So far in my experience of reviewing some amazing spas and country retreats, I haven't yet bathed in the Mediterranean sunlight whilst I'm retreating. That is, until now. Setting The Scene: I recently enjoyed my first holiday in 7 years, I haven't had a stamp in my passport since then and it was about time I enjoyed a week away, completely away from distraction, namely the technology that surrounds me. Going "cold turkey" wasn't as tough as I thought it might be and switching off for 8 days showed just how tired I was, mentally as well as physically - I slept... a lot! Whilst enjoying a visit to Sainte-Maxime and Sainte-Tropez whilst in this area, I stumbled upon a very secretive spa called "Spa Serome", nestled within a holiday resort on the beaches of Port Grimaud, just a few miles away from these stunning locations along the French Riviera. This was no ordinary spa, with (fish pedicure tanks) nestled within the cool, relaxed reception area and outdoor facilities to enjoy some pampering in the glorious coastal sunshine, this was like no spa I've enjoyed before. Somehow, I managed to pick a quiet Thursday, being the only person within the spa, I got to indulge selfishly in my own company, even better. The Welcome: My first spa experience was twenty minutes in the heated jacuzzi, where I could choose to take a bubbling seat under a shaded canopy or out in the open to bask in the warm afternoon sun - I chose the latter. The staff here were so warm and friendly and they tried to speak English to me, most likely out of pity of my terrible broken French attempts. This was heavenly, I truly didn't want to leave it, even spotting a little gecko darting across the wooden boardwalk before I scurried up to the top of a palm tree, this was, hands down, the most exotic spa I've found so far. I was then given the choice of twenty minutes in the sauna or the Hammam, a large steam room with an impressive mosaic wall and floor. I went for the steam, as mixed with the warmth already glaring down on me, I didn't feel I'd cope well in the drier heat on this particular visit. Perhaps if chilly outside this would be the perfect warmer from the short walk between here and the jacuzzi. The Spa: Each spa experience area was shaded and covered by tiki-style wooden flooring and walls, with gaps between to see out and enjoy the scenic beach view. However, having walked past this spa several times before visiting, it took me a while to realise what was inside and you can't see in from the beach or boardwalks around it, it's a very clever design indeed. It almost looks like a little fort with spiky turrets, it's a very relaxed place and I couldn't stop wishing I could come here more regularly already... After a quick spray down with cold water with the shower inside the Hammam, I wrapped myself in my towel, walked over a boardwalk, taking in the glistening sea view as I disappeared into the next spa area...the private pool. This is a small pool with seating on one edge, but as I was the only one here, I swam up and down and stretched out my back - I'm petrified of swimming in the sea, so I got to look at this whilst I swam in a refreshing plunge pool, perfect! I put my feet up, layer back on the comfiest, cushioned lounger I've ever sat on, enjoying the sea breeze fanning me through the wooden slats of this outdoor room and watched the world go by. I think the staff may have forgotten I was there for a while, as I nodded off a couple of times and had to drop back into the pool for a quick dip to revive me. There's something very special about enjoying a spa visit outdoors in the sunshine, you dry off quickly, you feel relaxed and this would be a very romantic place as a couple or relaxed for a group of friends to chill out together. Follow up your spa stay with a relaxing massage in their small outdoor pod for a private rub down, leaving your flip flops outside the door to make other spa-goers aware of your need for peace & quiet. The changing rooms were at reception and was one large room, of which I'm guessing you would need to take turns to use, as I believe there's only one female and one male room. This had a large cabinet with wicker drawers, of which my beach bag "just" fit into. I'm used to lockers and keys, so felt ever so slightly nervous about leaving my possessions unlocked and that far away from me. Other than that, it's clean, modern and I'm heading back there as soon as I get the chance! The Little Extras: There was no need to time my spa experiences, a member of team popped by every twenty minutes to help me out of each room and show me how to use and make the most of the next, it allowed me to switch off entirely. After a good twenty five minutes of swimming, I took a seat on the poolside loungers and helped myself to a cup of warm mint tea which had been thoughtfully provided for me to enjoy from a swish looking thermos. This was a really nice touch, as I've learnt by now that you do need to keep hydrated whilst spa-ing, especially in the South of France... For the English speaking around me, the staff here speak a little English, however they were so friendly that I felt relaxed enough to practice my Française.. And they didn't laugh at me, we actually conversed and they taught me some words as we went, they were adorable. The Little Niggles: A visit to this day spa simply consists of 1 hour, 20 minutes within 3 different spa areas and I didn't feel this was long enough to relax. At €17 (approx £12?) this wasn't a great deal of money, but a little longer, or at least the option would have been nice. I can't complain however, as I was the only in there, the team allowed me to stay in there a little longer than usual and snooze on the outdoor loungers. No towels, slippers or a shower to wash off afterwards were provided, so I had very messy hair of which I had to tie back into a clip for the rest of the day - my fellow frizzy-haired friends will agree that this isn't the most glamorous look for beers on the beach at sunset afterwards! I had to use my beach towel, of which was sopping wet following my visit, making it unavailable for sitting on at the beach later that afternoon. Final Thoughts: This is a spa worth visiting if you are in the area, it's bound to be the perfect shaded retreat whilst sunbathing on the adjacent beach in the hottest months and I could imagine would be quite cosy on the chillier days too. To view my full photo album of this stay, simply click here. www.en.spabysarome.com You can also read about Miss Sue Flay's "Around The World In 80 Stays Challenge" and other Secret Stays & Reviews here. Please Note - I paid my own way at this venue and I am in no means obliged to blog or write about this location, but I simply choose to share their offerings with my readers, should I enjoy the experience. Any questions or to discuss an independent review or"Secret Stay", please do email: firstname.lastname@example.org All images © 2014 Miss Sue Flay, these may not be used or reproduced without written permission from the owner, many thanks in advance.
Thursday, 16 October 2014
Tuesday, 7 October 2014
On a return-flight to the UK from Nice recently, I was flicking through the Easyjet-owned "Traveller" magazine and clocked a striking question midway through reading. It was asking me what the latest "must-have" accessory was in Europe's luxury hotels... It was so striking in fact, that a blog post was bubbling up within me before I'd even read the true answer to this mysterious question before me. I'm a nervous flyer, having recently renewed my passport after 7 years firmly routed to out beautiful British turf and so this magazine was the perfect nerve-buster as I left the warm French soil behind me. And so, to the question itself... Have you guessed the answer yet? I was considering it to be a technological feature, having recently heard a hospitality webinar discussing the likes of bespoke personal training equipment for hotel guests worldwide and even the worlds' first "Twitter hotel", yet the answer surprised me slightly - pleasantly so! The answer is in fact, dogs. Pups, puppies, canines, our four-legged companions... My own one true love being my 10-year-old collie cross; Eddy. This feature made me smile, focusing on the fact that wo/mans' best friend is the latest hotel room trend - gone are the days of sneaking Fido into your accommodation, places are now welcoming our furry friends into their plush surroundings with open arms. With the abbreviation "PAW" (Pets are Welcome) becoming a common sight in booking a room for the night, dog owners are being offered welcome packs for their pooches. Beds, bowls topped up with luxury munchies (some venues offer gluten-free options for your pampered pooch!) and fresh water, special treats left with your turndown service and even dog-friendly walks, complete with local maps are being provided to serve our four-legged friends. Some hotels are providing luxury welcome packs or services to include pyjamas & cashmere sweaters with four arms, dog spa treatments, special dog rooms with private gardens, dog-sitting services, even shampoo for the love of our life, although I'm not sure personally I would be prepared to share my bubble bath with Eddy, as my own scruffy friend malts more than I do! Hotels such as The Bath Priory, Ace Hotel in London, W Opera in Paris, the Rome Cavaliere and Inn on the Lake in Amsterdam are not only the perfect getaways for us human-folk, but all unique examples of being particularly "canine-friendly" destinations. There is such a thing as a dedicated pet concierge service, where you can find assistance in booking a holiday around your pup. As crazy as it sounds, it's a fast-growing sector within the travel industry, with a growing demand for overseas needs - we are no longer bound to the UK for pet-friendly holidays. James Lohan of Mr & Mrs Smith is quoted within this feature, advising that even they have had a dedicated pet-friendly hotel section throughout their own website for sometime, however recently they're seeing far more interest within this area. He goes on... "A lot of top hotels are realising there's a real market here and they're fast cottoning on. The kind of pampering you get now is pretty insane"! Whilst sunbathing in St Tropez this week, I spotted no end of furries digging in the sand or playing in the sea - small Chihuahuas & (Terriers) through to German Shepherds and even a Rotweiller... dogs of all breeds were sunning it up with their owners on the French Riviera. Needless to say, no matter how dog-friendly my next tropical destination may be, there's an entirely different story to explore when it comes to actually traveling (stress-free!) with my vocal, chicken-legged friend... As loyal and loving as he might be, simply popping to the shops with him is somewhat of a mission! Do you travel with your pets? Have you found a gem of a destination that catered (or didn't!) particularly well? Please do leave a comment below with your ideas, thoughts & recommendations!