holiday: Picture of HEALTH; SPA BREAK IN MALTA It is the Mediterranean island that won a medal for standing up to invaders. Now Malta offers laidback health and hi-tech fitness, says JOHN ARRISON.
JUST in front of my face were two small digital counters.
One counted down the time from 30 minutes. The other showed the temperature inside the big egg-like pod in which I was lying with only my head sticking out.
From 24 degrees the heat in it gradually rose to 41 (106F). As I got hotter and hotter, the sweat was soon pouring off.
The pod, a Dermalife detoxifier, acts as a high-speed steamy sauna while also giving you a non-stop massage because the mattress you lie on vibrates continuously - and that's not all!
Throughout the process, you are scented by the aroma of essential oils and bathed in infra-red light. When my half-hour was up, I certainly felt refreshed and very clean indeed.
Apparently a session has the beneficial effect of a three-mile run - with none of the effort!
The Dermalife is part of the spa in the 5-star Hotel Fortina at Sliema in Malta, which offers more than 250 health and beauty treatments in four areas: Spa Sante for relaxing and de-stressing, Spa Mediterranee for thalassotherapy, Hypogeum for "mind, body and spirit" and the Belle Epoque beauty centre.
They offer every imaginable type of treatment from flower rituals and crystal healing to salt scrubs and volcanic mud baths.
You can opt for chocolate, orange or seaweed wraps or choose between Chinese, Indian, Indonesian or Japanese massages. Or how about a Cleopatra bath in asses' milk? Or simply lying with your head on one side with a candle stuck in your ear?
Apparently the flame creates a draught which gently moves the candle to massage the eardrum.
The hotel also offers cosmetic and medical treatments, ranging from nose reshaping to hip replacements and dentistry, all with Mediterranean sunshine to help take at least some of the stress out of the experience.
Eighty-five percent of the guests are from the UK, attracted by the spa and also the hotel's waterfront position across the harbour from the capital, Valetta, its six restaurants and seven pools including one just a few feet from the sea.
Bedrooms are classed either as ordinary, Wellness or Spa. In the Wellness ones a machine continually blows out 'mountain-fresh ionised air' and the mattresses, pillows and duvets contain tiny magnets to help you sleep deeply.
You also get mineral-rich spring water for both drinking and washing.
The Spa bedrooms all have their own Dermalife machine, a sauna-steam power shower big enough for two, jet-bath, massager for feet and shoulders and a Jacuzzi with twinkling lights.
In addition, some have a private roofterrace with its own small swimming pool, barbecue and herb garden, reached by a spiral staircase. For a really special meal, guests can book one of the hotel's chefs.
Flying into Malta, my first impression was of a very foreign-looking island with a rocky sunbaked landscape, honey-coloured stone buildings with flat roofs and barely a tree in sight.
Yet when I landed, there were many familiar sights: old Leyland buses, red telephone kiosks and pillar boxes, shops like M&S, British Home Stores, H&Mand Zara - and traffic driving on the left. Everyone speaks English.
Although only 18 miles from east to west and half as wide, the island has a wealth of history. The 'Malta Experience' audio-visual show in Valetta features every period from prehistoric and Roman times through to the settlement of the famous Knights of St John in 1530, the Second World War siege when Malta was awarded the George Cross and, finally, its independence from Britain in 1964.
Valetta itself stands dramatically on a narrow rocky peninsula surrounded by high stone fortifications built 400 years ago by the Knights as a defence against the Turks.
You get the best view of them on a boat trip around the Grand Harbour, once a major Royal Navy base.
The island's most spectacular building is St John's Co-Cathedral, famous for its amazingly ornate marble interior and for housing Caravaggio's painting of the Beheading of St John.
Other major sights include the Grand Master's Palace, which is also awash with marble and gilt; the walled medieval capital of Mdina; the 4,000-year-old Tarxien temples and St Mary's church at Mosta, whose vast dome - 120 feet across - is one of the largest in the world.
It's also worth finding time for a trip to Gozo. Malta's smaller and greener neighbour is a 30-minute ferry-ride from Cirkewwa or 15 minutes in a seaplane from Valetta.
Secluded Ramla Bay on the north coast has a superb sandy beach which is one of the best on either island.
Fourteen nights all-inclusive at Hotel Fortina, including flights, room, food and drink, some treatments, use of the fitness centre and a habour cruise, cost from pounds 1,159. Seven nights half board are from pounds 429. Visit www.fortinasparesort.com or call 0800 917 3001.
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|Publication:||Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)|
|Date:||Feb 8, 2009|
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