Sometimes you need a complete break from your problems, and only a bit of selfish pampering will do. I thought that taking myself away from France and arriving on Roatan might do it. Beaches, monkey-lalas, that kind of thing. But the island held a surprise for me.

While mooching around the island’s websites, I came across a US-style “spa”. Massage? Mud-wraps? Here, on this palm-filled rock? I decided to give in to the temptation.

The Santé Wellness Centre is at Parrot Tree Plantation, a few miles east of French Harbour on the island’s south shore. A boat picks you up at the quayside and skims you across a lagoon to a little spit of land facing out to sea. No road access, no noise, no neighbors. If you want isolation, it’s here, amongst palm and mango trees and looking out over the reef at the bottom of the garden.

The spa is run by an American named Angela Missaggia, who gained certification and experience in California before moving out here. She led me into her custom-built spa room, air-conditioned and peacefully decorated with Indonesian batiks and trickling water ornaments.

But what amazed me was to find such a professional environment here, with the latest equipment and supplies, from vaporizers to foot spas to shelves of essential oils, all shipped from the US. “It’s been a real challenge, but worth it!” said Angela.

Certainly, over the next two hours I could have been in a select spa hideaway in the US, say high in the Rockies or some such tranquil place, if it weren’t for the glinting blue water on the other side of the mosquito nets. (Oh, and the prices, which are less than half what you’d be asked to pay in the Rockies.)

Down to business. I decided on a massage followed by an enzymatic mud wrap. Angela offers a bewildering choice of massages, but you can just leave the program to her if you like. I said I needed something invigorating, so she added some Tui-Na to a Lifestream massage.

It lasted an hour and, as the palms and thumbs soothed deep-seated tensions from every muscle I had ever acknowledged, plus a few strangers, which I must presume had always been there, I gradually felt in touch with my neglected body again. Now I was ready for the real pampering.

From head to foot, I soon found myself covered in a special blend of clay, sea mud, and essential oils and looking like some animal of the oasis. Finally I understood why my dog has always been crazy about this kind of thing whenever he finds a mudhole.

But no-one was going to give me a scolding for doing it. “Heck, I deserve this,” I said, face-down in heaven.

I wondered how many times Angela had heard her clients say that.

And so I asked about the bed and breakfast packages that she and her husband offer for serious indulgers. I started to feel guilty. “Well,” I thought, “Just how much pampering do I really deserve?”

To contact the Sante Wellness Centre, phone LOCAL: (504)-991-0474, (504) 435-1009, US DIALING: 1 510 455-4232,. Or check their website at www.santewellnesscenter.com.

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