility in mind, so of course there will be niggles. But with this in mind, they’ve done a great job of building a really nice spa and I thoroughly intend to go back at some point!
For now though, I need a nap.