Admittedly, I'm the kind of spa snob convinced that mani-pedi stations subsist as mere cash grabs at the bottom of the totem pole. But after weeks of hiding my turpentine-ravaged hands like a creature out of Tolkien, I decide enough is enough - I simply can't have the hands of a Hobbit on Valentine's Day.
The Sequoia team quickly invalidates my handbag full of bias with its Leighton Denny Immaculate Manicure. Complete overhaul begins with sweeps of the Rolls-Royce of nail files - made from the finest lead crystal - shaping and sealing the nail to prevent splitting. Next, a proprietary remove-and-rectify solution tidies ravaged cuticles while soaking in a hand bath.
The exfoliation and massage that follows is so dreamy it's a shame I can't be horizontal.
Of all the luxury manicures on offer, what makes this one special? Strangely enough, taste - or lack of it. Until now, nail polish just had a way of tainting the taste of tapenade, rendering it about as useful as baby couture. Leighton Denny lacquer lacks the unappetizing varnish taste that often comes with other spa brands. For those who prize finger-licking over polished champagne-clinking, this is a major plus. The finishing touch - Skin Like Silk - is a serum akin to wearing invisible protective gloves featuring real diamond particles prized for their polishing qualities.
What better way to start a spa stay than a long lie-in stirred only by breakfast in bed? The Grove Hotel has me at honey baked ham and hash browns. Perched upon Hertfordshire's greenest acres, this English estate boasts delights far beyond the usual, exemplifying how a rural retreat can spark renewal and revival. Guests return not for traditional frills; they're more interested in edgy touches such as the stark ozone swimming pool and saline vitality tub. The main mansion dates back to 1703 and has played weekend host to the likes of Queen Victoria and King Edward VII.
Sequoia Spa at The Grove Country Estate; Chandler's Cross, Hertfordshire, England; 44 (0) 1923 807807; thegrove.co.uk; 55 minutes for $80.
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