Three weeks before I am to say “I do” I have a stress knot in my shoulders, a partner with a disc bulge and a to-do list that is the size of a small child — and just as demanding. Organising a wedding hasn’t been the highlight of my existence; several times I’ve been tempted to grab my fiancé, duck down to the registry office and uphold the no-fuss tradition of town hall nuptials, but even that takes quite a bit of planning.
So instead I just counted down the days, ticked tasks off the list and hoped I made it down the aisle in one, sane piece. Little did I know that an overnight trip to the Hunter Valley was about to completely change my approach. I must admit I did wonder about the wisdom of taking an evening off from normal programming — lists, checking twice etc — but I did have a sense that spending some stress-free time with my partner probably had some merit. So we agreed to a shared afternoon at the Tea Tree Spa, the newly expanded and upgraded pamper palace at the Crowne Plaza, just outside of Cessnock.
Because of his sore back, hubby-to-be opted for the Men’s De-stress Back Treatment, which involved a vigorous sea-salt scrub followed by a detoxifying mineral mud bath slathered from hip to shoulder and a deep-tissue massage that helped to relax the exhausted muscles in his lower back. When he got up from the massage table he was pleasantly surprised to find he had a much greater range of movement — he could bend further and raise his knees 90 degrees — than when he first walked into the deluxe spa room.
Slipping into the warm, bubbling spa allowed him to spend a further 40 minutes with absolutely no strain on his back, which enhanced the relaxation process. Feeling thoroughly cared for and spoiled helped too, no doubt. That’s something the Tea Tree Spa does exceptionally well: from the moment we walked in we received genuinely warm welcomes and our therapists were great communicators. They clearly explained what was going to take place over the next hour, which takes out the guesswork of visiting a new spa — do I lie down? Stand over here? Where do I put my clothes? — and made slipping into a quiet, peaceful state a quick and easy process. The little touches, such as the rose petals and candles that lead the way to the spa, were sweet, too. They turned a massage into an occasion.
Resting in the spa after my aromatherapy massage, I relished the chance for us just to be a couple with no tasks to get done, no decisions that had to be made and no distractions to take our attention. I was able to put aside any pressures that had caused me to tense up my shoulders and be in the moment with the man I was going to marry. My priorities, at last, were in order.
Mercifully, our hosts didn’t rush us out of the room; they let us stay as long as we needed and, when we eventually emerged blinking and slightly dazed, showed us through the other rooms. When we reached the Spa Sanctuary Suite, a private room that can house up to eight people and comes with an infra-red sauna, spa, room service, treatment room and massage tables, I immediately saw the potential for a fabulous girls’ day out and tucked that thought away for future reference.
The spa uses a European brand, Eminence Organic Skin Care, in its treatments. Their wonderfully aromatic products are hand made using fresh fruit pulps, seeds and herbs, the smell of which got my hungry tummy rumbling. It all adds to the wonderfully sumptuous feel of the spa and is a reminder that a little bit of nurturing goes a long way.
Our romantic interlude continued upstairs at the Vista Lounge — great martinis, according to my very discerning partner — and at RedSalt, a restaurant with a menu equally as fantastic as the local wines on offer. Here, again, we found staff to be extremely accommodating — could we get a table with a view? No problem — and very helpful when making our wine selection.
Staying at the Crowne Plaza felt a little like we’d already skipped ahead to the honeymoon, which brought to me a fresh realisation. Focusing on the details, the lists and the plans meant I wasn’t taking the time to enjoy the journey. Such a simple lesson, but so easy to forget.
My stress levels have decreased since our overnight stay. They’re not completely back to normal but enough that when I start to feel overwhelmed it’s easy to remind myself of the lightness that came with the spa experience and the enjoyment of sharing it with my partner. It’s three days to go until the big day and I enjoyed my stay so much, I think it might need to be an annual trip.