Amida Spa, Farnham
Bailiffscourt Spa, Climping
Barcelona Spa And Hotel Escape
Bath Spa And Hotel Escape
Top Tips For Visiting Florida
Driving in Florida
Health & Safety in Florida
Orlando - The Sight – Zumba Convention
Orlando - The Flight – Virgin Atlantic London Gatwick to Orlando
Orlando - The Hotel – Hilton Orlando
Orlando - The Shopping – Zumbawear Retail and Outlet
Orlando - The Healing – Hilton Orlando Spa Pool or Massage at the OCC
Orlando - The Food – Denny's
Orlando - The Packing
Orlando - Other Tips For Surviving Convention
Clearwater - The Sight – Dolphins – Caladesi Beach and Little Toot
Clearwater - The Hotel – Pier House 60 Marina Hotel
Clearwater - The Healing – Full Moon Fall Clearwater Beach
Clearwater - The Food – Frenchy's Saltwater Café
Clearwater - The Journey – Drive From Orlando
Clearwater - The Shopping – Caladesi Island
Clearwater - The Packing
Clearwater - Side Trip – Homosassa Springs
Key Largo Escape
Vero Beach Escape
Vero Beach - The Sight – Sunrise, Turtles, Waves
Vero Beach - The Hotel – Costa D'Este
Vero Beach - The Healing – The Spa at Costa D'Este
Vero Beach - The Food – The Wave Kitchen And Bar
Vero Beach - The Journey – Drive From Key Largo (and back to Orlando)
Vero Beach - The Shopping – Shells And Things
Vero Beach - The Packing
Vero Beach - Photos
The Glorious Spa Company Chichester
Iceland Spa And Hotel Break
About Our Trip To Iceland
Iceland - The Spa - Blue Lagoon
Iceland - The Sight - Northern Lights
Iceland - The Hotel(s) – Northern Light Inn, Grindavik and Centerhotel Arnarhvoll, Reykjavik
The Activity - The Icelandic Horse
Iceland - The Restaurant - Eldur and some more eating and drinking tips
Iceland - The Flight - Icelandair from London Heathrow to Reykjavik
Iceland - The Shopping
Iceland - The Rest
London Day Spa Retreats
Marrakech Spa And Hotel Escape
New Forest Spa And Hotel Break
New York Italian Escape
Paris Escape With Kids
Tuscany Spa And Hotel Escape
Zadar Spa And Hotel Escape (Croatia)
I’m in love. If I was ready to settle down with just one spa for the rest of my life then I think this might be The One.
I was also overjoyed to discover a spa that was everything it presented itself to be on its lavish website.
I’m having a problem with my back that keeps waking me up ridiculously early in pain, so when I woke up at 5:30am I didn’t have the energy to try and go back to sleep. I’d planned to meet my friend Hayley at K Spa for a lunch and spa day around 1pm, but thought I’d go up a little earlier.
I arrived at the spa at 7am (it opens at 6:30am) and was the first one in, so I had this as my own private spa for two hours, making it even more idyllic and special than my experience at The Spa at Mandarin Oriental London. The reception staff are lovely and handled my cranky, stressed, tired, in-pain self with patience and kindness. I was too stressed out from a few slightly too deep deep tissue massages and my acupuncture experience last week (which left me bruised and emotional) to find any of the treatments appealing so settled for just booking the spa day and lunch (£65). (One of my few criticisms of K Spa is that the menu is so vast and varied that I just kept getting lost in it - but I know some people have said that about this website so I sympathise.)
I’d read about the Baniya massage which involves massage, the different heat rooms plus some rituals with Russian branches and the snow room and quite frankly decided it sounded like too much of a faff. All I wanted was to get in the hydrotherapy pool, get some relief for my back and see if the snow room was all it was cracked up to be. (I’ll be honest, I fell in love with the photo, but the same thing has happened with match.com and just hasn’t worked out.)
It’s a mixed spa and you’ll need your swimwear. The spa receptionist will give you a card pass so you can swipe into the changing room and then from there into the hydrotherapy area (aka Chill area). Lockers have towels, robes (with the ties handily sewn in), flip flops plus even their own pound coin replacement, so you really don’t have to bring anything other than swimwear. There are also nice touches like cotton buds, cotton wool, decent hairdryers, hand and body lotion - and the products in the showers; body wash, hair cleanser and conditioner are all from the Ytsara range and pretty nice too!
My first stop was the Hydrotherapy pool and those full body loungers. It took me a while to get them started because you have to press the button quite deeply, but then it was into a long bubbling session that certainly started the relaxing process. Unfortunately the angle of the loungers wasn’t great for my back, and resting your head on stainless steel pipes is just not that comfortable (plus I felt that there was a little more chlorine in here than I like, but it could have been because it was the start of the day). So I moved on to the big waterfall feature - now this did hit the spot, but it’s rather a short time, so had to keep pressing the button (oh, the hardship). The hydrotherapy stainless steel pipe bench was actually a winner because I could switch it on and then hold either side of the bench and enjoy a wonderful float with hydrotherapy bubbles massaging my whole body.
I couldn’t help thinking of Senspa as I went round... the gold mosaic squares felt so familiar, but this is pristine and such a funky design that it really captured my heart.
The experience showers here are not much to write home about - several showers with rain shower or focused streams overhead, a couple of body jets and temperature controls (so Senspa still has the edge on experience showers).
The steam room, although small (and for some reason one of the Kneipp hoses had been dismantled and was sitting on one of the benches) was delightful. Like the whole spa, the use of a lot of cream and gold and natural textures make this feel a lot more spacious. The stand out feature of the steam room however are the steam jets. There are three sets of four jets which you can sit underneath and, when you press the button, hot jets of steam shoot down onto your body. Knowing that you’re about to hit a snow room lets you go crazy with the heat. (Having said this, this is one of the many features that make me wish someone had actually shown me around the spa rather than just letting me find my way - but it was fun to discover!)
By then I was ready for the snow room. There are two doors to keep the cold in, one is a regular glass door, the other a huge heavy wooden door that made me a tiny bit scared of getting stuck. According to different people in the spa you should only remain in there for 90 seconds to 3 minutes, as it’s minus 15 degrees Celsius in there. Yes, you do go in in your swimwear and I haven’t even told you the weird stuff yet.
It’s... wonderful, magical, romantic, all the words you could associate with waking up to find it’s snowed in the night, with snowdrifts and Christmas and Lapland and well, Iceland too. I also highly recommend that you try to get to this spa as early as you can. As the first person in the spa I was greeted with enormous blossoms of snow hanging down like stalactites from the ceiling. As I put my hand out in wonder to touch them they collapsed to the ground, just like touching snow hanging from a tree. (Later in the day, when people have had snow fights and treatments in here, these wonderful snowdrifts have pretty much disappeared.) But I couldn’t hang around too long, my feet were freezing. So it was back out and straight into the sauna to heat up. Now that’s when the sauna feels really, really good. There’s also a gentler sanarium here, but I confess I never ventured inside because I was always needing the heat of a real sauna.
The foot baths were a little disappointing as they’re just foot baths and don’t do anything exciting, and although the Kuddles (in-wall soft loungers) looked cute I didn’t like the fact that they were quite square so I had to sit up straight or lie down.
In order to do some proper lounging I headed over to the relaxation area next to the spa reception, where there are a range of teas you can make up yourself (including teas for aching muscles, lovers, beautiful skin, very berry) as well as a ready made pot of their signature lemon tea, very berry ice tea, water and fruit. Oh yes and there’s a big stack of magazines too. The only thing you won’t find is coffee, hence my decision to uproot myself an hour later to hit Westfield shopping centre, which is about 5 minutes walk away. You can find coffee in the hotel, but as you have to get dressed I thought I might as well go and do a bit of retail therapy too (I was hoping a visit to Rigby & Peller and a new sports bra might help my back too, and I could use a new bikini.) Can you believe that after two rounds in the hydrotherapy area (and about 6 goes in the snow room) and at least one magazine in the relaxation area I was dressed and ready to go back out before the shops in Westfield had even opened? I guess it’s not surprising as, at the Mandarin Oriental you’re recommended to only use the facilities for about 45 minutes, but I was definitely benefitting from repeated dips in the pool and the snow and left feeling like a new woman.
Shopping after spa-ing is much more relaxing, although one word of warning - be careful which mirrors you look in. Rigby & Peller was lovely, but in cheaper shops with bad lighting (La Senza) seeing yourself naked can destroy your spa confidence. Anyway, I left with a new, sturdier bikini and headed back to meet Hayley for lunch.
Lunch in Kanteen was delicious, but possibly a little on the pricey side if you consider that it’s only one course for £15 (access to the Chill area for a day is only £50), but it was good. I had salmon with noodles, ginger and vegetables which was so big I couldn’t finish it.
I had my Venik Massage booked for 2:30pm so just had time to get changed and show Hayley the snow room (by which, of course, I mean throw snow at her). She was suitably impressed. She used just one word to express herself, but it was forceful, repeated and loud (we were the only ones in the spa) and I knew exactly what she meant.
Okay, so this is the spa menu description of the Venik Massage: “The Russian Birch branches are soaked in therapeutic oils and with specific tapotement movements are used across the body to ease muscle tension and remove toxins.”
When I booked it another spa receptionist overheard and made sure I knew it wasn’t the usual kind of massage. I had an idea what was coming, oh, and they also warned me that the therapist was a man. When I met Nemanja he very clearly explained to me what to expect, but you know, words don’t really do it justice... but I’ll try.
So, the massage room had the usual tables which weren’t used in my 30 minute treatment, but I’m guessing they would be if you had this as part of a longer Baniya massage (which was the one Hayley went for and which she described as an incredible body massage that she didn’t want to end). There’s also a small private sauna. First of all I went into the sauna to get good and hot, then Nemanja came back and soaked two big bunches of Russian Birch branches (yes, all the way from Russia) in hot water (at this point you can start to smell a little scent from them) and then, after I got into the foetal position, proceeded with the er... percussion or tapotement. By which I mean he started hitting me with these big bunches of branches (they just don’t like to use the words “hit” or “beat” in spas), all over my back and sides. The funny thing is that after the unfortunate deep tissue massages this gentle tapping was much more pleasant. It’s all supposed to stimulate blood flow and release toxins. It did release a lot of leaves and twigs... all over the sauna and all over me too. (I was really glad I’d bought a new sturdier bikini before lunch.)
Then it was into the shower (in the same room) to wash off and cool down. Then back into the sauna, which Nemanja had made super hot, which was bliss, and then it was back to more beating with twigs. It did feel ridiculous and I just couldn’t even think about what it must have looked like because I would have cracked up laughing, but it was feeling okay.
After a few rounds of this, and washing off more twigs, it was back over to the Chill area for a 5 minute session in the big sauna. It was lovely to lie back and enjoy the heat not worrying about the time. Then Nemanja came to take me to the snow room. When I followed him he reminded me to put on my flip flops. “But I’ve been going in bare feet all day.” He looked at me like I was an idiot (like?) and said “Well you cannot stay in there very long in bare feet.” I’d already figured that out... what I didn’t know at that point was that Hayley, who I had also told to go in in bare feet, had told another guy in the spa to do it, so they were all going in barefoot. Whoops. This is why you need a spa tour.
I was kind of looking forward to whatever was going to happen in the snow room as I’d already been rubbing snow all over myself and it felt good - but I couldn’t get to the bit of my back that was really sore. Nemanja started by rubbing handfuls of snow on my decollete (aka my cleavage), then he took two big handfuls of snow, asked me if I was ready and simultaneously pressed a handful of snow on my chest and on my back. It was an unbelievable feeling. He then went on to give me a back and shoulder snow massage, which felt incredible after the twigs and the heat. Don’t judge me but I loved it, and the whole experience was one of the best I’ve ever had (okay, and one of the weirdest too).
He left me to enjoy the snow room for a little bit longer and told me to jump in the hydrotherapy pool straight afterwards. (Remember; it goes sauna, snow room, hydrotherapy.) With flip flops on I could finally relax and breathe deeply in the room and was actually sad to leave. I kept thinking of the Chinese culture of hot and cold and really felt that the cold was doing me and my tired, inflamed muscles so much good. Add just the sheer romance of snow and ice and you can see why I loved this experience.
Unfortunately I couldn’t relax very long in the hydrotherapy pool as I had my pedicure booked straight after. This was nice, I opted for a slightly longer foot massage over having my nails painted as I was going back in the pool, but it wouldn’t hit my top pedicure list.
Then it was into the RelaKs zone - a wonderful chill out area with quality noise reduction headphones playing soporific sounds, a heated floor, candles and other light and water features, gauze mesh curtains for privacy and leather cushions for both your head and feet. Oh and fruit; but it is impossible to eat an apple quietly. Luckily it doesn’t matter so much because of the headphones. I took a magazine with me but managed to read about half a page before I had to switch off my side light and take a snooze. It’s the best relaxation room I’ve tried so far, especially if you fancy a snooze.
Sadly there was time for just a few more rounds of the Chill facilities, now with other people. (How very dare they?) I was a bit peeved that the few people in the spa decided to do that annoying thing of leaving their towels and robes in the Kuddles loungers to save them, but it’s such a small spa I just turned round to the couple in the pool and asked if I could move them.
By the time Hayley was back from her massage we were all alone again and decided to enjoy one last super steam (she fell in love with the steam jets) and snow moment. I was quite sad to leave the snow room, like leaving a holiday home and all my Dr Zhivago fantasies behind. It really felt like I had been away for a long weekend in Russia by the time we got dressed to leave.
The only thing I was really craving was proper hot chocolate (like the kind we had in Barcelona), so couldn’t have been happier to see it advertised at Apostrophe (voted Best in London by Time Out) in Westfield, so thick and hot, it was the perfect end to my snow day yesterday. (Is it too soon to go back?)
I paid £65 for a spa day with lunch (£50 without lunch):
Day Spa Admission (6:30am - 10pm Mon - Thurs, 6:30am to 9pm Friday, Sat and Sun 8am - 9pm ), plus £30 for a 30 minute Venik Massage and £37 for a 45 minute pedicure.
If you book a 1 hour holistic massage, access to Chill is £25, or free with 2 hours holistic massage.
There are also a variety of spa offers and spa break offers on their site and other spa websites.
If you feel like visiting the spa regularly they do offer an annual spa membership, from £85 a month (3 months minimum)
As at September 2012
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(c) Pearl Howie 2013. All rights reserved.