Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Clarice House

On Monday I visited Clarice House in Ipswich with my sister Fallon. We purchased the spa day some time ago but was unable to go due to work and other commitments so we paid a small fee to extend the voucher expiry date. We had previously visited Clarice House in Colchester on another occasion but this time the availability was limited and the voucher end date was fast approaching again. It just so happened that this overdue visit now fell at a time when rest and relaxation was much needed so we opted to visit Ipswich instead.

Recently my stress levels have been extremely high. Work demands have been ever increasing since January and this pressure has accumulated in me working late to try and fulfil all duties whist taking on additional workloads. I am usually very calm and laid back but the last couple of months have been fraught and I have been unable to cope with the mounting pressure, at times feeling so overwhelmed that I have been on the brink of tears. This stress has recently resulted in me experiencing chest pains and constant headaches so I have been trying to manage my health by taking time off work, in the hope that I can alleviate some of the pressure and restore my work-life balance.

Our spa day was booked early on Monday morning with a 9am start for our first treatment; a back, neck and shoulder massage followed by a facial. I was reluctant to accept these times when booking but availability was also limited at the Ipswich Clarice House so I hesitantly accepted the booking. Fallon and I set off early, factoring in the early rush hour traffic and allowing some time for delays (getting lost!) Although only a short half an hour journey from Wivenhoe to Ipswich I was also apprehensive about driving as it was the first time I had driven for several months following a car accident late last year. I did not fail to live up to my 'last-minute' status either and insured and taxed my new car the night before our trip so had not actually test driven it.

Ironically setting off for a full day of relaxation the journey was anything but and we feared our day would culminate in more stress. We immediately hit rush hour traffic and was at a standstill for some time. Stopping off for petrol to fill my new car for its first trip we decided we should also purchase some snacks as neither of us had eaten breakfast. Stomachs rumbling we set off again and I hoped to gain some pace and make up for lost time when reaching the A14 but we were met with roadworks and a 40 mile per hour limit. The clock was ticking but we still had half an hour before our first treatment was due. I followed the sat-nav and arrived into Bramford ahead of time. Feeling relieved I drove up Bramford Road, eyes peeled and ready to locate signage for Clarice House. My relief was short lived when my sat-nav directed me into Ipswich town centre. A knotted sensation twisted inside my stomach as I realised there was no exact address for Clarice House and the sat-nav was just directing me along the road I had typed in. After much circling I pulled up into a residential street and referred to Google maps. Fallon also helped but unfortunately neither of us fair well with map reading. I drove for an extra hour and ended up on an industrial estate. Through process of elimination we managed to figure out what end of Bramford Road we needed to be at. The clock was now showing 9:30am so with the knowledge we had missed our massage and facial, we resigned to the fact we needn't worry anymore about arriving on time as we were so far beyond it. I drove back up the road I had been driving on for the past hour and retraced much of our journey before glimpsing the sign for Clarice House and viewed a small opening off the road. Of course I was not able to react quickly enough and drove straight by! So I carried on until I could turn back around and eventually we reached our destination, two hours after having initially set off.

By this point our stress levels were high and we were panicked about the reaction of the staff regarding our lateness. It was raining torrentially so we turned up at the spa counter wet and bedraggled, deflated that we had missed our treatments and would only now have access to the pool and facilities. Upon arriving at the counter there was a flurry of activity. A friendly blonde lady identified us as the latecomers and reassured us that she was at this moment in time, rearranging our treatments for us. Fallon and I turned to one another in disbelief and thanked the team profusely, whilst trying to explain what had happened to us. We were given new appointment cards so we would still receive our massage and facial. We joked that the trip to the spa had created more stress for us. We were given a tour of the facilities and were guided into the changing rooms. Laughably, we devoured our snacks whilst sat in the changing room (a scotch egg and cereal bar).

From then on in, our luck changed and throughout the course of the day our stress levels reduced. So much so that Fallon left her purse and locker key in the dining room. Upon realising they were missing, there was no urgency to go and find them as she was in such a state of pure relaxation and felt completely care free about the incident. A member of staff happened to locate us and reunite Fallon with these items. We swam some lengths in the pool, rested in the jacuzzi and used the sauna and steam room. We both agreed that we ought to visit a spa more often. Included in our spa package was a two course lunch. We conversed over a large glass of Pimms and lemonade and enjoyed a starter of tomato soup, Fallon then opting for a Ploughman's lunch and I, a bacon and cheese steak burger. The food was plentiful, albeit a tad too generous and I only managed to eat a quarter of my main. With a half an hour wait for Fallon to receive her pedicure I enjoyed time to read a magazine. I was so appreciative of having this quiet downtime and realised that I need to find time for myself and wind down. Fittingly, I read an article on how to manage stress through exercise; namely through pilates, yoga and running. More on this to come! The day ended well, our visit saved by the helpfulness and friendliness of staff. I will certainly be planning another trip now that I know where to find it!

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