Um . . . yeah. That's me--your neighborhood spa reviewer. This probably isn't going to be of much use to anyone who's actually looking for a spa in the area. Well, maybe some use. See for yourself.
So, last Friday was Julie's birthday. Every year, the balancing act is to find something that will surprise her, but that she'll also like. I'm not very good at figuring out what she'll like, and as a general rule I don't shop, so my opportunities to happen across something and think, "Hey, Julie would love this!" are limited. I usually have to resort to asking her for suggestions, which seriously diminishes the surprise factor.
Well, this year I wasn't moving very quickly (probably nothing new there), so before I got a chance to get out and look for anything I heard her say something to Ian about wanting "a day at the spa." I'm not made of money (as I like to remind my kids), so an actual day at the spa was out of the question. But I figured I could probably at least get her some kind of decent gift certificate. The only question was, where? Because I know spas. I'm in them all the time, so I know the best, and I know how to pick a good one. Right.
But I do like to shop local. So, I googled something like "Elkridge MD spa" and got a list of results arranged by proximity. I wasn't actually expecting to find anything all that close by, but to my surprise, one of the top hits was something called Oriental Spa, just down the road in a little strip mall on Rt. 1. Their Web site looked OK, and they do massages, which was the kind of thing that I figured would interest her. Worth a shot, right? The first opportunity I had, I went over to ask about a gift certificate. It happened to be an occasion when Ian was looking for somewhere to go, and my answers usually involve walking somewhere or going to church. Even better, Julie was on the tail end of a nap, so we might get there and back without any incriminating questions.
I realized when we got there why I couldn't remember much about it, even though I knew I'd walked through that strip mall a few times before, checking what businesses it contained. Aside from the fact that I normally wouldn't be the least bit interested in a spa, there's not much to say about the outside. The windows are opaque and the glass door covered with blinds. When we walked in, we were faced with another door--solid, with a button to ring a bell. The only other features in the small entryway were a mirror with some kind of picture on it (I wasn't paying much attention) and a sign proclaiming that the establishment was subject to random police inspection. Before I had time to think, "That doesn't sound promising," a female Asian voice yelled through the wall, "No babies!" (I assume she meant my almost six-year-old son) and asked what I wanted. I explained that I wanted to ask about gift certificates, and she said they don't do that. There didn't seem to be much left to do, so we walked back home.
It occurred to me as we were leaving that there are spas, and there are spas. Sometimes a massage is just a massage, and sometimes it's whatever $70 gets you in Elkridge. I settled on a day spa in Columbia. They seem to have a wider range of advertised services, they sell gift certificates, and you can see through their front windows--probably all good signs.
Julie was surprised (she probably would have been either way), and likes what she got, though she hasn't yet redeemed the certificate. If anyone knows of a good spa in Elkridge, I'd appreciate recommendations--never know when I might need to buy another gift. As for the Oriental Spa on Rt. 1, about all I can say is, bring cash, leave the kids at home, and don't expect very good customer service. Maybe it gets better once you're through that second door, but I don't expect I'll ever know.