By Sophie Sadler
A young couple embarked on a renovation project in the heart of Praia da Luz in order to give something back to the village. Four years and one baby on, SAL spa has emerged from the rubble.
Ben Crosland and Zoe Valetta became a couple while working together in London. After five years, Ben, who was brought up in the Algarve, and Zoe, who grew up by the sea in Italy, craved a better lifestyle.
“Ben always felt this was his home, so it was natural that we moved here,” Zoe explains. They started renovating old properties in the village, with Ben doing the manual work and interior designer, Zoe, working her magic on creating beautiful and cosy spaces
Ben ́s father Robin Crosland, along with his two partners, spent 30 years building the Luz Ocean Club and putting Praia da Luz on the tourist map. They sold Luz Ocean Club in 2006. Part of that development was the Palm Bay swimming pool, which was owned privately and a few years after the sale became disused.
“We knew that the building was on the market but didn ́t consider buying it until we heard that someone else was interested in purchasing it to turn it into a garage. We felt it would be a waste to lose this wonderful amenity for the village and suddenly we wanted the project and to save the building.” Zoe is now talking to me in the stylishly appointed reception where you can glimpse the inviting 30°C saltwater heated pool.
Creating a spa was not the couple’s initial intention. They wanted to renovate the pool, but the spa emerged as they were restoring it with help from Robin, an architect. They filled in the original pool and created a smaller one, which opens onto a relaxing central garden. The couple did all the work and manual labour themselves, although Zoe had to stop lifting bags of sand when she discovered she was pregnant!
“We felt there was something missing for the locals to use in the winter and so we decided to create a wellness destination the village could use all year round.” Whilst the spa is a welcoming hub for all wellness lovers, it particularly focuses on rehabilitation after illness or surgery. “We start with the mind and finish with the body. Working through medical, rehabilitation and beauty. Many clients who come here for rehabilitation treatments love the space as it is not clinical but relaxing.”
Their son Theo is now 18 months, so Zoe is also passionate about creating something special for children and mothers. Baby swimming teacher Yvonne Fisher has joined the team with her water-baby sessions and all the classes are booked out. Having just been pregnant, Zoe also wants to give expectant mothers some time out and is offering pregnancy yoga classes and pregnancy massage.
SAL offers treatments and classes including hydrotherapy, physiotherapy, psychotherapy, hypnotherapy and acupuncture as well as swimming, massages, yoga pilates and nutrition. “I feel that this is a co-working space for amazing wellness professionals. I am very proud of the team we have put together here.”
For those who simply wish to enjoy a swim, the pool features variable speed water jets so you can exercise at your own pace. A sauna and steam session complete your spa circuit and the whole area is wheelchair accessible. Avid reader Zoe is building a reading library and herbalist Poppy Burr is creating a unique blend of tea for clients. Zoe is constantly striving to create new and exciting collaborations that touch on all areas of wellbeing, bringing the community and local talents together.
Despite being a new mother, Zoe ́s energy and commitment to the business is impressive. She is working six days a week and wants to be on the front desk to talk to clients as she observes, “the only way to improve is to hear the feedback yourself”.
Hopefully, as we emerge this year from the pandemic, health and wellness is going to be at the forefront of everyone’s mind and this beautiful new facility is sure to be a great benefit to Praia da Luz.