Wow! What an experience! Quite simply, the Aqua Sana Spa at Centre Parcs in Elveden Forest is completely and utterly divine. Some friends and I went to the Twilight spa last night and it was an amazing place beyond what I could've imagined.
I've never really been a spa person - I generally find that they are over priced or just simply not what I'm looking for. When I think of a spa, all that I generally envisage is a jacuzzi, a sauna, a steam room (generally I picture the awkward Chandler/Mr Geller moment from Friends) and a list of different treatments which I probably can't differentiate between let alone actually afford.
The Aqua Sana spa was a completely unique experience. I wish that I could've taken some photos to illustrate my descriptions better but obviously, that could look a little dodgy...
I was in awe right from when we walked into the changing rooms, picking a fluffy white honeycomb towel and robe from a cubbyhole on the wall. The changing areas were lovely with wooden lockers (remember your £1 coin!) and leather benches. Walking out the other side, I saw so many possibilities, I didn't know where to start!
There are 15 different spa experiences to try. These are all set out in a kind of 'doughnut' across 2 floors. In the centre of the doughnut is an outdoor area with a heated pool which has a variety of different jets and bubbles to relax you. I'll try to describe some of the separate experiences as they were so lovely and thoughtfully influenced from all over the globe.
These were the first things that we saw as we walked in. Four footbaths which have pebbles on the bottom and bubbling jets. These are designed to slowly raise your body temperature. I didn't feel like these did an awful lot but it is a nice social area where we enjoyed sitting on the tiles having a bit of a chat!
I'd heard of this kind of Turkish bath before so I was keen to give this one a try first. As soon as I opened the door, the heat and smell of the steam hit me. The room is around 45
ºC and 90-100% humidity and there is eucalyptus in the steam. It's designed to detoxify and clear breathing which it certainly did! The room itself is decorated like a traditional Turkish Hammam (from what I could see through the steam) with blue tiles and central water taps. I felt like this was the most intense steamroom experience as it was hardest to see and you could definitely feel a massive difference in the air between sitting down and
Indian Blossom Steam Room
We progressed to the next room round where again, we could smell the beautiful steam. It was a supposedly a similar temperature and humidity to the Turkish Hammam although I did find the air much lighter in here. Again, there was eucalyptus and menthol in the steam but I could also detect citrus notes and what I thought was a hint of green tea.
This picture shows that it was split into 2 seated sections with a ornamental pool in the centre and statutes of elephants and deities sitting around the room. I visited this room twice more over the course of the evening as it was one of my favourites.
This is exactly what I would have expected from a traditional sauna. It was wood-lined with 3 tiers of seating which got hotter the higher up you were. It was a dark room with what looked like a large ceramic stove in the corner which was producing the heat and gave an authentic look. It's a shame we couldn't take a picture in here especially as it looked great; all 7 of us reclining and chatting across the different levels!
After exiting the sauna we walked across to the
which was full of crushed ice. It was lovely to rub this over ourselves and especially on our faces after the hot experience. I didn't realise until afterwards though that this was an experience in itself.
Another thing worth mentioning are the
Multi-Sensory Shower Experiences
which are situated next to each heat experience. All vary slightly to compliment the room. For example, the one by the sauna had cold water jets as well as a bucket and rope set up for a cold water gush! Settings on other showers included 'Tropic' for large, warm droplets of water, 'Fresh' for a refreshing spray of water and 'Rain' for a cold rain shower intended to tone your body. Many of the showers were also scented of peppermint which was a lovely touch. They also had coloured LEDs on the ceiling to give the cubicle a glow but I feel these needed to be stronger or the showers needed to start out darker to really have an impact.
Japanese Salt Steam Bath
This was probably my favourite room. It felt like one of the hottest although it was indicated as being the same temperature and humidity as the other steam rooms. The seating is a large circle around the central focus of illuminated rose quartz which gives a soft glow. The steam in here is combined with essential oils and salt to make it especially good for easy breathing.
We followed this with a visit to the
Japanese Zen Garden
. Although it wasn't a particularly warm day and it was probably around 7pm, we stayed cosy in our robes and our bodies seemed to retain the heat from the steam bath. Out in the fresh air, I noticed how beautiful my skin smelt as if it had really harboured the lovely essential oils. It was a lovely environment and there were display signs that explained the symbolic significance of the different elements such as the rocks, gravel and bamboo. I definitely felt like a lady of leisure reclining on the velvety cushions underneath a white canopy. It was a nice touch that they also had magazines in plastic covers at hand.
We then migrated upstairs where there were lots of beds and loungers to relax in, lots of people were reading books and magazines and had I been a little more prepared, I probably would have been doing the same. Outside on the balcony were 2
one double bed size and a large round one which we all bundled onto. As far as I can remember I haven't tried a waterbed before and I won't race to try them again as they made me feel a little uneasy but it was a fun experience with the girls.
Balinese Multi-Steam Bath
This was a more gentle steam room. It had a few separate seated 'room' divisions off of a kind of steam 'lobby' which you originally walk into. This had a few panels of light around it which changed colour to create a soothing vibe. Like all of the other steam rooms though, I did find it hard to tell whether my skin was damp from sweat or just from the steam!
Aqua Meditation Room
This is a dark room lit by 3 pillars of LED-coloured, bubbling water to soothe you while you recline on the leather seating which circles the room (it's no longer individual seats as pictured below however). I could have quite easily fallen asleep in here. I can imagine that if I was there on my own, I probably would either fall asleep or get into the spirit of meditation.
Greek Herbal Bath
I really enjoyed this room. You can only fit about 7 people in this room as the seating is all individual as pictured below (note: the room is much darker than this picture shows). It is about 60
ºC and about 60% humidity so it feels quite mild. The tray in the middle of the room has a mixture of herbs on it which all serve different therapeutic properties:
Gentle herb that cultivates a calm and relaxed state of being. Promotes a good nights sleep, soothing the mind, body and spirit.
Reviving stress-relieving herb to counter tiredness and fatigue.
Stimulates the mind and body. Promotes clarity of thought, sharp memory and focused thinking.
As this room is very mild (about 60
ºC with only about 15-20% humidity) it's the ideal place to start and/or finish the experience. We chose to end with this room as it's quite calming. After being in darker, steamier rooms, this one feels quite light and airy. I wish that I had have had guidance to start in this room when I first got there.
Pretty much my only criticism is that I think it would have been helpful to be given guidance such as this before entering the spa; perhaps a leaflet for each person/group which suggests which experiences would be most suitable and in which order. There are informative signs outside each of the rooms but you only see these once you are already about to enter.
Other great things to take note of are:
There are areas around both levels of the spa where you can keep hydrated with
water in plastic cups readily available.
There is a bucket filled with crushed ice, lemon, lime, orange zest and a little oil into which you can dip a flannel to cleanse your face.
I will definitely use my towel a little more on my next trip. In some of the rooms I found the seats a little too warm for my sensitive skin to lean back on. In hindsight, I should have used my towel to sit on in the sauna and to cover the hot tiles in the Japanese Salt Steam Bath.
In each of the hot rooms, there are cold water taps/hoses on the wall that you can use on yourself (we found that it was really nice to cool your feet or wrists in the warmest rooms) or on the seats to either cool them or rinse them down if you are, or the person before you was, a bit sweaty!
We visited for a
evening which is available 4pm-9pm every night of the week. It's £42 per person Monday-Friday but there are regularly some great offers running. At the moment a weekday Twilight Spa for two is £65.00!
There are many different treatments available as well from massages to nail treatments and even floatation experiences. I'd love to give one of these a go next time.
Sorry this post is rather long, I just loved this place so much and it was such a treat that I felt I really had to do it justice!