anne specque, spa pioneer

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.

The GB Spa swimming pool, which is chlorine free and enriched with ozone, oxygen and sea salt. Grande Bretagne Anne Specque
The GB Spa swimming pool, which is chlorine free and enriched with ozone, oxygen and sea salt.

“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).

GB Spa Anne Specque interview
View from the naturally-lit GB Spa courtyard.

“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.

The Grande Bretagne Spa Director, Anne Specque.
The Grande Bretagne Spa Director, Anne Specque.

“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.”

secrets of a top therapist

Since the historical Grande Bretagne Hotel Spa opened in 2003, Vasso Prepa has treated thousands of guests, many of them exhausted professionals or high-flying VIPs seeking the most qualitative ways to destress and re-energize via the multitude of sophisticated therapies and treatments on offer at the luxurious hotel. As the Head Therapist at the GB Spa, Prepa has learned and discovered a great deal about holistic wellness, herself and the world. Here she talks to I’m Very Well Thank You and gracefully shares a snippet of her 20 years of rich experience.

“I was always drawn to discovering the essence of things, not basing myself on the superficial. Whenever I meet people, what interests me most is what their true intent is, and I am especially drawn to those with a positive one. In order to exchange energy in such a way, my work was exactly what I needed, as it is based on giving and receiving energy.

“I started by having a great interest in Reiki, and then also energy massage. The Ayurveda therapies that we do here are very much based on energy healing; by pressing the Marma Points on the body we are working directly with physical and emotional energy. The points we work on differ depending on the needs of each client. In Europe there is a great focus on working on relieving stress via Ayurvedic therapies, as that’s the greatest malaise of the Western world today, while in India they work on different Ayurvedic therapies, many of which are based on cleansing the body in various ways.

A treatment room at the luxurious Grande Bretagne Spa.
A treatment room at the luxurious Grande Bretagne Spa.

“It’s been 20 years since I started my journey in holistic therapies-I have studied and practiced many different healing disciplines. I have been at the Grande Bretagne Spa since the first day it opened in 2003, and have offered therapies to thousands of people since – all kinds of people with all kinds of energy. Global celebrities, royalty, political personalities and other notable people have passed through my hands. It’s impressive how some of the most powerful people keep their energy very tightly closed off and protected from the outer world, or have a very different frequency from regular people.


“Before starting a therapy I practice certain techniques to protect my energy by doing certain prayers
 – it has taken years of experience to be able to do that effectively. I have met some people who have an extremely powerful energy – you feel it as soon as you touch them.

“What I’ve perceived in people in the world today throughout the years is that increasingly, people cannot seem to relish in deep joy or authentic pleasure of their life despite how much power or money they may have. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that because of how western society has developed they feel they should always have more. Some people manage to acknowledge this incongruence in their life and opt to change path by leaving behind a certain lifestyle and changing the work they do or going to live outside of the city in a more natural way.

“I make a point of having as much contact with nature as I can, in order to rebalance myself. More people with a particular level of consciousness are waking up to the need for finding heartfelt satsfaction in the simple things, like the daily exchange they have with people, or in nature, and living more in the now. Greeks are finally starting to recognise how valuable complimentary medicine and alternative therapies are; they are understanding what really matters – not just material things but in offering something meaningful to others through relationships and exchanges. Being able to give and receive is an art one has to cultivate – it is based on generating a balanced flow of energy.

GB Head Therapist Vasso Prepa
GB Head Therapist Vasso Prepa.

“My day starts with a good stretching session, to tone up my muscles and relieve stress. My work can create a lot of muscle tension so I need to keep my body strong, flexible and agile. Swimming is also very therapeutic for me so I enjoy it whenever I can. I eat a protein-rich breakfast – I adore Greek honey, tahini, eggs. I also love ginger and use it throughout the day, I drink ginger tea every day. On average I do around five therapies every day, some of which are two hours long, and in summer I’m busy throughout the day – our spa menu is one of the largest in Greece, so there are a huge variety of treatments to choose from.

“Working as a healing therapist has changed me as an individual on a very profound level. I am far more patient, more stoic, and I able to forgive far more easily – I think forgiveness is a vital key to a rewarding existence.

“Patience is essential if you want to learn to be a good therapist, but you need to have a calling for it too. If you feel a calling for healing, you should follow it. It’s also important to try learning via a variety of therapies, in order to find the one that suits you best as a practitioner.  Start slowly, and gradually move through various levels of therapies; Ayurveda is the top level of therapies as it requires a great deal of experience, practice and study. It also requires a lot of inner strength in order to offer it.”

top greek spas right now

More and more spa fans are travelling to Greece every year to relish a plenitude of excellent spa facilities and treatments on offer across the land, as wellness is now officially a leading travel trend.  Here we direct you to some of the most alluring wintertime options for you to try (or simply fantasize about) on your next trip.

In Athens:

Electra Metropolis Hotel
At the spanking new spa, which even has a glass floor revealing the ruins of the Themistoclean wall, you can let go with aromatherapy, deep tissue and lymphatic massages as well as beautifying flash treatments. Try the signature Cretan massage, in which warm raki (60% alcohol) is vigorously rubbed on the body to relax the muscles and clear the respiratory system. Next, gently heated olive oil is used for a (very) deep tissue massage to loosen every knot of tension throughout the entire body.
INFO
15
Mitropoleos, Syntagma.
Tel: 214 1006200


GB Spa

By far the city’s most luxurious spa, and right on Syntagma Square. Spend at least 5-15 minutes in the steam rooms such as the Amethystos Grotto, followed by a dip in the ozone-rich pool. To re-balance after the holidays, try a two hour Ayurvedic therapy, which encourages a profound rebalancing and regeneration of the mind and emotions using sensual, floral and exotic oils massaged on the marma points (mini chakras as defined in ancient Indian medicine).
INFO
Grande Bretagne Hotel, Syntagma Square.
Tel: 210 3330799 / 772.

lux101sp-157233_grande_breatagne
GB Spa at Hotel Grande Bretagne

Hiltonia
The Hiltonia Spa (http://www.hiltonia.gr/spa.html) has a progressive treatment menu, with treatments such as the Cleopatra Sperience Jacuzzi Therapy, which includes milk proteins and seaweed collagen, a Vit C+ facial that is based on pure vitamin C combined with extract of Ume, an anti-ageing Japanese plum, Diamond Noir facial exfoliation, and Golden Sensation body sea weed wrap. Try the Exceptional Anti-Wrinkle Therapy and Lift Facial Therapy to start the year as a fresh-faced, bedazzling you.
INFO:
Athens Hilton, 46 Vas. Sofias Ave.
Tel: 210 7281812 / 210 7281801.

Hammam Baths
Hammam is inspired by the baths of ancient Greece and Rome and more recently Constantinople. Start with a steam session in the circular, marble-benched bathing room, letting your skin, muscles and lungs ‘open up’, as you occasionally pour cool water on yourself from brass bowls and lather yourself with soap. Follow this with a deep tissue, exfoliating or beautifying massage in which therapists use Savon noir  black soap made with olive oil paste, Dead Sea black mud, and loofahs and silk Ketsea ‘brushes’ for scrubbing the body and face.
INFO:
17 Agion Asomaton Str. & 1 Melidoni Str. Thissio.
Tel. 210 3231073.

ath_therapies_gonglove_ancient_massage_02
Hammam Baths in Thisseio

Le Hammam, Kifissia
A pampering escape in the verdant northern suburb of Kifissia, Le Hammam (http://www.lehammam.gr/) is inspired by therapies and products from the world’s most exotic destinations, such as Bali, Polynesia, Morocco, Hawaii, the Himalayas and Thailand. Try the Queen Nefertiti, in which Balinese jasmine, lotus flowers and 18 karat gold powder are used to activate the feminine energy, or Shirodhara, an Ayrvedic therapy in which a mixture of essential oils is poured slowly on the forehead to clear the third eye and induce deep tranquility.
INFO:
8 Aghiou Trifonos, Kifisia.
Tel: 210 623 3143.

Beehive Spa
Obeying the Hippocratic philosophy of holistic wellness and making the best of Greece’s purest bee products (honey, pollen, royal jelly), Apivita’s Beehive Spa offers a sumptuous series of face and body treatments and two types of massage. Try the Queen Bee Firming Treatment, a luxurious anti-ageing therapy inspired by the bee dance that helps firm and lift the skin while increasing elasticity and glow.
INFO:
Apivita Experience Store, 6 Solonos & Kanari, Kolonaki.
Tel: 210 3640560.

Cocoon Urban Spa
A unique mix of therapies here, such as Chavutti, an ancient southern Indian massage performed in a rhythmical motion by the therapist’s…feet! Try also the Spice Market Hammam, which starts with a deep scrub in the marble steam room, after which you will be lathered up with savon noir and then slathered in rassoul clay while your face drinks up a royal jelly mask. That’s only the begining, as after that comes a full body massage using rose, pomegranate and sandalwood oils.
INFO:
9 Souliou & Eryfilis, Ag. Paraskevi.
Tel. 210 6561975.

hammam004__aldermar

Greece-wide:

Thermea Sylla, Evia
A luxurious accommodation complex offering a highly sophisticated, in some cases high-tech range of curative, aesthetic and soul-blissing treatments. Most of the therapies revolve around and make the very most out of the famous benefits of Edipsos’ thermal waters. Try the Oriental Rasul experience with a partner: in a herbal steam sauna, you can slather each other using different kinds of Rugen island mud, and then have it all washed away by warm rain that falls from a ceiling vaulted with LED stars.
INFO
2 Posidonos Str., Edipsos, Evia.
Tel: 22260 60 100.

Anazoe Spa, Costa Navarino
Discover the wisdom of ancient Greek healing philosophies and techniques that soothingly enfold guests in a curative, restorative and relaxing experience enhanced by calming music, a form of sound healing that’s based on ancient Greek modes and scales at Anazoe. Try any of the Oleotherapy® Signature Treatments, which, intriguingly, are based on local practices inscribed on clay tablets that were discovered at the nearby Palace of Nestor. As their name suggests, they are based on the use of pure, virgin olive oil, but also include ingredients and application techniques inspired by modern science.
INFO:
Navarino Dunes, Messinia, Costa Navarino.
Tel: +272 309 6000.

anazoe-spa-1
Anazoe Spa at Costa Navarino

Imaret
At Imaret, housed in a Koranic school founded in 1813 by Mohamed Ali Pasha, escape to the “hidden” Hammam that offers therapies derived from traditional eastern rituals, using ingredients like curative muds, exotic oils, herbs, flowers, honey and milk. Try the Harem Massage, a deeply pacifying  therapy in which aromatic poultices filled with fresh chamomile and mint that are dipped into warm essential oils of myrrh and applied to relieve tired muscles, nourishing the skin and boosting circulation.
INFO
30-32 Th. Poulidou, Kavala.
Tel: 2510 620151.

Mikro Papingo 1700 Hotel & Spa
This eco-friendly gem of a boutique hotel, restored from 1700, is actually within the lush Vikos gorge. It’s Spa menu is not long and fancy, but its treatments are top quality and it uses fresh mineral water sourced from the nearby mountains. After a long day exploring the 20km gorge, try the energizing and muscle-relaxing Deep Trail Hiker’s Stretch Massage, while if you need to clear out from your urban lifestyle try the aromatic Mountain Massage.
INFO
Zagori, Epirus.
Tel: 2653 041179.

Asian Spa Ayurvedic & City Retreat
Eastern sensuality reigns supreme at the Asian Spa with treatments that celebrate the touch, smell and sight involved in relishing inventive treatments like Apricots and Cream or Chocolatier, the latter being a romantic ‘flowers & chocolate’ couple’s massage involving an antioxidant cacao scrub and choco-massage, followed by a blissful soak in an aromatic floral bath. Then there’s Glittering Prize, in which the therapist applies a gold scrub and mask, followed by gold dust powders. Several sophisticated Ayurvedic treatments are also available.
INFO
Hyatt Regency Thessaloniki, 13 kilometres Thessaloniki-Perea.
Tel: +211 40 40 115.

Polis Hammam
Modelled on the traditional Turkish Hamam, this boutiquey haven of peace, cleansing and restorative therapies bang in the heart of Thessaloniki encourages you to lie back in the marble sauna, where you can bathe and then enjoy a re-energising and purifying signature massage such as the Aritma Polis massage, which thoroughly works on the entire body and includes the application of brushes and essential oils with stimulating fragrances.
INFO
40 Karamanli St., Kalamaria
Tel: 2310488216.

cf067781-vp-_amanazoe_navarino

 As also published in Greece Is