For several months the lovely Sairica Rose and I had been trying to find a time when neither of us was (a) on some work-related jaunt across the world or (b) working such crazy hours that ‘free time’ was a fond and distant memory, in order to visit the Spa/Hammam she had discovered and had decided I would love. When we finally managed to fix a date and time she inevitably came down with the lurgy, so the onerous task of accompanying me to the rather fabulous Rituels d’Orient fell to Tamsin, veteran of various spa visits across the world with me including jolly Swedes with beer in Stockholm’s Centralbadet and naked supermodels in London’s Porchester.
Rituels d’Orient Barcelona is a small and subsequently exclusive hammam experience tucked away on a side street off Pl Francis Macia…I wouldn’t have known about it had it not been recommended by a friend, but it is quite the find. On arriving at the fairly unassuming shopfront you are buzzed in by one of their charming staff, and as the numbers are limited per 2-hour ‘turno’ if like us you arrive early you can sit on the be-cushioned bench provided and read about hammans in different countries and cultures all over the world, or peruse and play with the gorgeous and mostly organic La Sultana de Saba products on display.
On being summoned into the hammam area at the start of our ‘turno’ the attendant confided to us that as it was 4pm on a Wednesday afternoon there was no-one else booked in and we would be just the two of us in our own private hammam session – how fabulous! So top tip…Wednesday afternoons, or indeed just call or email to ask about which sessions are the quietest. As it was a ‘women only’ session (the website lists times for mixed and single-sex sessions) we went sans cossies, and were given a sarong-type thing to lie on, as well as a lovely big fluffy robe, which we left on the hooks provided in the small antechamber after having the hammam process explained to us.
There is one main room at 37 degrees and 80% humidity, with heated stone benches and platforms to relax on, a chilled pool (although perhaps not chilled enough for Tamsin, the only person I know who swims lengths in the 15 degree C plunge pool) and a great ‘rain’ shower with a huge brass showerhead….often in spas these are freezing cold but this one was perfect for wusses like me as it had hot and cold taps. Then there is a 42 degree, 100% humidity proper steam room…remember not to take your complementary bottle of water in with you as 40 degree water in a plastic bottle is fairly grim.
With the ‘Rituel’ we were given around 40 mins to just natter and laze around on the hot stone platforms with the occasional foray into the steam room and shower/dip to regulate our body temperature before my favourite bit, when the assistants summoned us both into the side room with two marble tables where we lay and groaned gently with pleasure as we were soaped and then fearsomely scrubbed from head to toe. There are few things quite as satisfying as the sensation of having your top few layers of epidermis and the city-grot that resides therein removed by someone with a glove essentially made from fine-grain sandpaper. Mmmmmmmmm.
After the scrub we were sent back to the main room to relax again and to marvel over our shiny new clean skin for around 20 mins before being summoned for a massage…a short 20 minute massage that was very relaxing, although if like me you prefer your massage to be quite firm you should ask for this beforehand as the default seems to be a rather gentle stroking.
Finally there is a beautiful relaxation area where we were brought mint tea and little pastries to bring up our blood pressure/sugar…as the changing rooms/shower area is quite small this is perfect if you are in a group as you can relax and shower/change in shifts before emerging blinking into the Barcelona sunlight ready for a couple of cocktails to undo all that lovely de-toxing…