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About My Trip To Brockenhurst


I've dreamed about Senspa for years.  I remember finding it online.  It was the day my mum was diagnosed with a form of cancer.  I was sitting in the office and the only thing that made sense to me was to find the most wonderful spa to take her to, partly because it was something she always talked about and partly because I hoped it would help her.


Although I remember the day clearly I can't remember if it was five or six years ago, but I do remember printing pages and pages of the spa's brochure for her and promising to take her there whenever she wanted.  Years on and despite visiting many other spas I've held off visiting Senspa because I wanted to go with my mum.


Since then, she has wonderfully recovered, she has had a few spa treatments which have helped and we have managed to have a spa day with my sisters, although at a much cheaper spa which wasn't a patch on this one.


I'm still on their mailing list and I still ask her from time to time if she is free to take advantage of their special offers but somehow we never make it.


The reason that I finally took what I felt was a very selfish decision to go by myself was that I had two nights left of my two weeks holiday, as most of it had been eaten up by stressing about my grandma in hospital plus my nephew's emergency appendectomy (I visited Bailiffscourt on Monday, relaxed, then got a 6:30am phone call on Tuesday to say he was in hospital and could I go babysit).  I hadn't pre-booked any flights or trips because I’d had food poisoning just before I went on holiday which had floored me for a week and I was still on high dosage painkillers for a back that was going into spasm, and I was slowly realizing that I only had a week left of the prescribed painkillers.  As it had been getting worse despite not teaching any Zumba Fitness classes and better with a little bit of massage I decided that the root cause was stress so prescribed myself as much R & R as possible as soon as my grandma and nephew got the all-clear.  In short (well, I guess this wasn't that short!) I was a mess.


But I cheered up a lot when I rang back the poor receptionist who'd I’d been calling all evening to check my options and finally booked my two day break.  I actually did a happy dance right there in the kitchen.


After months of poor sleep due to back pain this was the first night that I could actually not sleep because I was so excited to be going away.  I wanted to be there the moment the spa opened at 9am (throwing caution and my Network Railcard to the wind), so was planning to be up and out first thing.  I was so excited that I kept telling everyone (the man in the ticket office, the lady at the coffee shop) that I was off to a 5 star spa to make up for the lack of holiday in my holiday.


I've visited Brockenhurst before; I remember being taken on an extremely romantic surprise date when I was a student to Il Pallio II, and even camping by the river one very cold winter's night with some student friends for the hell of it.  As it was about 20 years ago I hoped Brockenhurst would live up to my memories, but as long as the spa was good I really didn't mind.


There is something rather wonderful about being met – whether it's at a station or an airport, especially when the driver takes your bags and carries them into the hotel for you.  Literally from the moment I stepped off the train the luxury started.  (If you decide to walk it really is 5 minutes from the station – provided you go the right way!)


I walked into reception, checked in, took my day bag with bikini and magazines, and was escorted to the spa where I was greeted with herbal tea, slippers, robe, and… didn’t really leave for the next two days.


Yes, Senspa and Careys Hotel is more than just a spa hotel.  With three restaurants, a small shop and a few small (sometimes hard to find) gardens it's more like a resort.  You could actually turn up here with just a credit card and the clothes you're wearing, as you don't need much more than swimwear and maybe something to wear for dinner (if you don't want to stick to room service) but you can probably buy this in the Senspa shop if you're not too fussy.  If you want to take a slightly longer walk or go for a cycle you have to actually leave the hotel and cross the road – but to be fair there are New Forest ponies opposite so you could just stand outside and see a lot of it.  As I had packed in a weird way, borrowing a couple of nice dresses from my mum plus an outfit for horse riding (leggings and old trainers), I felt a little like a fugitive.  If it ever gets too much and you want to disappear for a couple of days you could do a lot worse.


Another huge plus point of the spa and spa hotel is that I could finally turn my phone off, as I did at Bailiffscourt just two days before.  Leaving the hotel number with my family so that they could contact me in an emergency I finally got away from checking my phone every five minutes for updates – which was probably the best rest of all.


Although I could have added on more spa time on my last day, Friday, or even use the pool, regular steam room, sauna and Jacuzzi for free, I decided it was time to leave the comfort and safety of Careys Hotel and Senspa and see what time had done to Brockenhurst.


I’d also found that I could go for a horse ride, which I always love on holiday, so booked in, got my map from reception, dropped off my bags at reception and paid my rather hefty bill (ulp!)


It was hard to leave, but it also felt like the right time.  I literally had out-spa-ed myself.


It's a half an hour walk to Forest Park Stables via Brockenhurst, which is tiny but packed with twee cafes and tea shops – it’s like the scone capital of the world.  Looking at the map it does look like there is a slightly quicker route, but as there had been a lot of rain perhaps it was waterlogged?


The ride was wonderful, and I also discovered the best jewellery shop in the tiny reception of the hotel.  Sadly after being spoilt rotten at Careys I felt like I was coming back down to earth with a bump when I ordered my coffee and looked at the bar food menu.  It just didn't compare with the Zen Garden or Blaireau's restaurants in Careys (it didn't even compare with the breakfast in the Manor restaurant which I'd felt was a little lacking).  But I couldn't fault the wonderful service and the lovely receptionist.  When she told me she couldn't take a card payment for the bracelet and coffee (I was so used to putting everything on my room I only had £14 with me) she took my £14 for the bracelet and let me have the coffee on the house.


The rest of my venture into Brockenhurst just really served to show what I'd been enjoying for my two days in the spa hotel.  Aside from the wonderful staff, the freedom to spend the day wandering with nothing but a room card or a locker key, charging anything I wanted to my room, there was also just the fact that the quality of the food and drink is sensational, service is swift and, just as important, with a smile.


Il Pallio II looked just the same and probably was, but after twenty years of travelling through France, Italy and tasting the delights of Al Forno in Wimbledon (the one Italian restaurant I would take an Italian to), what was delicious as a student was a disappointment.  For a dish actually listing garlic as a main ingredient to be lacking in garlic was a shocker.


Even at the Thatched Cottage, whose trio of desserts and espresso offered so much promise  with its beautiful presentation, the proof was sadly in the eating (and drinking) and it was lacking in flavour.


I just had time for a little walk – and I was delighted to find I remembered the way (from the station, walk away from the town and take the first on the left signposted to Beaulieu and walk for 1 mile) to our little space on the river.  At first I wasn't so delighted to discover a trio rigging up lines to the trees, until they invited me to join them in a little slack line walking (it’s a bit like tightrope walking).  After seeing one of them attempt a walk across the river (yes it is full of sewage), and succeed I had to have a go on the practice line.  With both arms held by my new friends, the line jumping up and down from all the tension in my legs, I was practically carried across, but I made it.


As Jed (the river line walker) said; it’s not the line that makes it difficult it's thinking of the consequences.  There's nothing essentially different between the practice line, the line over the river or the tightrope between the Twin Towers in the famous documentary, just as there's nothing different between being on a trapeze with or without a safety net, so why do we find it so very different?


As usual my spa break left me with a more relaxed body, relaxed mind and some lessons to review and absorb.  I practically ran back to Careys, not just for my bags, but also for a last visit to the Zen Garden for a smoothie and an espresso (far, far superior to the Thatched Cottage – I didn't dare to order one in Il Pallio II), where it felt so wrong to be paying in cash, before getting back to harsh reality on the train.


One of the things I hoped to get from my two weeks holiday escape was to know if the desire to leave was a desire for a few days, a few weeks or for good – to feel that I was either on the right track with teaching Zumba Fitness and writing about spas and escapes or whether it was time to change tack.  After an extended stay with my family, visiting 3 spas and spending two days living in the lap of luxury I walked in my front door, and burst into tears I was so happy to be home.  After feeling the good that the spa time and massages did for me I am 100% positive about researching and reviewing spas again.  When I was feeling so low I desperately wished I had already done the research so I knew what to expect.  After visiting my grandma in the Acute Cardio Unit I am more than proud to be helping people keep their hearts and everything else healthy with Zumba Fitness and Zumba Gold.  Yes, by the end of my working week I am tired and sometimes a bit cranky, but then I take a mini-escape (today to the Buddhapadipa Temple) and Cannizarro Park and feel once again the supreme joy my life brings me.


Was this spa break worth the slightly high price tag?  What do you think?



Looking better than I had for weeks after three days in Brockenhurst

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