The Luxury Channel’s Top Spa Guide By Antonia Peck and Eadaoin Kelly

Transform your body and your sense of self, as The Luxury Channel guides you through four of the world’s top spas….

Top Spa Guide

SHA Wellness Centre

When I returned from SHA Wellness Centre, telling all who would listen about the delights of macro-biotic cooking and my amazing experience at the spa, many skeptics seemed hell-bent on curbing my enthusiasm. Even the man in Waterstones mocked me for enquiring about a book on macrobiotics which was ‘‘trendy over ten years ago,’’ leaving me shuffling around in the vegetarian cookbook aisle.

Top Spa Guide

So I logged on to Amazon, read (admittedly old) articles about macro-biotic queen Gwyneth Paltrow, and bought The Hip Chick’s Guide To Macrobiotics.

It had been about ten days since I had been in Alicante, enjoying the January sunshine and the calm of this beautifully presented and modern spa, and in that time I had become a vegetarian, started every day with a bowl of miso soup (msg free) and given up that occasional social cigarette. However, most importantly of all, I felt grounded and connected to nature for the first time, in a long time. Suffice to say, SHA Wellness Centre is an incredible place and has quite honestly changed my life. Nearly two months later, my new lifestyle is still going strong.

Food

The macrobiotic philosophy is central to the Spa’s healing powers, which is about being exceptionally nourished with the right food. Those staying specifically for weight-loss are given a very low calorie menu. Others, who are suffering from stress or exhaustion, are given larger portions with a focus on alkalising the body. The only time I felt hungry was at night, when I would wake up with a start at around four in the morning. Many guests complained about their poor night’s sleep but this is a common symptom of the body expelling toxins. Siestas were often necessary in the afternoon.

The macrobiotic diet is largely vegetarian with the occasional fish offering. You eat no night-shade vegetables (so no potatoes, sweet potatoes, aubergine), dairy, meat, or tropical fruit. Your meals consist of brown, whole cereal grains, such as buckwheat and quinoa. Then pulses, vegetables, vegetable protein foods, sea vegetables and a variety of seeds, nuts and condiments. Foods I had never heard of, such as azuki beans, burdock and daikon, and seaweeds such as arame, agar-agar and dulse, appeared on my plate. The meals felt balanced and fulfilling – all thanks to SHA’s exceptional chef, Pablo Montoro.

Top Spa Guide

Daniel Mayor, my macrobiotic counsellor during my time at SHA, advises guests to eat slowly and chew their food, take evening meals at the earliest possible time, and to drink water during the day and not with the meal. These methods stop bloating and aid digestion. Guests are also advised on supportive supplements during their stay (and for when they return). For example, I was advised to begin taking digestive enzymes and aloe vera juice with my meals. This has continued to be a revolutionary introduction to my eating habits.

Your efforts will be supported by the restaurant and kitchen staff (who all know your unique programme) and will allow you to request smaller or larger helpings if you feel the need.

There are some wonder foods in the macrobiotic diet and experts speak of the incredible benefits of beginning the day with fresh miso soup and umeboshi pills (pickled plums). Kukicha is another recommended beverage – a twig tea that helps ground you.

Activities

Guests are advised to be active every day and attend the SHA Life Learning Centre classes. The walk to the lighthouse in the morning is particularly enchanting, and the yoga teacher is very good.

Guests can book bespoke fitness classes according to their fitness level and SHA is currently updating their fitness area with new machines. The timetabled classes (pilates, stretching, yoga and aqua aerobics) are at beginners level but the point is to keep moving rather than show off your Pilates prowess.

I particularly enjoyed SHA’s thermal pool, as well as the sauna and steam room areas. It is the perfect place to relax, concentrate and strengthen your body and detox resolve!

Top Spa Guide

Rooms

The beds at SHA are deliciously comfortable and are kitted out with really good, soft linen. Each bed has a silver tree painted lightly above it (like a ‘‘tree of life’’ symbol) and the colour template is neutral and clean. I had a sea and mountain view with a large patio, large television screen (that I never used), a desk, sofa and shower.

Top Tips

  1. Speak to your ‘‘Agenda Co-ordinator’’ at the beginning of your stay to make sure you get the best out of your programme.
  2. Book an appointment with SHA’s reflexologist – he received rave reviews!
  3. Supplement your programme with regular massages (the shiatsu massage was amazing).
  4. You might get the blues at first (a few tears, a headache or two) but wait it out and a lovely driving energy will take hold of you and inspire you once you return home.

www.shawellnessclinic.com

Vicki Edgson’s Vital Energy Retreat

Vicki Edgson’s seven day Vital Energy Retreat in Ibiza was voted by Tatler in 2012 as ‘‘the most life-changing spa’’ and it is an award-winning retreat for a very good reason – it works and it’s fun. The aim of the retreat is to re-connect guests with the boundless energy they enjoyed so naturally as children. However, we are not talking about hyper-energy, but a vitality that allows you to be the best you can be.

Ibiza, with its reputation as a hedonist’s paradise, may seem at odds with the peaceful, organic and holistic retreat on offer, but Vicki proves that the island is perfectly suited to those in need of a restorative break. Guests get involved in the seasonal rhythms of island life by enjoying organic and nutritious local produce (with cooking demonstrations by local chefs) and by encouraging guests to participate in the olive and grape harvests of June and October. With Vicki, even a glass of wine is not off limits, with a visit to one of Ibiza’s oldest cantinas on the agenda. The accommodation is a beautiful private residence (a converted finca) nestled into the hills of Balafia, to the North of the island. Views of rolling hills and activities such as horse riding, outdoor yoga, tai chi and swimming in the nearby sea are pursuits that warm the muscles and the soul. Vicki will even arrange life-drawing classes if desired. There is also a fantastic cranial sacral therapist available who will encourage guests to let go of emotional tension and help encourage cosy afternoon siestas and restful nights sleep. Return home happy and rejuvenated – full of gratitude for the beautiful moments in life.

www.essentialescapes.com

Canyon Ranch

Canyon Ranch Hotel & Spa, Miami Beach

From the warm and personal greeting received at reception to the informative but relaxed briefing the butler gave on my personal suite with adjoining kitchenette, one immediately feels at home. Canyon Ranch is a lifestyle retreat that nourishes the body, soul and mind and with every need catered for, from fitness to beauty to nutritional guidance, with a myriad of health specialists on hand; when you want to feel good and look good inside and out, book a suite overlooking the ocean and let all your stresses melt into the past.

Canyon Ranch properties dating back to 1979 were designed to offer a no-nonsense, healthy but enjoyable schooling to those seeking a better quality of life. The Miami Beach property offers approximately 50 fitness classes a day, soothing body treatments, a choice of outdoor swimming pools and the extraordinary Aquavana® experiences.

Start your day with a delicious, but not too naughty breakfast. According to Larisa Alonso, Nutritionist at Canyon Ranch, all ingredients are locally and sustainably sourced to create meals that are ‘‘organic, clean and unprocessed to nourish the body.’’ Meals are baked rather than fried to provide appetizing as well as healthy alternatives ‘‘to connect food to how you feel and how you look.’’ Booking a ‘‘breakfast with the physical therapist’’ gives you the opportunity to listen attentively to Dr. Yoav Suprun, who provides clear answers to your individual ailment questions whilst explaining the McKenzie method which ‘‘evaluates each patient for the source of their problem.’’ Dr. Suprun frequently prescribes the obvious but essential exercise plan of ‘‘a maximum range of motion’’ everyday as key to maintaining a healthy body. So move the body I did and joined a demanding but pleasurable Zumba class.

To counteract this challenging accomplishment, I checked in for 50 heavenly minutes of an Authentic Aromatherapy massage. After a quick analysis of my needs and selection of complimenting oils with the therapist, I dissolved without hesitance into her natural healing hands. Reluctantly, I left the alluring treatment room to quickly realise the calm and soothing experience had only just begun. I received a personal tour of the Aquavana® thermal suite from the well-informed and jolly receptionist before I happily began the aqua therapy which included an aromatic crystal steam room, a muscle melting herbal laconium (which I could have spent all day in) and finally a visit to the igloo for a shocking but crisp burst of chilling mist to reawaken the senses.

The next day started with a relaxing walk on the beach, followed by rejuvenating power-yoga in the Ocean Studio. To cancel out my newly relaxed and sombre feeling, I endured a Boxers Workout class, where we kicked and punched and jumping-jacked around the studio as the instructor barked encouragement and ‘‘10 more’’ at his obedient group. With a sense of fulfilment, I made my way to the heated rooftop swimming pool and continued my rigorous workout. But with blue skies shining above me and the crystal ocean sparkling to my right, this was not a difficult task.

After enjoying a lazy late lunch at Cabana poolside cafe of a light and tasty Chicken Quesadilla with avocado salad accompanied by a tingling watermelon mint lemonade, I strolled peacefully back to my suite, turned on the taps in my bottomless bathtub, threw open the balcony doors, and with a book in one hand and an organic cosmopolitan in the other, I graciously thought of winter in London as I soaked in the balmy sun and ocean breeze.

As Canyon Ranch is a unique wellness centre within a first class setting, ensure you set aside a few hours to truly enjoy the benefits of the Aquavana® thermal suite before packing for the airport!

www.canyonranch.com

Lucknam Park

Lucknam Park

Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa, near Bath, is the perfect booking for those in need of a short spa break. Its elegant charm and superb facilities make for a perfect weekend away. The hotel is a former manor house which has been exquisitely restored and beautifully refurbished, retaining all the old world charm of its illustrious inhabitants. The drawing rooms on the ground floor are spacious and ornately decorated, and the guest rooms on the first floor are equally spacious and luxurious with stunning views of the long tree-lined driveway and fields either side. The Apricot Suite is particularily lovely with an immensely comfortable bed, and large white marble bathroom (with an art deco feel) and a walk-in wardrobe with beautiful wood panelling. Modern features abounded with DAB radios and flatscreen televisions so that the technological amenities of life we are all so used to were never far from hand. However, these were cleverly incorporated so at no point did you feel that the modern world had intruded on the aristocratic splendour around you.

The Spa is behind the main hotel and is reached through a quiet and serene courtyard followed by a pleasant stroll under a canopy of greenery with small ponds either side – a perfect way to prepare your mind for the experience in store.

The Spa is a very impressive addition to the hotel, with large glass panels looking over a walled garden where you can take coffee or brunch in the small café. Inside the Spa, the changing rooms are slick, the treatment areas are calming and the swimming pool is perfectly accommodating for families with several relaxation areas. A standout feature was the outstanding indoor/outdoor hydrotherapy pool which, at a touch of a button, lets you while away the hours in the open air. The facilities are also available on a membership basis and have a large following from local residents to day-trippers from Bath and Cheltenham.

Dinner in The Park restaurant was a culinary experience of the highest nature, which you would expect from a Michelin starred restaurant, but the efficient service and ornate surroundings added to the charm of the meal. There are plenty of activities to partake in around the hotel grounds, including long walks, mountain biking and horse riding. There are even two statues from the Louvre in a walled garden to admire, just in case you felt your cultural appetite had not been whetted enough! A perfect mini-spa escape away from the urban sprawl.

www.lucknampark.co.uk