What a way to start Easter weekend and Good Friday than with a feel good Friday spa day. And not just any spa but the spa made famous by Joan Collins, a swing and an erotic film, Sanctuary Spa, Covent Garden.
I was so lucky to be invited along by my friend and fellow Sunderland supporter Fiona (we met at a friend’s Halloween party and have since bonded over our the heartache we feel from supporting Sunderland AFC – none of my other friends have any idea the disappointment one so often feels being a Sunderland fan, so Fiona really is one of kind). And were booked in to enjoy ‘time for two’ which would be considerably less raunchy than Ms Collins’ time at the Sanctuary back in 1978.
We met in a sunny and oddly peaceful Covent Garden at 10am Friday morning and I finally understood why so many tourists flock here. Quieter than I’ve ever seen it, with a just few couples enjoying coffee on the piazza, the sun was warming the cool morning air, it really was a beautifully calm place to be. Sadly we couldn’t stay and, for once, enjoy it…we had a spa day to get to. So we took a right, off the Covent Garden piazza, down floral street (we actually walked in a big circle before taking a right down floral street – I think we were trying to become tourists in our own city taking wrong turns before right ones were made) and arrived outside the Sanctuary shop where we were told to head upstairs to enter the spa.
As soon as we stepped over the Sanctuary threshold the relaxation began. The warmth of the room, the music, the soft lighting. You immediately begin to forget the world outside. We had a ‘minor’ issue with our booking but were quickly told not to worry and to head off into the spa and enjoy our day – whatever the issue was would be sorted by the staff. Phew.
Changed into classic spa robes and our swim stuff, the first port of call for us was breakfast in the cafe. Completely deserted we took a table by the far end and had a little peak down into the famous pool with that swing.
Unfortunatley none of the pictures in this post are mine as you aren’t allowed to take cameras or even mobile phones into the spa which is actually really nice as you can totally switch off. There are literally no distractions from relaxing. All the images I’ve used I found on google images.
We ordered two rounds of scrambled eggs and bacon and started filling each other in on everything we’d been up to. We had a quick look at our schedules for the day, noting what time our two treatments were (part of the ‘time for two’ package is that you get two treatments each) and what levels of the spa they were on. We then set off to explore and well, relax.
We headed downstairs to the Koi Carp lounge and it was filled with ladies of leisure (the whole spa is ladies only – sorry guys!). Deciding not to stop and sit we headed down another level and found a whirlpool for our first dip. It was a fairly popular spot but we managed to squeez in and relished the warm, bubbling water on our stressed out skin.
As soon as we felt thoroughly warmed up we moved over to the main pool for a dip. We floated about with orange buoyancy aids and I attempted to climb on the swing, much more difficult and less elegant than you’d imagine. I gave up and enjoyed paddling around. There’s something about the weightlessness of swimming that is very relaxing in itself.
We then wandered back downstairs to the exercise pool which we scoffed at and ignored (who comes to a spa to exercise?) and jumped in the jacuzzi before making the most of the steam room and sauna on offer.
Feeling refreshed and revitalised already we popped back up to the Koi Carp lounge (the Sanctuary is a bit of a maze with lots of corridors and staircases, it’s tricky not to get lost!) and found ourselves a comfy spot to read magazines and have a well earned nap before our first 1.30pm treatment.
Our first treatment was the Hamman Rasul and took place in one of the treatment rooms on the second floor. Along with myself and Fiona there would be two German ladies joining us. Lucky for us these German ladies were very helpful explaining the treatment to us, as they’d done it before and we were a bit unsure of what we were doing, they also openly showed us their boobs and bushes. “Hey we’re all girls here, take off your swim stuff, you don’t want to ruin it” – I think they forgot how prude the English can be. The Hamman Rasul is a Moroccan treatment which involves you rubbing mud all over yourself (hence the would-be ruined swimming costume) and sitting in a steam room for 25 minutes. The treatment is meant to draw toxins from the body and you rinse the mud off with a ‘tropical’ shower at the end. The mud hardens a little once applied but soon re-softens as the room fills with steam and it becomes silky to touch. It really does feel wonderful, if also a little odd that a mad German woman and her mother are ordering you about telling you “No don’t wash it all off yet” but to keep rubbing it all over your now nearly naked (apart from some tiny paper pants) body. Inhibitions certainly need to be left at the door.
Once you’re finished in the steam room and rinsed almost entirely of mud, you’re given time to relax with a herbal cocktail and apply any of the Sanctuary creams and oils to your face and body. We really enjoyed the carrot oil that was meant to increase tans, we came out of the room looking like we had 2 weeks in Marbella rather than 20 minutes wrapped in Moroccan mud.
Perfectly timed we headed out from the Hamman Rasul and straight up to the third floor for our individual massages. 55 minutes later and I was nearly asleep thanks to Paige and her magic hands. She worked out all the knots in my neck the pressure in my toes and the cramp in my calves to leave me feeling lighter than air. I floated back into the waiting area to meet Fiona who was equally pleased with her Swedish massage.
By now it was nearing 4pm and our breakfast had more than worn off so we headed back to the restaurant for a late lunch (cleverly avoiding any crowds with our timings). I had a cheddar and plum tomato sandwich and Fiona sampled the sweet potato and feta tart. With still wet swimwear and now damp dressing gowns we were getting considerably chilly and headed back to the first whirlpool to warm. After another little lie-down in the soft seating of the Koi Carp lounge and at 5.30pm we decided it was time for us to head for the showers and home.
The changing rooms and showers are filled with yet more products to use form the Sanctuary range. Shampoo, conditioner, body wash were slathered on before fresh white towels dried us off. We then made use of the amazing powder room which, is any ‘girls getting ready’ dream. We polished ourselves up, applying make up to our fresh faces. Mine however we a little red and sore – I think perhaps from too much product use. I think I was probably a bit too eager and got carried away with all the creams and oils on my somewhat sensitive skin.
Sadly the Sanctuary will be closing at the end of May which will be a real loss to the women of London and probably the UK. I had such a lovely day there and would absolutely go back, if it weren’t closing. It’s crazy to think somewhere so serene and tranquil exists within the madness of Covent Garden. We felt like we’d escaped reality for the day and it was a depressing thought when we had to leave.
If you get the chance to go there before it closes I’d very much advise it!