Marriott Spa

I have just returned back from the two of the most amazing hours of my life at my local Marriott Spa, and felt compelled to come back and write about it right away!

I had booked myself in for 55 minutes of Swedish Massage, followed by a 55 minute Decleor Aromaplastie facial…. a real, and much needed treat. The therapy room was dimly lit, with soft, soothing music playing, and my therapist Jane made me feel comfortable and relaxed in her presence.

Jane, checked what kind of pressure I liked for my massage, to which I responded fairly hard… I do like a nice soothing massage but today I needed someone to get right in there and undo all my knots, rather than wafting a flower over my back. It was pretty painful but in a good way – she kept checking if it was ok for me, and it was – although I couldn’t fall asleep to it, it felt like it was definitely doing some good.

After a good go at my back, Jane moved down to my legs and feet, and that’s where it got a lot more relaxing…. who knew a leg massage could be so good!? It was then onto my arms and hands, before getting me to turn over and starting on my chest and scalp…. I was left feeling blissed out, and like I’d just like to be left alone for an hour or two to nap… alas, it was onto the facial.

We discussed any issues I had with my skin… I told her that I was on Roaccutane last year and still suffering from oily (or dehydrated) skin and the occasional breakout. Jane decided to use the sensitive, Harmonie Calm, range from Decleor for me so as not to aggravate anything.

To be honest, I was nervous – I haven’t had a facial for over 15 years when my Nan bought me a voucher and they squeezed the living daylights out of my face. I always worry I’m going to have a weeks worth of spots after it, and it’s going to be an unpleasant experience. I have recently started investing more into my skincare, and I  have come to realise that a lot of people I know get facials and don’t turn out a spotty mess, so perhaps it would be good for me. I’m glad the massage was before the facial as I was so relaxed that my nerves disappeared.

After cleansing my face, Jane applied cream exfoliator then a deep exfoliator which felt like it was doing it’s job without being harsh. Then it was onto some serum and balm which was a bit of a shoulder massage, then a purifying and oxygenating mask, then a really thick multivitamin mask with Linseed, Sunflower and Wheatgerm. It stimulates and enhances the action of while moisturising and deep cleaning – it sat on my skin for about 10 minutes while Jane massaged my scalp. Normally included in the facial is a hand and arm massage but seeing as I’d just had that, she suggested I had a scalp massage instead. To be honest, the order of all these things is a bit of a blur – as the facial was so relaxing, and what a far cry from my last facial experience. I think I woke myself up by snoring at one point (and I don’t even snore!)… *that’s* how relaxing it was!

A Marriott Hotel certainly wasn’t the first place I’d think of when looking for a massage or facial – but I’m so glad to have discovered this little treasure on my doorstep.

You can find your local Marriott Spa at http://www.marriott.co.uk/hotel-search/united-kingdom.hotels.spa/

Lifehouse Spa

With all the Valentines love floating around, it reminded me of a trip I took last year to Lifehouse Spa, in Thorpe-le-Soken in Essex which I’ve not blogged about. It was the first time I had been to a *proper* spa in all my twenty-eight years, and was really looking forward to unwinding and chilling out. I took my Mum with me, an avid spa-goer to get her spin on things too.

As we drove out of London and into the countryside, and eventually losing mobile signal, we knew we were close. Lifehouse is in the middle of a little village with 130 acres of grounds and 12 acres of listed gardens which as I walked through, felt I was in The Secret Garden!

The first thing we noticed was just how friendly and welcoming everyone was. As we walked from the car park, the gardeners stopped what they were doing to greet us hello, and it was the same with all staff members throughout our stay.

The choice of rooms at Lifehouse are Good, Great or Best but each of them is special in their own way. The ‘Good’ rooms that I saw had their own patio doors which led out to their own little table and chairs within the grounds – gorgeous! We had a Best room which was fab – a really generous size,  twin beds, which we so comfortable, a Juliette balcony overlooking the courtyard, a dressing table and bathroom.

The first thing I noticed in the bathroom were the Elemis goodies for us to use! My favourite thing was the mirror – when you had a shower the mirror would steam up, as expected, apart from a perfect square in the middle, so you could still see yourself – I neeeeed one of these in my home! The shower is turned on from a button next to the sink so you don’t have to get cold waiting for it to come on and sorting out the temperature once you’re in there, and has a massive head for a shower like heavy rain – bliss!

Once we’d changed into our complimentary Lifehouse robes, which are pretty much uniform for anyone staying, we went off to explore.

The upper level of the spa area is where all the treatments take place – apart from OBE (Oriental Bathing Experience) which is Lifehouse’s signature treatment, and you can read more about here. In the middle of the level is The Hub – where you go to book, or check in for your treatments. Mum and I both had massages booked in – we chilled out at the juice bar until we were called for our 90 minutes of bliss.

I had the ScenTao of Asia massage which was ultra-relaxing. It involved a full body massage using ScenTao oil, then a hot stone massage which is something I had never had before. It was a strange experience but I soon got into the swing of it! The weirdest part was when a hot stone was put between each of my toes – I just wanted to giggle, and knowing I shouldn’t made it even harder to keep my laugh in! It finished off with a facial massage. I was a bit wary – the last time I’d had a ‘facial’ involved extractions and a pretty red face for a few days after. This was nothing like that – this was definitely a massage. I was blissed out.

My Mum had the Classic with a Twist – a full body massage which lets you choose 3 key areas to have extra work on. Unfortunately my Mum fell asleep so I can’t tell you much about the treatment – other than it must have been pretty relaxing for her to drop off!

We met in the Chill area – a quiet room where people go after their treatments, or if they just want to chill – there are reclining chaise lounges with blankets for you to put over yourself, or massage chairs which are absolutely amazing. I need one of these for my home too! They manage to tip you so you are laying completely horizontal, while the machinery gets to work on your body – ohhhhh it’s making me wiggle remembering it – just fantastic.

Once we had summoned up enough energy to move, we went down to the pool area for a dip. As well as the swimming pool, which to be honest, we didn’t venture in to – there is a plunge pool, jacuzzi, salt room, sauna and steam room. The poolside showers come out as different levels of rain which was a lovely touch. I had never been in a salt room before – they are meant to be great for respiratory and skin problems – it was a lot more bearable than the sauna or steam room (I’m a bit of a wuss!) and the glowing salty wall was lovely to look at.

We had just enough time to get showered and dressed before heading off for our second treatment. I had a Deluxe Manicure – deluxe because as well as a standard manicure you get a nail analysis to treat your nail type, exfoliation, massage (all the way up to your elbows) and cuticle care using LeRemedi products. The manicure was done using Jessica polishes, and I thought a lovely touch was that you get to take home a mini bottle of your chosen colour.

My Mum had Reflexology – she gets reflexology done quite a lot – she said it wasn’t one of the best she’d ever had, but was good all the same.

At the end of your treatment you are given a postcard which your therapist recommends some products for you to use. What I like is that that’s literally all they do – write them down for you to visit the shop at your own free will if you want to – there is no hard sale.

As the sun began to set, we couldn’t believe we had manage to relax the whole day away. What about all that time we wanted to put in at the gym, and the fitness classes we wanted to do?! Yeah right!

Lifehouse doesn’t agree with the whole health spa ethos – this is a spa, not a health spa. If you want wine – have a glass! They don’t like to promote bad sugars though – so there’s no Coca Cola etc on their menu. Lots of groups had gathered around and were drinking champagne – it made me want to be there with a big group of my friends, chilling out and relaxing!

The Water Lillies restaurant is fairly informal, but you are required to be dressed properly while you’re there. The food was nice – it was quite contemporary, with little metallic baskets of fat chips and the like, but I probably wouldn’t go there again if it was a stand alone restaurant.

We had planned to have a girlie night watching TV and chatting, but the minute we hit those beds, we were sound asleep – probably one of the best sleeps I’d had all year. My mum really had planned to wake up early and go to Zumba, but when I finally woke from my slumber, she was still there in the bed next to me. Far too chilled.

We had lot less planned for that day – we wandered around to see what else was on offer – we found the Library, which as well as having lots of books on health and wellbeing, had more massage chairs – these ones were much more vigorous, and computers with internet access.

Mum chilled out in the sun on an oversized deck-chair while I had a Lifehouse Consultation, which is an hour with a wellness consultant who speciailises in lifestyle and diets. As it was such a lovely day, we sat outside while we chatted – I was having some health problems at the time which we discussed in detail, and about my lifestyle in general – we spoke about how I could try to combat stress, different food choices I could make which would benefit me, and she also gave me advice on sorting out my health concern – which thankfully is now sorted. Chrissy was very easy to speak to and made me feel at ease immediately. If I’m honest, I did wonder how the session would benefit me, but I walked away feeling refreshed and armed full of knowledge – it was very useful.

Before we knew it, it was time to check out. We had an absolutely amazing weekend in a really stunning location, I just wish we’d have stayed longer – it’s hard work fitting in all that relaxation! I think in future I’d definitely book for two nights to try to aid the time warp feeling. And I’d hope to bump into Jeff Brazier again – him walking round in a dressing gown helped the whole experience for sure 😉

If you like the sound of the Lifehouse Spa check out their website – www.lifehouse.co.uk – for my first spa experience it was fantastic, and left me wanting to try more… and more!  They quite often have good deals on, so be sure to check out their Offers page too.


Some of the photos displayed were provided courtesy of Lifehouse Spa.

Five Lakes Spa – the spa that wasn’t

A friend and I were supposed to be going to V Festival this weekend. I should have been blogging about the beauty items I’d packed and festival essentials. We were conned. We had purchased our tickets on eBay and they just never came…. the seller ignored my emails and it seemed the phone number she had provided was fake. What a COW!

We knew if we stayed at home we would mope about so on Friday, when it was clear that the tickets were not going to be arriving, we looked into booking into a spa. I thought with one day to spare we could get some amazing deals but no such luck. The ones that we did find had availability were really expensive – I’m talking around the £200 mark per person and although it included full use of facilities, didn’t include any treatments.

I had a look on laterooms.com and the first hotel that came up we ended up booking – Five Lakes Hotel, Golf, Country Club and Spa in Maldon, Essex. We got a deal of £125 including breakfast for the both of us and included full use of the facilities. It’s sister company is Sopwell House spa in St Albans which is one of the spas we had wanted to go to but was fully booked. The price of the hotel was almost 1/4 what we’d paid for the V tickets, and we were getting that money back so we thought we’d treat ourselves to a couple of treatments while we were there. The spa does ESPA and Clarins treatments and we had both decided for definite we would get the ESPA back, neck and shoulder massage for £32.

We got a bit lost on the way there – it is in the middle of a countryside village which seemed to have nothing there other than houses, a village shop, pub and the occasional golf course. When we saw the sign to Five Lakes we drove down the long winding lane and were impressed – although it didn’t look modern it was large and just not really what we had been expecting, although not the kind of place I’d want to have my wedding if you know what I mean!?

The lobby was quite grand and as we walked through the entrance we saw lots of people looking chilled walking around in robes and slippers…. oh yeaaaaahhhhh we were going to get a piece of that! Checked in and asked the receptionist how we could book treatments. We were told they were really busy so we’d have to call from our room to check the availability. Whaaaaaat?! This was something we completely had not considered! Hot footed it up to the room and were straight on the phone to the spa…. voicemail…. eeeek….. this was the whole reason for our trip! Dumped our stuff then went down to the spa to find out for ourselves. Fully booked. G u t t e d. Fully booked all of Saturday AND all of Sunday. It seemed all the people sitting around in robes were looking at us smugly thinking ‘ha, I’m about to go and have the most gorgeous head massage ever’ and ‘I’m off to get my skin exfoliated off with a lovely gorgeous scrub’.

Again, we were conscious of turning into Moping Minnies so went to the pool which was quite nice. The photo we had seen on the site made it look gorgeous

and it was just like that, but it was a bit of an odd shape – we felt we were swimming in circles, and were dodging the splashing kids. It was still lovely to start the whole relaxation process though. After our swim we went for a sauna – haven’t been in one of those badboys for a while, and man, I love them so much! I can’t stand the heat for too long but when you’re in there it’s good stuff. Straight out of there we had an ice cold shower, then into the steam room. It’s strange – the same kind of heat but while one is a dry heat, the other is wet making the experiences totally different. I think I prefer the steam, but it really stang my eyes. Another cold shower then we went into the jacuzzi which was nice, but my friend said she’d heard something about jacuzzis that you can contract vaginal diseases in there as it’s so hot – is this true? I’ve never heard it before in my life and manage to convince her otherwise!

After a while 3 silly teenage boys got in so we got out to go back to the sauna but the ladle to the sauna was on the floor outside of the door. We opened the door and the heat was immense. Too hot to even put your face inside. We suspect that the boys had emptied all of the water onto the coals (are they coals?!) and legged it, dropping the ladle on the way. Idiots. So, back for another steam, cold shower then back to the room for a full on shower and to get ready for the evening.

We were absolutely parched and having drunk all the water we’d bought with us, called Room Service for 2 1l bottles of water. When I was in 6th form I worked in a hotel as a waitress and there was no extra charge for room service, so I’d assumed the same would apply nationwide. I was wrong – the 2 bottles came, along with a bill for £10.25. £10.25 for 2l of water! We had been charged £2.95 for the room service charge alone. Guzzled that down and felt a hell of a lot better and got ready for our evening meal.

There had been a choice of 2 restaurants for dinner – the ‘proper’ restaurant, and brasserie. We decided to splash out seeing as we were ‘on holiday’, and when we went down we knew we’d made the right choice – the brasserie looked like a motorway service station cafe! The restaurant we chose was really lovely – french, classy and amazing food. Even though  I had to pay £23.50 for my fillet of beef with 6 chips it was worth it – cooked to perfection and not a line of fat inside it. The waiters were lovely and did the full on pulling out the chair, refilling glasses routine which it what I like from a restaurant when you are paying those kind of prices.

After dinner we went to the bar for a couple of drinks and listened to the pianist, then went up to the room where we fell straight to sleep. This morning we had breakfast in the brasserie which wasn’t actually as bad as it had looked the night before. We had planned on another swim/sauna/steam session but we were feeling so relaxed and chilled that we couldn’t actually be bothered so headed home when check out time arrived.

Although our weekend hadn’t gone to plan on more than one count, we did have a really lovely time and both of us have felt the benefits. I’d recommend a girlie mini break like ours to anyone, it certainly did us the world of good, but I think a treatment or two each would have been the icing on the cake. If you are planning on going to a hotel which has a spa in it, please make sure that before you book your accommodation, that the spa has availability to treat you, and that you book in with the spa too. Take loads of water with you, its important to stay hydrated after sauna, steaming and spa treatments – en route I had bought a 1.5l bottle of Buxton in Tesco for 60p, and there I was paying nearly £4 for 1l in the hotel! If anyone has any links to websites that do spa deals please let me know, this has really whett my appetite for The Real Deal! While the hotel was nice and we had a fantastic time, I’m not sure I’d go back…. well maybe just for the restaurant!