The indulgent perfection of a spa break | Jack Marshall’s column

There aren’t many times in life quite like it: that moment when you’re lying prone in an unfamiliar room, largely naked and drowsy, the pungent scents of jasmine leaves and coils of sandalwood incense drifting around you. Your face is smushed into a hole six inches across, your line of vision impaired and restricted to the odd flash of a stranger’s feet.

Getting a massage is a strange concept, really. ‘So, you’ll waltz around a fancy hotel in your Primark swim-shorts and communal bathrobe before wandering, dazed, into a windowless room where a randomer whose name you’ll be lucky to catch will spend an hour slathering you in hot oil, touching parts of you only your scrubbing brush and God can reach, okay?’

‘A-okay’, we dutifully reply. Because, simultaneously, a massage really is the most supremely elementary of concepts: ‘I’ll give you some cash to stop what you’re doing and rub my back muscles in a way that makes them feel nice as I try not to drool with sleepy satisfaction while tingly music and fancy smells dance around quietly in the background.’

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Mine and my girlfriend’s Christmas presents to one another this festive period just gone consisted of a spa break. Curiosities titillated by the prospects of reinvigorating hydrotherapy sessions, glasses of Prosecco in outdoor hot-tubs, deep sighs in eucalyptus-infused saunas, and the aforementioned full-body massage, we eagerly signed up.

Try not to drool with sleepy satisfaction while tingly music and fancy smells dance around quietly in the background

And, of course, it was wonderful. We lathered our feet in roiling foot spas and ambled light-headed and zombie-like from treatment room to treatment room. We reclined with a wet slap in curved tiled seats in a steam room which smelled like Christmas, all cloves and cinnamon, before peeling our deliciously limp bodies out of our chairs in search of food.

We ate chicken and blue cheese salads, Chinese pork belly, and Goan curries. There was wine and hot chocolate. And a plunge pool, which awoke the senses like little else can, shocking every inch of us with a blitz of white lightning and ice and sending us scurrying back to the nearest sauna to sit dripping, smiling, and fresh.

It was heaven. Just try not to drool on your masseuse’s feet.