MumTime at The Sanctuary Spa

Friday, 26 August 2011

What! No C-Beebies? The sound of spa-aah...

When I was pregnant and existing in a rose-tinted, bump-stroking, bubble of expectation a colleague mentioned - in that been-there-got-the-t-shirt tone which is especially annoying -  that when the baby came brushing my teeth would feel like a spa treatment. Two and a half years on and I see her point. It goes without saying that I love my boy more than life itself and there are many priceless, magic moments to be found in the mundane but - if time is a luxury - surely the ultimate luxury is finding time for yourself? Enter The Sanctuary spas new MumTime package devised in association with MumsNet.

The package - running on weekdays from 10.30am to 2.30pm - offers full use of the spa's facilities (including the Koi Carp Lounge, pools, jacuzzi, heat and steam rooms), a Sleep Retreat or Infrared Experience session and a 25 minute treatment of your choice for £80. Click for further details. 

With my last spa treatment being a pregnancy massage, just the thought of time away from assembling train tracks, crafting Play-Doh potatoes of precisely the requested dimension or loading another acre of washing into the machine seemed highly decadent; especially mid-week on a day usually earmarked for work. To then find myself stretched out in the tension-draining heat of a sauna on a Wednesday morning was just blissful.

The Sanctuary - a women's only spa in the heart of London's Covent Garden - is deceptively large. You enter through what appears to be a shop front on Floral Street but which actually, after ascending a flight of stairs, opens out into a concierge reception area and a warren of relaxation lounges, pools and treatment rooms. After you've checked in, the staff suggest taking a guided tour before going it alone. I wiled away a good 20 minutes in the changing rooms trying out products and marvelling at the availability of dressing gowns and towels (always a treat when you don't have to wash them yourself) before heading off to the pool. 

Following a dip in the jacuzzi I spent most of my time supine in the Koi Carp Lounge, arguably the centre-piece of the spa. Here, comfy seating (including two huge cocoon chairs), low-lighting and orchids are plentiful and women bury their noses in magazines, chat over coffee or curl up on scatter cushions taking the opportunity to catch some zzz's.

The Koi Carp Lounge

After lunch, I experienced a Sleep Retreat session which takes place in a mezzanine level of the Koi Carp Lounge. Initially, I was slightly disconcerted to be able to make out the shapes of fellow 'sleepers' in the darkness but once I'd realised this was communal snoozing it was still relaxing, tucked up, as we were, in a row of massaging, chakra-balancing beds. I did, however, ditch the guided meditation headphones. When you're used to the incessant chatter of a pre-schooler the opportunity for occasional silence reigns supreme. 

Finally, I wound up the afternoon with a 25-minute Sanctuary back, neck and shoulder massage. My therapist expertly eased the tangle of knots across my back and worked around my shoulder blades using the tips of her elbows; a technique which in my opinion is the mark of a good, if productively painful, massage. Afterwards I was walking-on-air relaxed and could turn my neck without tightness for the first time in weeks. 

Verdict: A good-value (for central London), accessible treat to enjoy alone or with friends. The surroundings are suitably pampering without being pretentious and the staff friendly and helpful. I particularly liked the fact you can tote around your belongings (books, magazines, glasses) in a waterproof spa bag although all mobile phones must stay in your locker - a blessing in disguise. The Sanctuary does have a communal feel - you will see other women chatting and sharing the facilities - and no doubt becomes busier towards the end of the week. Overall, however, it was a rare and highly enjoyable dose of relaxation. I left with a spring in my step and a rested spa-ahh! glow. 

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