Anne Specque is the Manager at the Grandre Bretagne Hotel’s Spa, which was the first to open in Greece (and among the first in Europe) in 2003. The French national came to Greece “for a few years” and ended up staying here until the present day, and as she reveals in this interview she is enamoured by Greek nature and all its bounty – the medicinal plants, which she uses for tea infusions, the hot springs and the sea are her favourites. The GB Spa is a luxurious wellness heaven for spa lovers wishing to enjoy pampering at its best, and is open both to hotel guests and outside clients.
“I came here for the opening of the Spa in 2003. Before that I worked in different places but they weren’t really spas, because spas as we know them only really started to develop over the last 12-14 years. Before that there were beauty centres, thalassotherapy or massage clinics. As our lifestyle changed, spas became a requirement of sorts in hotels, along with a gym area.
“The word spa means ‘Salute Per Acqua’ meaning ‘health via the water’; you definitely need have contact with the water. It’s not like thalassotherapy because that’s based on therapies with sea water. Especially if you are in a city, a spa is an oasis, a world of beauty and a place to rebalance the body and mind. The contact with water is so important before starting your treatment; when one arrives they may think they will relax with a body treatment, but this is not ideal – the ideal is to have contact with water, through a pool or sauna, and to relax and rebalance the nervous system, and to clear your energy from the outside world and its stress. When you swim, the water – especially or water here which is therapeutic, chlorine-free, enriched with ozone, oxygen and salt – melts away the tensions. Sauna is also very beneficial. Here we have various kinds of steam like one with eucalyptus, one with maracuja fruit, or other herbs. If the client doesn’t have time to use the spa facilities, we encourage them to at least use the steam facilities even for 10-15 minutes, because the steam temperature is higher than that of the body so it relaxes the muscles.
“A great deal has changed over the years in the spa world. One of the major changes is that nowadays many men visit spas – 15 years ago no men was seen in a beauty salon! Lots of (mainly businessmen) come for manicure-pedicure, grooming and massage therapies.
“Another change is that people like to combine the spa experience with healthy food – our clients care more about their nutrition. When guests talk with me they want to know what they should eat throughout the day, whether they should follow food fashions and such. I’m very health-oriented as a person and I am vegan but I don’t advocate others should be the same, as everyone has different needs. What I do propose to people nutritionally is that they follow the seasons; we have four seasons and even though it’s true that the environment has changed and it’s a little bit unstable, we have to keep the direction of eating the fruits and vegetables of each season and to add the things we prefer, whether it be herbs, or meats or eggs or cheese. I also believe people should try to eat local produce, as each country has to adapt its nutrition according to its own nature. I’m a true believer in the phrase ‘you are what you eat’.
“People are also travelling much more and are experimenting by trying more types of therapies. Ayurvedic treatments have become more popular in Europe – we’ve been offering Ayurveda for 12 years, but they’re not the most popular treatments as people still prefer body treatments (aesthetic and massage).
“Also there’s a return to natural therapies – rather than using machines. Treatments done by hand, and beauty rituals like threading, which don’t make you lose elasticity in the skin, are very in demand recently.
“Every day is different for me – I don’t have a set routine! I adapt myself to the needs of the guests and it makes me very happy to offer them the best experience possible. The only standard thing is how we welcome the guests, and how we accommodate or advise them according to what they’d like to experience.
“Behind the scenes there is a great deal to do every day. From managing the various therapists and other staff like reception, cleaning, the life guard, etc, to making sure that everything is in its place throughout the day, to offering guests all the right suggestions and information based on their demands so they can leave here feeling wonderful. I always propose to guests to see the spa and what it can offer them, and we also suggest gift certificates that they can offer to a friend or partner.
“When selecting the therapists who work here, the most important thing I look for is for them to have at least a basic professional experience, but the most important thing is that they are passionate about what they do, and to continuously evolve in their skills. I like giving them the opportunity to develop their skills through practice and trainings – learning never ends, we need to constantly refresh our knowledge. We have an in-house trainer as well as a trainer who comes here from ESPA. The key focus is to keep a high quality of treatment and to have a really positive attitude in order to keep our team successful. The majority of our therapists are Greek, and many have roots in other countries too – Australia, Asia and Europe for example.
“In my time off, my passion is hot springs, and my favourite place is the island Ikaria in the northern Aegean. As it’s quite far away I don’t get the chance to go there very often so I go to nearer places on the mainland like Lagana, Xylokastro, or outside of Kammena Vourla or in wintertime to go to the sea I wear a special uniform for water (not a scuba diving suit) that goes from your neck to your feet and I don’t feel the cold water at all. I also like to gather plants from natural landscapes – I have around 50 types of herbs at home – and to make infusions. I cook according to the Hippocratic philosophy – to eat simply and to really enjoy my meal. For exercise, apart from swimming I love to cycle and visit archaeological sites as I’m fascinated by ancient places.”