I have a reputation: “Spa Queen,” they call me. I search high and low for things that feel good, and am no stranger to exotic treatments in even more exotic locales — like the time I was scrubbed and bubbled from head to toe by a man in a Turkish bath in Istanbul.
This can make the search for compelling treatments here at home somewhat challenging. That’s not to say I haven’t been lucky. I’ve found some excellent resources.
And boy, did I get lucky when I decided to try Evangeline — the aptly named “Delectable Spa” at the Epicurean Hotel in South Tampa.
In a decidedly masochistic move, I perused the decadent, mouthwatering, food-inspired spa menu whilst firmly planted on phase I of the South Beach Diet. My canonization should be announced any time now.
Why yes, I’d love a “Butter Brulee” wrap and “Sweet Cream Milk” massage. How about you?
For this first foray, I “ordered” the FarmHouse Fresh Seasonal Body Treatment ($115) featuring a full body exfoliation and focus massage.
It’s awesome to greet summer with a fresh layer of skin to attract the sun’s rays (please be responsible). If you don’t know what an exfoliation feels like, imagine the best back-scratching you’ve ever had. Now spread it all around! Soooo gooooooood.
One of my all-time favorite spa experiences occurred in the remote jungle of Ecuador (at a placed we learned was owned, oddly enough, by Tampa people). It was a hot towel exfoliation, which meant that instead of getting up to shower off after the application, I got to lie there in a state of pure bliss while the attendant gently sloughed the particles off of me with hot towels.
Admittedly, this was unusual. Was it too much to hope that the Evangeline exfoliation might follow in that revered tradition? Alas, it was.
However, today’s treatment included a series of thoughtful touches, piled on like layers of a tasty cake.
I’ll start at the beginning…
From the time I called to make the appointment, I was impressed with the level of service at Evangeline — and as you might have already figured out, I am not easily impressed. Upon entering, I received a friendly greeting, was offered a locker and a robe and slippers, and guided toward the relaxation lounge. Inside, there was a three-seat sofa and three chairs. A chaise would have been lovely, but the odd-shaped space couldn’t accommodate one without making sacrifices. The room is dimly lit — too dim to read — and yet there were two coffee table books on hand, both in keeping with the culinary theme: a volume on the art of the vine and another on Champagne. There’s fruit-infused water and a few morsels for your enjoyment, like chocolate covered espresso beans and pretzels. With nothing to do but gaze at the two giant framed grapevine photos on the walls, the space invites a peaceful introspection, complete with gentle guitar strumming, touched by a hint of bass and piano notes, that carries over into the treatment area.
I was greeted by Rachel and led to the next room (while resisting the temptation to lick the royal purple Venetian plaster walls, which look like something grape). Judging from the two beds and double shower, couples’ treatments can be performed here, too.
I disrobed and slid between two soft towels on the warmed bed with the most comfy face cushion I’ve ever encountered. This is where the layering began.
First, Rachel explained that she would apply warm water to my skin. It felt as if she were cupping the water with her hands and slowly spilling it over my body. The gesture was so relaxing that I could feel the beads of water form before they rolled off. I can’t remember feeling quite so present.
She scrubbed and massaged my body in a soothing, circular motion with a seasonal, springtime… wait for it… brandy, pear, sugar and sea salt mixture. Later I was slathered in an equally divine sounding, feeling, smelling, tasting (?) shea butter concoction. More layers.
After the heavenly application of the scrub, I showered and reached for a towel from the heated towel bar. Another layer.
This time the bed was dressed in a soft, supple sheet and light blanket. The toasty bed greeted me kindly after I stepped from the shower to the cool room. Layer; layer.
The massage pressure was sublime, and my skin drank the luxurious shea butter like scorched earth swallows rain. On the fourth and last turnover of the session, Rachel whispered, “How are you feeling?”
From the depths of my hedonistic haze, all I could spare was “Delish!”
She placed a warm cushion under my neck and a warm pillow over my eyes. The massaging continued for a while. Then, in her grand finale, Rachel put hot towels on my feet. The frosting on top.
The FarmHouse Fresh Seasonal Treatment was a Grade A experience. For the next course, I’ll try the Dulce Delight.
Evangeline Spa at The Epicurean Hotel, 1207 S. Howard Ave., Tampa, 813-999-8742.