Traveller's Checks: Who's that pummelling your inner thigh?

Travellers need to learn a few new words and phrases. Pathra Podala Swedam, for example, Sirodhara, Nasya and Pizhichil - the language of Ayurvedic massage and treatment, which is sweeping the globe. The ancient healing arts of India are now the most fashionable extra service to be offered by the rapidly growing number of hotels and resorts that are in the grip of an obsession with "well-being". Warm medicated oil is the key here. It's dripped on to the forehead (Sirodhara), applied with herbal leaves (Pathra Podala Swedam), rubbed in rhythmically by two masseurs (Pizhichil) and introduced into the nostrils (Nasya). I tried it in a posh Indian hotel where the consultation before the treatment includes a discussion of mental clarity and self-confidence as well as the questions about lower back pain and gammy knee that you'd expect. I can't say that I felt that I'd paid to expand my brain power after half an hour of shoulder-to-toe action under a pint of warm ghee, but I did feel energised enough for the pro

Travellers need to learn a few new words and phrases. Pathra Podala Swedam, for example, Sirodhara, Nasya and Pizhichil - the language of Ayurvedic massage and treatment, which is sweeping the globe. The ancient healing arts of India are now the most fashionable extra service to be offered by the rapidly growing number of hotels and resorts that are in the grip of an obsession with "well-being". Warm medicated oil is the key here. It's dripped on to the forehead (Sirodhara), applied with herbal leaves (Pathra Podala Swedam), rubbed in rhythmically by two masseurs (Pizhichil) and introduced into the nostrils (Nasya). I tried it in a posh Indian hotel where the consultation before the treatment includes a discussion of mental clarity and self-confidence as well as the questions about lower back pain and gammy knee that you'd expect. I can't say that I felt that I'd paid to expand my brain power after half an hour of shoulder-to-toe action under a pint of warm ghee, but I did feel energised enough for the prolonged shower necessary to wash away the film of oil. My masseur had been trained at an Ayurveda hospital. Plenty haven't. As with other spa treatments there's a worry about who exactly is slapping, pounding and de-stressing, fiddling with the cellulite and applying that Sea Enzyme Body Firming Mask. Now that every little hotel with nothing else to recommend it has cottoned on to the idea of building a spa, there needs to be a bit of guidance to help us avoid the mountebanks and charlatans of the rejuvenation business. According to Susan Arnold of the British Spa Federation there are no acknowledged standards in the business. "If any hotel that wants to call itself a spa - even if it has none of the water and mineral therapies that we think are essential - it can just go ahead." Her advice - consult the website www.britishspas.co.uk or, for a foreign trip use a expert agency such as Erna Low or Thermalia Travel.

Welcome to the house of fun Civil servants, as we are now painfully aware, cannot organise a knees-up in a brewery. That is putting it politely. Entertainment, visitor attractions, having fun - it's just not their thing. Now, having made a pig's ear of the Dome, it seems that their deathly touch is being felt under another great architectural canopy, the Great Court of the British Museum. Last December this column celebrated the opening of the largest covered square in Europe - a magnificent space, spectacularly glazed by Sir Norman Foster, that gives London a piece of the Classical Mediterranean in the heart of Bloomsbury. It was to be open in the evenings - not just the hours when schoolchildren and museum workers are around. I had visions of locals and tourists enjoying the museum, taking in a temporary exhibition, meeting friends, having a drink and dinner in the Great Court. But when I visited at 8pm last Monday the place was empty save for a few security guards rocking on their heels and waiting to close the doors at nine. The café was closed. The restaurant was closed. The shop too. There was no exhibition (though we are told that museums can display only a fraction of what they own). This £100m addition to the public life was desolate. Later, I telephoned to see when the restaurant in the Great Court might be open. Directory enquiries could find no listing. The museum information line had a recorded message about the Great Court "project" that told me it was being opened by the Queen on 6 December 2000. The website made no mention of the restaurant or café. The Court Restaurant (the secret number is 020-7323 8990) is run by a company called Digby Trout, which has the concession on restaurants in several other museums. It closes the Court restaurant at 5pm early in the week and 9pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and confesses to being "not that busy" in the evenings. London is full of innovative, passionate restaurateurs who would die for such a venue. There may be a feeling that the museum-as-entertainment tendency has dumbed down our national collections far enough. But having a bar and café open in the evenings is hardly opening the doors to the forces of ignorance. It's just what people want. If the British Museum, with a worldwide reputation and that amazing Court, is attracting fewer customers than the Pizza Express across the road in Coptic Street, something must be wrong. So, this is my first rule of travel: whatever it is, if it is run by the Government, it probably sucks.

s.marling@independent.co.uk

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
tv
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Extras
indybest
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Food and Beverage Cost Controller

    18,000 to 20,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our fantastic leisure client i...

    Affiliate Marketing Manager / Affiliate Manager

    £50 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Affiliate Marketing Manager / Affiliate Mana...

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Day In a Page

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits