Wanderlust: Travel detox

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After I devoured my last croissant and lingered over a final hot chocolate at the 6th arrondissement’s Les Deux Magots (lesdeuxmagots.com), I flew to Alicante along Spain’s southeastern Costa Blanca for a week’s detox at Sha Wellness (shawellnessclinic.com), Europe’s most highly regarded destination spa. Months on the road had left me exhausted, but really I was here to re-boot my diet. I know what to eat but often I allow travel to excuse my unhealthy, stress-induced eating habits. Sha presented the perfect antidote. 

Located on a mountainside overlooking the Mediterranean, the hospital-meets-hotel’s stark white structure tops out at a rooftop swimming pool and an outdoor dining deck where I sat down for my first 700-calorie meal – a polenta, cucumber and broccoli salad so beautiful I even Instagramed it. This is going to be a delightful detox, I exclaimed out loud to the young Russian manager who walked me to my sunlit suite with its walk-in closet and generous balcony.

I settled on the cushy white leather couch and began reading about Sha’s macrobiotic dietary philosophy based on grains and vegetables and excluding processed foods or animal products. This was the program that saved the life of Sha’s founder when he was diagnosed with cancer several years ago. As I read about the multiple benefits of this holistic approach, I felt a migraine overtake me. Within minutes, my lunch unceremoniously returned and my head spun like an amusement park ride. Ibuprofen eventually eased the symptoms and I slept for the next four hours on Sha’s pillowtop bed. I woke up in time for my deep tissue massage in the state of the art triplex spa with its staff of nine medical doctors plus many more nurses, massage therapists and world-class wellness practitioners. However, the mere touch of the therapist sent me into fits of discomfort until I finally begged him to stop. I skipped dinner and fell asleep wondering what exactly was wrong with this ‘renowned’ programme.

One of the naked truths about my so-called glamorous life is that being hosted in the world’s most amazing places sometimes means compromise. As a luxury travel writer, I operate between staff and guest. While Sha generously invited me to stay for three nights, my last minute booking and their busy schedule meant that my programme was not planned prior to arrival and I didn’t start with a medical consultation as guests typically do. When I sat down the following morning with my wellness counselor, Mario Lopez, an extremely knowledgeable English-speaking Spaniard, he quickly deduced the problem: nearly everything on Sha’s menus is seasoned with miso, sea salt, vinegar, tamarind or soy. I am allergic to all of these. 

Mario made a few calls, adjusted my appointment schedule to include acupuncture plus a detoxifying bath and seaweed wrap that I would gladly have every day even if it didn’t dissolve fat and boost circulation. My first massage coincided with hypersensitivity due to the allergens in my system, so Mario recommended a second try that felt infinitely more relaxing. For the next few days, I ate Sha’s macrobiotic diet without the seasonings and left three pounds lighter. Success, yes, but once again my Instagram-worthy work was not without its bumps along the road.

Follow Cynthia on Instagram and Twitter: @CynthiaRoams

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