I think everyone who’s had more than, say, three professional massages in their lives has a weird massage story. Once when Brian and I were staying at an inn in Desert Hot Springs, Calif., one of the owners told us about an experience many years ago in which he phoned a massage therapist to come in for one of the guests. He had never used this particular woman before but had heard exceptional things about her. She showed up wearing a tiny cowboy hat and a holster around her waist with two toy guns. He noted that he should have listened to his intuition at that moment and told the therapist her services were no longer needed. Instead, he showed her to the therapy room with the guest. After she left, the guest came down to chat with the proprietor.
“How was your massage?”
“It was … strange,” the guest responded.
He proceeded to tell the inn owner about how the therapist began the massage normally enough, but then she suddenly began to gallop around the table shooting her toy guns and saying, “Pow! Pow!” She then continued with the massage — but proceeded to do her cowgirl routine twice more during the service. Needless to say, the inn’s owner was flabbergasted and embarrassed and issued the guest a full refund for the service.
Anyway, that brings me to yesterday when I treated myself to a slightly odd massage at our new digs in Albandeira, Portugal, where we’ve been since Saturday. After a week in Lagos, we traveled along the coast to a lovely little beach side resort in another of the Algarve region’s quaint little towns. I feel like I’m finally in vacation mode, though I’ve heard folks say that vacations with toddlers aren’t vacations — they’re merely trips. Plus, Brian’s still working while we’re traveling. But whatever — I will definitely take it.
Our days here are easy: We wake up and amble over to the onsite restaurant for our included breakfast — breads, cheeses, fruit, charcuterie — and then we either head down to the beach, over to the pool or into one of the nearby towns.
Dinners here are simple but delicious, and the ambiance is pretty amazing. Our first night here we ate in a restaurant that sits between two caves in a cliff on the coast — the restaurant itself is nearly in the cave. We had the famous piri piri chicken and a tomato salad, while Zooey pulled apart some fish and chips. Last night we dined on thin, crispy pizza on a cliff above the beach near our resort.
But just prior to our dinner yesterday, I went for my massage. It wasn’t that weird, I suppose — just weird to little old American me. When I walked into the massage room in a robe, the female therapist said, “OK, just hang your robe here and lay on the table.” And then she just stood there. I waited a moment so as not to be the weirdo that just disrobes in front of the massage therapist before she has a chance to quietly excuse herself from the room. But there was no excusing herself.
“Just put the robe here?” I said, pointing to the hook.
“And then lay down there?” I asked, gesturing to the massage table.
And then suddenly I’m in that dream where you realize you’re in your freshman homeroom and not wearing any clothes — except instead of freshman homeroom, I was in a spa in Portugal. (No need to direct me to WhiteWhine.com. I visit it daily anyway; plus, I’m not complaining — just pointing out what a giant prude I apparently am — who knew?) Boobs are just skin here, I guess. You see them on the beach, at the pool, on TV — meh, when in Rome, strip down, I suppose. The massage was fine otherwise, though I was a little confused as to what I was supposed to do afterward. While I laid on the table with a towel over my eyes, she told me to “just relax” while she got me some tea, and then she left — for 15 minutes. I got off the table, re-robed myself and then just stood there adjusting and readjusting my robe belt for lack of anything better to do. Should I leave the room? What if I wasn’t supposed to leave the room? Does “just relax” mean “get up, get dressed, rejoin the world”? Obviously, relaxation is a challenge for me if something this simple flips the overdrive switch in my brain.
The therapist hesitantly tapped on the door.
“Um, your tea — it’s ready.”
Ah, OK. So I was supposed to be on my way. Perhaps a new life lesson to remember: When in doubt — and not wearing clothes — put something on and leave.
This experience probably doesn’t belong in the “weird massage stories” category — more like the “silly, uptight American” category. I’ve definitely had stranger massage experiences for sure, ones that lack the excuse of occurring abroad. (“Why is this girl getting so many massages?” you might be wondering. I have a lot of tension … obviously.) There was the guy who was sweating profusely throughout my entire massage because he’d just taken some new weight-loss pills that would help him sweat that fat right out. And the woman who just would not shut up about the Twilight movies (she was Team Edward). Nothing that quite compares with the cowgirl masseuse, though — maybe someday … sigh.
Anyway, life is good when the only day-to-day stories you have are about dinner and spa experiences.
Today we took the kiddo to Zoomarine in the nearby town of Guia. It’s like a tiny SeaWorld. One carousel ride, Ferris wheel spin and dolphin show later, Zooey declared, “All done,” so we headed into the town for more spicy, citrus-spiked piri piri chicken, which apparently was “born” in Guia. Muito delicioso.
Two more beach days here in Portugal before we hit the road for Rota, Spain, where we’ll spend five days. Then it’s on to Paris for a week, and from there, who knows?