In celebration of fully 10 years of wedded bliss with my first wife, Show
, I strategically suggested we spend a day at a spa as reward for her forebearance, despite my being steadfastly heterosexual. So it was that last Friday morning we packed our rucksack with bathing costumes, flip flops and towelling robes and sped off towards Grande São Paulo.
Driving in the metropolis is always stressful, as no matter how early you leave, you're always guaranteed to arrive at least half an hour late, as the traffic chaos in the state capital reaches near gridlock, despite vague attempts to limit the number of cars on the road by the introduction of a rotation system according to the last digit of car number plates. Indeed, predictions have been made that, with 200,000 new cars coming onto the streets per annum, within five years traffic will simply grind to a complete halt. Without a functioning rail system and possessing a paltry metro, travelling around the city looks destined to become even more agonisingly torturous than it currently is.
We arrived deshevelled but optimistic
in the car park just after our 10am deadline, a feeling that didn't last long. Opening the boot, we discovered that we'd left the rucksack on our bed - or rather I had, apparently. For one terrible moment I actually thought Show was rummaging through her bag to find something pointy to stab me with. I surmised, rightly for a change, that such an upmarket spa would have spare gear for its clients, but there nonetheless followed a tense stroll to the entrance, with my name echoing around the leafy streets amid expletives of every nature and strength in two languages. On entry, we were ushered into a delightful little oasis of calm in the centre an unimposing concrete block, the air thick with incense and Tibetan monks chanting to a subtle backbeat,
a welcome contrast to my incensed partner chanting curses and maledictions
The panic having been dispelled and Show having calmed down by the time we were invited to disrobe and slip on our gowns, her blood pressure rose sharply again when she saw the state of my underpants. Confident that I'd be using my sporty bathing costume, I'd taken the liberty of travelling in an ageing, bleach-stained pair of Marks and Spencers briefs, a least one size too large to give room for manoeuvre, given the heat. A stiff-limbed march to our massage room later, and I received a third Paddington hard stare from my spouse in as many minutes when I mistook an instruction to remove my roupão
(dressing gown, a word I rarely use in Portuguese) for an invitation to take off my roupa
(clothes), my confused request for clarification narrowly avoiding a scene marked only by its unrelenting pathos
The rest of the day went generally smoothly. We were massaged with bamboo, rubbed with exotic oils, caked in clay, given a face pack, encouraged to enjoy a Japanese-style bath in a wooden tub in which someone had dropped their grass cuttings, then after a light lunch, I snoozed my way through a couple of other procedures, including lying on hot pebbles, which reminded me of childhood holidays in Charmouth,
After settling the not inconsiderable bill, we tried to leave São Paulo in time for my evening class at 7pm, but of course the traffic was appalling and all the relaxation I had just given myself fully to evaporated. Luckily nobody went to the class, so I unilaterally cancelled it and went straight home, and was in bed by 10pm.
The next morning I overslept and almost missed my 8 o'clock class, which would have justified the cost of the spa in itself. The package we chose was supposed to be "revitalising
", but I haven't been the same since, feeling constantly sleepy and listless, though it has to be said my forehead has never been less shiny, nor my hunched spine less curved.
I can smell burning. I have a feeling I need to buy some new underwear.