Archive for the ‘Spas’ Category
Last week I did what any sane woman would do: I took a day off and went to Thorpe Park. Swarm, SAW, Nemesis Inferno and Stealth, I tackled all these bad boys but it’s Stealth, which shoots from 0-80 mph in 1.3 seconds that gave me a sore shoulder. Of course I have learned my lesson. I’m planning a trip for Fright Night in October…
So with a stiff neck and sore shoulder, I was armed and ready for a body massage at Clarins’ Skin Spa the following day. Clarins has a sterling reputation for skin care and make-up and I’ve heard the same about its spa which boasts an impressive list of face and body treatments for women AND men.
My nearest Clarins Skin Spa is in Fenwicks, at north London’s Brent Cross shopping centre. It’s located in the basement with the rest of the beauty counters, tucked in between the Ralph Lauren bedding and (probably my favourite department) kitchenware.
I had a taste of a shoulder massage at Clarins’ recent autumn/winter launch a few weeks ago which literally opened my eyes to the point of teeth-clenching as the therapist took great pleasure in popping all the knots in my shoulders. That’s when the horrible reality sunk in that Clarins isn’t all smiles in red and white uniforms – they’re brutally skilled and that’s what I’ve been looking for.
I do love massages over facials, I feel like I can take care of my face relatively well but areas like my back are best left to the professionals. Besides, it’s a chance to switch off and have some ‘me’ time.
So as I was saying, on Tuesday night I parked bang outside the doors of Fenwicks (seriously pleased with my parking spot for this one) and I made my way to the Clarins’ Skin Spa. I met my therapist, Lisa who prescribed the Rebalancing Massage with Relax Essential Oils (£55) on the accounts of sitting at the computer all day at work.
It is a deep, full body massage to release long-standing knots and tensions within the deeper muscle layers, using a bespoke sequence of slower movements and pressure point techniques. To add to the mix, a blend of essential oils containing Basil, Camomile and Petit Grain are used. It lasts approximately one hour and 25 minutes which includes a 15 minute consultation.
My concerns were a priority and crucial to creating an almost bespoke massage. I knew my shoulders were the main problem area as well as my lower back sometimes. Lisa just knew…like a killer instinct…and I was immediately comfortable in putting my trust in her. Some find massages intrusive because of the nature of it. At Clarins I was made to feel completely at ease.
After our talk, I was led to a treatment room which was small yet cosy. A locker is provided for personal belongings. I disrobed and had to pop on some fetching paper knickers. Don’t you just love them?
When I was ready, Lisa popped back into the room and explained what my treatment would involve, beginning with the front and then rolling over for the back.
I was then asked to choose two large areas and one small area to be massaged so I opted for my back (obviously), my arms and my feet. Some like to have their face and legs done.
Lisa placed a cooling eye mask over my peepers and covered my feet in ‘warm booties’. Great Odin’s raven! They were hot towels which were wrapped around my feet but I really loved how they felt. It’s so easy to neglect your feet considering how many hours we spend standing on them.
The entire body is covered but it’s the particular areas of choices which your therapist concentrates on. Having my arms massaged, in particular my fingers and the soles of my feet, had me floating on air not to mention the floral aroma of the oils that enveloped me. It’s when Lisa got to grips with my shoulders that the pain hit me hard. I’m being truthful here, it hurt like crazy but nothing could have prepared me for the hardcore work on my hip-bone area. I’m just glad I was faced down on the towel for my tears to be absorbed. And I didn’t yell or scream either. That’s how much of a trooper I am.
You are free to request more pressure or less if you’re a wuss. I wanted to be relieved of the knots and tension so I was happy for Lisa to go to town. She was extremely thorough with her expertly skilled handy work. I also learned for the first time how much tension I have in my right arm. That makes perfect sense since I am right-handed.
Unfortunately this won’t change any time soon. I am always going to have these pains with the nature of my job and while I’m making attempts to introduce exercise to alleviate my problems, I have come round to the idea of having a massage regularly is a necessity and not self-indulgence. It would be silly not to. My nearest spa is practically on my doorstep. Well alright, less than 10 minutes by car but I don’t have to traipse for hours into town. The real icing on the cake, however is I had an incredible massage and it’s one I can be blissfully happy to have again. It was my first one for quite some time which might explain why parts of it were painful. I also think the price is very reasonable for a treatment that lasts over an hour. Lisa, I’m definitely coming back to you in six weeks…
If this massage has piqued your interest or you would like to find out what else Clarins offers, a detailed list is available here. You can also search for your nearest Clarins Skin Spa.
*I was a guest of Clarins
*taps microphone* Is this thing on?
Well, its been a little while, hasn’t it? I’m sure some of you thought that you’d probably never hear from me again. I’m quite ashamed to say that I haven’t managed to contribute anything to Just Nice Things for quite some time now. I hadn’t forgotten about the blog, but a fair few things happened recently where I needed to take a bit of a break. To use a corny reality TV show cliché, I’ve been on a bit of a journey.
I’ve got myself a new job (well, not so new now) and that really doesn’t leave me a lot of time for extra curricular activities, plus it has meant that I haven’t been able to get to London on a regular basis any more so I have been missing out on all the events and launches that used to be a regular thing for me. However, I have to say a gigantic thank you to Sheenie for holding the fort so well and ensuring that Just Nice Things has stayed afloat. It’s hard work running a blog but I am so happy that ours is still up and running, especially as it will be celebrating its fifth birthday early next year. How mad is that?
Those of you who follow me on Twitter and Instagram will know that I’ve still been around, posting the odd picture of my dinner or my cats, and sometimes my nails as well. Can you believe that I only change my nail polish twice a week at most? How things have changed! I still have a vast amount of untried nail polishes that I really do owe it to the blog to showcase. I haven’t really been buying any make-up in the last year either – mainly because during my hiatus I have also managed to lose a significant amount of weight (love you, Slimming World) so any spare cash has been put towards a new wardrobe – FUN!
So, whilst I can’t promise to be back on a daily basis, I have been neglecting you all for far too long. Life is chaotic at the moment, so I suppose it is only fitting that my first post in a little while is a review of a spa day that I had recently. We’ve always been big fans of spa days and relaxing retreats here at Just Nice Things (heck, who isn’t?) and I’m very lucky in that I have a fantastic little haven not at all far from where I live. A couple of weeks ago I was invited to go along to The Vineyard hotel and spend the day at their spa, indulging in a few much-needed treatments along the way.
The hotel is absolutely lovely. Nestled in the west Berkshire countryside between Newbury and Hungerford, the hotel has a lovely feel to it. The walls are covered with different and intriguing pieces of artwork, the rooms look quite traditionally English countryside (apart from the Italian bathrooms!) with well thought-out prints and colour schemes, and I hear wonderful things about the wine cellar, which apparently contains 30,000 bottles, which sounds like a pretty good night out… So if you’re in the market for an overnight mini-break, you probably couldn’t go too far wrong. I’m certainly planning to book myself on one of the wine tasting sessions – maybe not all 30,000 bottles though…
The spa is towards the rear of the hotel, and whilst it isn’t the largest spa I’ve been to (remembering that it is a hotel facility, rather than a stand-alone operation), it certainly has everything you need. The robes and slippers are complementary and extremely comfy – nothing worse than trying to cover yourself with a spa robe that appears to have been made with a twiglet in mind.
The main spa area is split level and built around a circular swimming pool. I don’t think you could build up any serious lengths in here but its perfect to dip in and cool off and have a bit of a wallow. There’s a large Jacuzzi and an array of loungers on both levels.
What I really liked about the main area is that it is covered by a huge glass atrium so it is light, airy and really bright. I was there on a roasting hot summer’s day so it did get a little bit toasty after a while but I had no complaints. The spa also has a sauna and a steam room. Neither of them are enormous so I can see that it might get a bit….friendly…on a busy day but my friends and I were there on a quiet Friday and more or less had the facilities to ourselves. The changing rooms are tiny though so I would expect most hotel guests would just scamper back to their room.
So, on to the treatments. The list of treatments at The Vineyard is certainly one of the most comprehensive that I have ever seen, and it was really tricky to narrow down the options – this is a good thing, by the way! I decided to treat (see what I did there?!) myself to the Balinese Journey signature massage.
At £95 for 125 minutes, it isn’t the cheapest massage I’ve ever had but I can honestly tell you it as worth every penny. I have had massages at spas that have cost me twice the price of this and have been nowhere as good. It is designed to work on pressure points rather than just tired muscles and it really worked. First off, your skin is exfoliated with body brushing and a really well practised hot towel routine, and then you receive a coconut oil full body massage. I have never, ever fallen asleep during a treatment before, but I was definitely fighting sleep here. I didn’t want to fall asleep as didn’t want to miss any of it. However, by the end of it I felt energised and like new, which I was really happy about as all too often you can have a treatment that just leaves you zombiefied. Any way, I can categorically state that this is without a doubt the best massage I have ever received and I absolutely cannot wait to return for another.
Seeing as it was a real day of indulgence, I decided to try out my first ever facial. I know, I’ve managed to get to the grand old age of thirty-mumble without ever having a facial. I suppose I have always worried that with psoriasis, it might break me out, and also I’m such a massage addict that I always suspected that a facial might not be as rewarding for me.
The Vineyard use Darphin products, which I have always heard good things about, but never really had the opportunity to try. I opted for the Enviro-Recovery facial (£70 for 55 minutes), which is described as a vitamin infusion facial that replaces “a dull, overexposed complexion with fresh, healthy radiance. This detoxifying facial relaxes as it clarifies, removing every trace of grit and grime, and recharges skin from environmental elements and lifts the spirit with a tangerine and vitamin packed boost”. Wow.
So, after a brief consultation on my skincare routine, we were away. I don’t really know what went on but it was a very nice and relaxing strokey kind of facial. No squeezing, no extractions, nothing painful or tweaky but I definitely felt clean and pampered and my skin felt lovely and smooth. I really liked the tangerine oil that was used as part of the process and am definitely putting some of that on my Christmas list (what, its nearly Christmas, right?) I also had some feedback at the end of the facial where I was informed that I’m all good in terms of wrinkles (or lack of) but that my skin is starting to lose elasticity (boo) so I was given some recommendations in terms of exfoliating and taking better care of my face. What I really liked about this was the fact that the team are not incentivised or targeted to shift products and so if you wanted to buy anything that was used as part of your treatment, it is entirely up to you – no hard sell.
And, finally, I finished off the day with a pedicure. Usually, I find the process of a pedicure a bit cringey in terms of having your feet prodded and so on but I have to say, this was fantastic. I had the Red Grape pedicure (£55 for 50 minutes), which used The Vineyard’s exclusive range of products that are “designed to awaken the senses with reminders of sun ripened fruit bursting juice”. I’m not sure about that but it did smell really lovely and the exfoliator used on my legs left them soft and smooth for days afterwards.
My therapist, Nikki, was friendly and professional and whilst you might not want to chat during a massage treatment, its nice to have a bit of a gossip over a pedicure, so that was great. The pedicure was 55 minutes, and at no point did I feel uncomfortable or sore, which can often happen. The Vineyard use Mavala nail polishes and I was given the bottle I chose to take away with me as well. Two weeks on and my trotters are still smooth and the polish looks flawless so top marks there.
Lunch was included in the spa day package and comes in the form of a bento box arrangement which was creative and practical at the same time. I had the Soul box, which contained a perfectly cooked fillet of cod, with creamy tagliatelle, a rather odd combination of cauliflower and almonds and a very tasty raspberry shortbread dessert. Also, the bread is delicious, and, as you’d expect, plentiful bottled water, although you could have wine and juice as well. The lunch was so simple but really tasty and was a great advert for the hotel restaurant.
I really enjoyed my day at The Vineyard and am definitely planning on going back as soon as possible. I think I could quite happily have the Balinese Journey treatment any day of the week, and it is now my definite go-to venue to get a pedicure. The team worked really hard to ensure that we had a nice day and everything we needed, and we were thoroughly looked after and made to feel welcome. I’ll definitely be back. The idea of the pamper evening for two where you and a friend can have four hours access to the spa of an evening, with dinner and a 25 minute treatment for £105 between you sounds like a bargain to me.
To find out more about The Vineyard hotel and spa, please visit the website or call 01635 589415.
*I was a guest of The Vineyard for the day, and my facial was free of charge. I paid for the Balinese Journey and my pedicure but did receive a 10% discount on these treatments.
I had made a pact that I wouldn’t leave Marrakech without having a hammam. You may know I tried one at Casa Spa in London earlier this year (and loved it) so a truly authentic one in the heart of this bustling city was destined to be the highlight of my trip.
There are hammams on every corner in Marrakech but it’s difficult to know which ones are good (and hygienic) or which ones are terribly bad. It’s why I relied on recommendations from friends and good old Trip Advisor.
I managed to book with Les Bains De Marrakech, a hugely popular boutique spa with top ratings. Conveniently I made a reservation through their website while I was in Marrakech and paid securely through Paypal.
Their website is superbly designed and easy to navigate so I could select which treatments I fancied. I went for one of the packages the spa offers: a 45 minute hammam and traditional body scrub with black soap and kessa glove plus a ghassoul body mask with plants and either a one hour relaxing or draining body massage for 580 dirhams per person (roughly £48). A hammam on its own is 170 dirhams (about £14).
Les Bains De Marrakech, which opened its doors in 2008, is situated in the old medina, by the iconic Kasbah gateway. There are scooters and motorbikes whizzing through the souqs and the spa is tucked away down an alley way that magically takes you away from the noise to tranquility.
From the reviews I had read I was very excited and to my delight, appearances exceeded my expectations as soon as I stepped inside. It is a luxurious spa, tastefully decorated in traditional Morrocon décor. The corridors are like a maze but they are lit up by the stunning traditional Morrocan lanterns.
I was instructed to arrive half an hour before my treatment was due to begin. The staff are highly professional, polite, well spoken and friendly. Once I had been welcomed, I was taken to the changing rooms to get ready. Les Bains De Marrakech provides everything – you only need to bring your swimwear.
While I waited for my appointment, I relaxed on a sun lounger by the pool and was served mint tea. I had requested for a private hammam (at no extra cost) but if you visit with a friend or your partner and have no qualms about sharing then your treatment will take place together.
The therapists usually don’t speak English but are fluent in French and Arabic. I managed to get by with some French though my therapist made a sweet effort to speak broken English. Well you don’t really need to be engaging in much dialogue when a hammam is very much hands-on.
I knew what to expect - steam, soap, scrub, steam, mask, wash. I had heard a few horror stories about some hammams’ tendency to not observe hygiene properly but thankfully Les Bains De Marrakech use a brand new kessa glove on every client and let you take it home afterwards.
The therapist is not shy about poking you in intimate areas; it is an invasive treatment which if you’re not aware of (let alone not used to), you won’t like. I just tell myself they do this all the time and it’s true, they don’t bat an eyelid about your wobbly bits…plus there is hardly any light in the stream room so you’re alright!
Having experienced such thorough scrubs with my London Moroccan and Turkish hammams, my actual Moroccan hammam at Les Bains De Marrakech was mild in comparison. I also was deprived of seeing how much dirt and dead skin was coming off me because the steam room was very low on lighting.
But it was my massage I was disappointed in. I chose a ‘relaxing’ massage which was explained to be a strong, deep massage to loosen my muscles and help me relax. Instead my masseuse just rubbed oil into me, and stroked my back, shoulders and head. It felt quite limp and amateurish and I did not leave relaxed and relieved.
Perhaps I was unlucky in landing someone who didn’t appear to know what they were doing, but for what I had paid (which was exceedingly more expensive than other spas), I had expected much more. I craved for a massage at Casa Spa and am yearning to book an appointment there. I wouldn’t have to fly to another country for it…
Les Bains De Marrakech has invested a lot in its vision to be an aesthetically beautiful spa and it accomplishes this flawlessly. I just can’t help but think had I gone to a lesser known hammam and consequently paid less, I would have left more satisfied.