Archive for the ‘Pampering’ Category
Absence makes the heart grow fonder. This was certainly true when I was on holiday and Do Not Refreeze‘s Leanne howled it had been more than a week since we’d seen each other. Well at the weekend after two whole weeks we made a date at Westfield Stratford City to catch up. And it didn’t involve our usual jaunts to a beauty launch.
Westfield Stratford City is conveniently close for Leanne and an easy drive along the A406 for me. It was also a nice change to venture east as I’m always at Westfield London.
Turning up at 11 o’clock in the morning, we were amazed to see how blissfully chilled out and empty Westfield Stratford City was for a Saturday. The calm before the storm… My suggestion is get here in the morning to take advantage because come 2 o’clock, it’s a different story altogether.
We planned to see what Westfield Stratford City had to offer to a couple of beauty junkies so we headed straight to Tantrum for a manicure first. It would be rude not to since we are beauty bloggers…
Having had naked nails for the past fortnight, I was in need of a splash of colour and a re-shape after breaking two of them. Leanne likes to be awkward so she presented her talons covered in glitter. Her manicurist didn’t bat an eyelid and happily removed it.
Tantrum is a new face on the high street and their first and flagship store is in Westfield Stratford City. It opened last summer as a pop-up store but recently underwent a makeover, making its permanent mark in the mall. You’ll find it on lower ground floor in between the food court and Great Eastern Market.
From outside it doesn’t give the game away but when you step inside, it’s a haven for jewellery, hair, nails and make-up for the fashion conscious yet affordable. We were thrilled to see cherry-picked Nubar and Mavala polishes as well as Bourjois and Jessica, plus skin care from Elemis and Amie on sale.
Tantrum’s nail bar is at the back where you can perch yourself on a stool, order a cold drink and get your nails done. Leanne and I both had a mini manicure, which costs £10. As our manicurists beautified our nails, I was entertained by Leanne’s tales and anecdotes (the details of which I cannot disclose…).
Our next destination was a short stroll away at Neal’s Yard for an express facial. We had a skin consultation and discussed our main concerns before our therapist selected the best products to use.
I much prefer cleansing balms to take off my make-up so their award-winning Wild Rose Beauty Balm was used, which was perfect for tackling dehydrated skin – something I complain about quite a bit. This was followed by the Rejuvenating Frankincense Toner and Rejuvenating Frankincense Facial Serum, both which are elasticity-boosting and give the skin a radiant glow.
With our complexions glowing, the finishing touch came from some light make-up from Neal’s Yard mineral range of foundations, bronzers and blushers, which we’d never tried before. Shocking, isn’t it? It was like wearing next to nothing on the skin, very light but with a subtle shimmer and totally skin-friendly.
I forgot how much I adore Neal’s Yard for their organic skin care so this visit has prompted me to rekindle my relationship with an old favourite. I definitely want to invest in the Wild Rose Beauty Balm as my next cleanser. Meanwhile we were given a few samples to take home and try, so I may add a few more items to my shopping list.
We then trotted off to L’Occitane for a fragrance workshop and to gush over some of our L’Occitane favourites. Interestingly, L’Occitane at Westfield Stratford City hosts monthly events in the evenings that you can bring all your girlfriends to. It’s a chance to try out their products outside of the madness you sometimes get during the shopping hours.
After over 3 hours of being pampered, our bellies rightfully made a point that they were being neglected. We wandered to the Great Eastern Market area tucked away by Waitrose and overlooked by many in favour of the more commercial joints. Our pit stop for refuelling was Umai by Japan Centre – an incredible place that is packed with so much in such a small amount of space.
It has a counter serving piping hot noodles and crisp tempura, fresh handmade organic sushi on the other side and it’s also a mini supermarket selling authentic Japanese ingredients to set you off on your Japanese cooking adventures.
We ordered deep fried sweet potato and asparagus as sides while Leanne opted for beef and rice and I chose crispy fried king prawns and vegetables with sticky rice for our mains.
The staff at Umai are so warm, friendly and adorable, and the food served is delicious, filling and such good value. I think our main meals were under £10 each. Next time I’m taking away a sushi box – far more appetising than the standard supermarket offerings.
Our final stop? The shops of course. Like we were going to leave without buying at least one or two little things…
The best quote of the day came from Leanne (naturally): “We look like a frigging zebra crossing – you’re so dark and I’m so pale”.
I *love* this girl.
Leanne and I finally left Westfield after 4 o’clock that afternoon – more than 4 hours later. We did well not to be over zealous in the shops and in fact, had a better time enjoying each other’s company and discovering other things Westfield has to offer.
You can make a date at any of Westfield’s shopping centres across the country – Westfield London, Westfield Stratford City, Westfield Derby and Westfield Merry Hill. If you pop along to either of the London ones, your visit can be made that little bit sweeter with some special offers on eating out and at the cinema until 5th June.
For more information, visit http://uk.westfield.com/stratfordcity/news-and-events/make-a-date/.
*We were invited by Westfield to experience ‘Make a Date’ and received complimentary treatments and food courtesy of our kind hosts.
The humble Brazil nut. Enjoyed either plain or covered in chocolate. Except it’s a rather extraordinary nut, not just because it comes from the depths of the Amazonian rainforest, but because it takes an epic journey, which The Body Shop is keen to raise awareness of with its relationship with Community Fair Trade and the new Brazil nut collection.
Last week I met Gaston Vizcarra, the founder of Candela and Community Fair Trade Supplier of Brazil nut oil at the unveiling of this new range. He struck me as the Santana of Brazil nuts (a compliment – honest). There is something immediately heart-warming about Gaston in the first few minutes of meeting him. Maybe it was the pocketful of Peru he had brought with him (his home) and as the evening unwound, so did his adventurous stories. Accidentally stumbling into a tiger’s den whilst looking for Brazil nuts definitely makes my life pale into insignificance. (FYI – Tigger was not home.)
Gaston has been supplying Brazil nut oil since 1989 through the Community Fair Trade programme to businesses like the Body Shop who use it to make those much-loved toiletries and cosmetics we love to use.
This ‘trade not aid’ relationship has helped immensely to sustain, harvest and protect over 3,000 hectares of the Peruvian rainforest by providing a livelihood for the nut collectors and nut crackers part of the Candela co-operative. Did I say Peruvian? I did. That’s because Brazil nuts are grown in Peru, as well as Bolivia, Venezuela and Brazil (of course).
Gaston works with more than 270 nut gatherers who hand harvest Brazil nuts from the Madre de Dios region, providing a safe alternative to logging and illegal gold-mining which results in deforestation and pollution. And because the Brazil nut is so invaluable as a source of income to both parties, the environment is also protected to ensure this cycle continues for future generations.
This 5 minute video by The Body Shop sums up the story of the Brazil nut perfectly:
Last year, The Body Shop International bought over 20,000kg of Brazil nut oil from Candela. This oil came from approximately 280,500m2 of forest, from nearly 3,000 trees. It’s pretty remarkable to know Gaston’s hopes and dreams came from a small bottle of Brazil nut oil that he brought to the UK all those years ago.
Understanding how this chain of events leads to the pretty lotions and potions we pick off the shelves was an eye opener. I think we are familiar with how passionate the Body Shop is about creating products derived from natural resources but the realisation of the long and arduous process involved gives much food for thought and indeed value and appreciation. Now I can’t look at a Body Shop Body Butter without pausing to think about how it got there in the first place.
You may recall the Body Shop brought out a Brazil nut Body Butter a while ago. Well it has returned by popular demand and this time, it’s brought some new friends to join the party:
Body Butter (£13)
Beautifying Oil (£9)
Body Mist (£7.50)
Shower Cream (£4.50)
Eau de Toilette (£8.50)
Cream Scrub (£12.50)
The first thing that is striking is the subtle sweet scent – it’s like chocolate or toffee with vanilla but aromatically sensual without being sickly sweet. I admit I wasn’t a fan of the Body Shop’s chocolate range (it was a little on the nauseous side) but the Brazil nut has won me over, especially the Body Mist and Eau de Toilette.
Another favourite is the awesome scrub with the shells crushed into smithereens for exfoliating. I am not impressed with scrubs that are too soft to work. Give me something that will do its job, and this offering certainly does.
The creamy Body Butter speaks for itself, considering it’s always such a popular and sought-after product of the Body Shop. In total the entire collection will set you back £55, which is (pea)nuts, so you could indulge in it entirely without feeling guilty (that’s how I justify multiple goods purchases) and hey, it is a worthy cause.
I can remember when Anita Roddick founded the Body Shop, and how strong her ethics were so I am pleased to see her legacy lives on with The Body Shop striving for the same beliefs:
AGAINST animal testing
SUPPORT community fair trade
ACTIVATE self esteem
DEFEND human rights
PROTECT the planet
The new collection drops on 23rd April. You can also visit the Body Shop’s website on Community Fair Trade here.
Oh my! Another video blog – sorry, ‘vlog’. I am getting into the swing of it now… Well my pretties, I talk about Hershesons’ Blow Dry Bar. There are a few of these in London although some of you may recognise the name as the flagship salon is Daniel Hersheson on Conduit Street (www.danielhersheson.com).
For more information on this London based salon and in particular about its Blow Dry Bar, visit www.hershesons.com and don’t forget to check out their London Fashion Week blog on there too.
Recently I spent a night at Ellenborough Park, a newly renovated spa and country hotel in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.
The scene was set from the route I took by car, dreamily idyllic with long, winding country lanes that lead straight to the grounds and if the weather is glorious as it was the day I went, it lights up the sheer beauty of the village the home is nestled in. It was hard to believe two and half hours earlier, I was leaving the stress and tension of London traffic.
Cheltenham is historically a spa town as well the home of the flagship race of British steeplechase horse racing, the Gold Cup. In such quintessential English surroundings, Ellenborough Park proudly overlooks the race course.
The renovation of the Grade II-listed Elizabethan manor house has cost millions and taken two years to complete. Every effort has been made to ensure you are getting a service reflective of the luxurious price you’re paying for.
Upon my arrival I was greeted at reception and my luggage was swiftly taken to my room. The treatment you receive is impeccable – staff are so gracious and forthcoming to assist that you feel like royalty.
My room was as large and well equipped as some hotel suites in London except by Ellenborough Park’s standards, it was a room with an ensuite bathroom. The actual suites (some of which I had a sneaky peak at) were astounding. This isn’t to say my room was any less, in fact I couldn’t be happier.
Every room and suite is uniquely decorated. In total the 15th Century country estate boasts 62 fully-restored and new bedrooms. It’s all done tastefully in a Tudor style with a contemporary twist.
All rooms feature flat screen HD TVs, personal safes that can fit laptops, iPod docking stations, hairdryers, bathrobes and slippers, minibars, air-conditioning plus a separate seating and working area though frankly I wasn’t bothered about the mod cons when taking sanctuary in my room was more of a priority.
I should really tell you about the beds. Made to Ellenborough Park’s own specifications by Hypnos (suppliers of beds for the Royal households), once you’ve slept in one of these will you realise how much you want a bed like this. It looks so inviting – I don’t think I’ve never woken up so rested after a night’s sleep until I drifted off in one of these.
The bathrooms are beautifully designed, and I couldn’t resist spending more time in mine than in the actual spa. There’s a walk-in shower, a roll top bath tub and his-and-hers sinks on a marble work-top with Penhaligon toiletries and under-floor heating too.
Since Cheltenham is famously a spa town, it makes sense Ellenborough Park have built one for its guests. Their spa features a hydrotherapy pool, sauna, steam room and mood showers, and upstairs there are 7 spacious treatment rooms and a juice bar. Outside there is a heated pool and also an on-site gym for residents.
I had an Express Discovery Prescription Facial (£50), using Babor products, which have married natural plant-based ingredients with extensive research by top dermatological scientists, creating a range suitable for all skin types and ages.
After analysing my ‘youthful’ face, my therapist recommended I have the 25 minute facial rather than the lengthier 55 minute one. I closed my eyes on the treatment bed and let the therapist cast her magic.
The express facial aims to revitalise and rejuvenate the skin and involves a deep cleanse and facial exfoliation before a combination of massage and moisturisers are applied. When it was over, I noticed my face looked refreshed from its previous tired state.
As far as facials go, this one differed – there was a limited use of products with emphasis on stimulating the facial muscles and relaxing the body. It also made a pleasant change not to have your face layered with lotions and potions.
Ellenborough Park offers a variety of breaks, with prices starting from £150 per night for bed and breakfast in a Traditional Room, based on two people sharing (subject to availability). Stay also includes full use of spa and leisure facilities. There is a restaurant on site but the town centre is just a few minutes away if you fancy more choice. As the spa and hotel is within close distance of the race course during peak time at the races will mean rooms will get snapped up early.
For all its luxuries and exclusive little touches, Ellenborough Park may not be within a lot of people’s budgets but consider what you’re getting and compare it to a weekend in London. Well, there is just no comparison.
Ellenborough Park is a beautiful retreat in the heart of the Cotswolds, a place to escape to from the chaos of city life and just one night away totally recharges your batteries. In its own words, it’s a “classical contradiction” – beautifully historic yet elegantly modern. A stay here is the best prescription any doctor could (or should) give.
You can drive to Ellenborough Park or take the train to Cheltenham Spa, which is 10 minutes away by taxi. To find out more, visit their website www.ellenboroughpark.com or telephone on 01242 807 851.
*I was a guest of Ellenborough Park for this post.