Fred and I got to Almeria last weekend to find that the hotel near the Cathedral hadn't processed our booking. There was definitely no room at this particular inn. After some scowling (us) and apologetic hand gestures (them), they booked us into nearby boutique Hotel Plaza Vieja in the square of the same name.
While Fred pressed a button on the loo marked 'Shower' and emerged soaking wet from his very own inadvertent spa experience, I read the promo blurb and discovered that the hotel was attached to the latest Hammam, or traditional Arab bath in the Hammam Al Andalus chain. These people know how to Hammam, and after eight years in Granada, I was about to find out.
I stepped into the warm candlelit darkness in my borrowed black swimsuit and the white towelling elf-shoes you have to keep on at all times. It was quiet, just the music of water and occasional murmur of conversation. A middle-aged couple and two elderly women were going through the age-old circuit of warm, hot and cold pools and I joined them.
The warm pool was bliss. I slipped through the soft water scented with essential oils, then sat on the stone ledge watching the candles flicker through pierced lanterns. Next, it was time for the hot pool to unknot tired muscles and lull me almost to sleep. Big mistake. In a moment, I was instructed to climb out and step into the cold pool. Right in. After the first shocking sensation of cold...there was a shocking sensation of cold. But like eating chili peppers, the endorphin rush became addictive and I did this three or four times. My reward was the foaming jacuzzi, as big as a swimming pool. Followed by the all-marble steam room which warmed me right through. I finished with peach tea and a chat in the relaxation area. When I walked through to the changing rooms I felt happy about nothing I could name.
I didn't have time for a massage ('on warm stone with kessa glove and natural soap') that afternoon, but if I had chosen that, the cost for a whole afternoon of indulgence would have been under €50. It's the perfect, calorie-free pre- or post-Christmas indulgence for jaded spirits and I totally recommend it as a New Year treat.
Do you have a Hammam in your area? Are they in the UK yet? If you're in Granada, I'd love to hear which of the hammams you like best and why. Happy bathing. Happy Christmas and New Year!