A great massage is like a fine wine: you already know they’re fabulous, but you can’t appreciate how fabulous until you’re actually in the moment, savoring every second. When I was reviewing the wildly diverse offerings at Middletown’s SpaVana, there were a number of richly described massages that sounded heavenly (and it’s no wonder—the place gets its name from a hybrid of “spa” and “nirvana”). The nothing-short-of-enviable debacle, of course, is similar to debating the mouth-watering choices at a critically acclaimed restaurant. Do you go with the safe selection; a trusty choice that promises to satisfy, or do you push yourself outside your comfort zone allowing the opportunity for something new and different to really blow you mind? It was a hard call, but no risk, no reward, right? So in lieu of the standard Swedish massage, I was tempted to live life on the exotic side with SpaVana’s Rock the Casb Aaahh… massage, a journey that is said to help folks find “inner and outer peace.” This ayurvedic treatment, where clients are “treated like royalty,” includes a mini-facial with warm steam towels, a double cleansing of the face and a custom masque followed by moisturizing. But there’s more. We’ll get into that later.
Unlike spas found in large hotels, SpaVana is inside the c. 1745 William Redwood Country House. (William Redwood was a son of Abraham Redwood, a founder of Newport’s famed Redwood Library and Athenaeum.) After entering and being warmly greeted, I was shown to the “Tea Room” to hydrate and relax as I waited just a few minutes to be called. Thai statues, Chinese screens with carved landscape designs including birds, flowers and trees set against a gold background, and Asian museum-style pieces juxtaposed against classic Colonial period architectural detail offers an “East Meets West” aesthetic throughout. When massage therapist Grace Fitzgerald called on me, we headed to her favorite treatment room which had duel massage tables for couples’ treatments. The petite and peppy brunette quickly told me her three rules: 1. no cell phone, 2. no helping, and 3. no talking. She had me at hello.
Swaddled into the heated table, Grace began to work her magic with the perfect balance of gentle technique with medium to hard pressure. She began by awakening the skin with a gentle dry brush body exfoliation which is said to slough off dry skin, boost circulation and even detoxify the skin. Next she moved into more familiar massage techniques, quickly identifying the space between my shoulder blades where I (and many writers who spend much of the time in front of a keyboard) hold much tension. The advertised “mini-facial” was under-promised as it felt much more than mini — it was all out awesome with a cool masque brushed on the face with the softest strokes and gently removed with heavenly warm towels. The instrumental subtle music and sounds of crashing waves in the distance made it easy to imagine I was relaxing in an over-water bungalow in Bora Bora and not preparing for yet another snowstorm in Rhode Island. By the time Grace began the hair nourishing scalp massage, the nirvana stage kicked in, and the full body massage with hot oil rounded out the 70 minutes of bliss. Like the fine wine, it was even better than I imagined.