January, 2012


26
Jan 12

Time out at the Titanic Spa

Eager to keep-up with my new keep-fit philosophy to eat blueberry pancakes, learn to not humiliate myself at Zumba, and to spa as often as possible, I decided to keep my January motivation going with a bit of guilt-free pampering – much better than calorie-counting and carrot sticks. Sadly, I don’t have the fabulous Canyon Ranch on my doorstep but what I do have, less than an hour away from me, tucked away on the edge of the Pennines in the pretty little mill town of Huddersfield, is one of the UK’s leading eco-friendly retreats, The Titanic Spa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upon at arrival at the handsome old mill, the elegant lobby was brimming with well-to-do ladies swanning around in cosy chocolate-coloured bathrobes. Happily, and much to the relief of my spa-shy husband, there were a few men bobbing about too, hairy legs unashamedly on show. I had a quick nose to see if I could spot any celebrities – the cast of Corrie and North-West WAGs are known to regularly stop by – but today it seems to be mostly couples and mother and daughter teams cashing in on their Christmas presents. After quickly checking-in to our massive apartment (which could easily accommodate up to eight people), we threw on our bathrobes and rushed down to the soak up the spa facilities before our treatments. There was much to choose from but we opted to start our spa journey with a swim in the salt-regulated pool, filled from a natural spring a hundred metres below the building.

 

Post-swim, cobwebs blown away and once again bedecked in our superbly-soft bathrobes, we slipped over to the other side of the spa for our treatments. Unlike the pool area which is bursting with natural light, the treatment area is a serene sanctuary of subdued lighting, squishy seating areas and luxuriant rooms. The Titanic’s environmentally-friendly stance means that they only use skincare companies that share a similar ethos; Decleor, Elemis and Carita all make the cut, but we opted for to try the 100% natural and organic Pinks Boutique range. Now, I don’t want to cause any unnecessary envy but the treatments were wonderful. We were greeted by two genuinely warm, friendly and as it turned out extremely talented therapists who led us to the VIP suite. Here we blissed out for an hour, me with a heavenly facial that combined the perfect amount of head, neck and shoulder massage with aromatic face creams and a mask, and hubby with a massage of such skill that he slid off the table like a ribbon at the end of the session.

 

That would have been enough for the most slavish of sybarites but it seemed even more delicious spa treats lay in wait. So after a quick break over some champagne and chocolates it was time to tackle the Titanic’s signature Heat and Ice Experience. Here, we melted any lingering stresses as we moved between the penetrating heat of the Crystal steam room to the cooling Experience Shower, on to the Herbal Infusion hammam to a shriek-inducing cool down under an ice-cold bucket of water. Brrr… On we went to the sauna, saunarium, and aromatherapy room via the chilled plunge pool (which I wasn’t brave enough for but my part-penguin husband loved) to end our day in the Egyptian Mud Chamber.

 

 

We drew mud love hearts on each other (not really)

 

Stepping into our private hammam we were presented with what looked to be a bowl of ice-cream scoops and told to apply the various organic muds to our bodies. Each “scoop” worked on a different area with a white moisturising face mud, a clay-coloured body mud and a black exfoliating scrub mud for the legs. So there we were, in a steaming room, stripped bare, and rubbing sweet-smelling sludge on each – not your average Monday afternoon. After we had gotten over the hilarity of the situation, we did manage to relaxed into our intense twenty minute steam session. Whoa! it was hot (not in that way) and just when we thought we couldn’t take much more we were saved from collapsing in a naked muddy heap by a tropical rain shower bursting from the ceiling. Sweet relief and I have to say, I don’t think my skin has ever been left so soft following a treatment.

 

 

 

 

All that was left to do was change into some clothes and stop by the Titanic bistro. This was my one and only niggle, as after enjoying a flawless spa day it was a real shame that the food just didn’t live up to the same high standards. The menu items may well be all natural, organic and locally-sourced, with consideration given to vegetarians and vegans, but unfortunately it was also rather uninspired and lacking in flavour. The dining area itself is pleasant enough but it’s probably not a good idea to have an open show kitchen when microwaving is your main mode of culinary operations.

 

Apart from that one let down though, the Titanic Spa is fabulous and I would highly recommend it. The staff are as good as you would find in any five-star London Grande Dame, the spa and treatments exquisite and the apartments comfortable and relaxing.

 

 

 Titanic Spa, Huddersfield: Tel 0845 410 3333; www.titanicspa.com ; Overnight Spa packages available for £109pp


16
Jan 12

Detoxing Celebrity-style at the Canyon Ranch Miami

 It would be fair to say that after three back-to-back trips in less than a month, followed by a Christmas and New Year feasting frenzy, I could now happily weigh-in alongside a team of Russian shot-putters and am a prime candidate for gout, in fact if I carry on at this rate I will have no feet by February. So, something has to be done and I’ve come to the shocking conclusion that I am going to have to eat less and move more. And where better to start this radical new regime than at the Canyon Ranch Miami Beach, Hollywood’s favourite wellness retreat.

Now, I do love a trip to the spa but I’ve never really felt the urge to use my holiday time to detox. It just doesn’t sound much … fun really, but with a guest list that includes Shakira, Eva Longoria, Terri Hatcher, January Jones, as well as Jason Statham and Gerard Butler (spas aren’t just for the ladies any more!), the Canyon Ranch promised to be more than your average health spa. There may be 230 classes a week, resident doctors, nutritionist and physiotherapists, and a lofty keep-fit philosophy but there are also lashings and lashings of luxury and a fair amount of fun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On arrival, I was pleased to see that the lobby was definitely more Kenzo than Tenko, showcasing original Art Deco features of the original Carillon Hotel alongside the upscale elegant designs of New York architect David Rockwell. The rooms too were plush, inviting and surprisingly large – even by American standards – each with vast living rooms and kitchens, spacious spa-style bathrooms and broad balconies overlooking the ocean.

So far, so good. And after a good night’s sleep in my jumbo bed I’m up and at ‘em. The Canyon Ranch does have a reputation for taking a serious approach to health and fitness though so I fully expected warm cabbage-water and wheatgrass for breakfast but no, instead – and much to my delight – I’m presented with a plentiful plate of organic blueberry pancakes, coming in at less than 300 calories, including the syrup! So this is how those celebs manage to stay so skinnylicious! Here’s the recipe if you want to try it out yourself (you really should). And if you love this recipe as much as I do, you can find more here

Whole-Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes with Fruit
Ingredients
1/2 cup bread flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup cane sugar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoon aluminum free baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 large egg
1/4-1/2 cup 2% milk
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup berries or chopped fruit  (Blueberries and bananas work well in this recipe.)
12 tablespoons pure maple syrup Instructions1. In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients. In a medium bowl combine remaining wet ingredients and mix well. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until smooth.
2. Lightly coat a griddle or large sauté pan with canola oil. Place on burner over medium heat until hot. Portion approximately 3 tablespoons batter on griddle and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon berries or chopped fruit. Cover fruit with 1 additional tablespoon batter and cook until bubbles form. Flip and cook other side to golden brown.
3. Serve 3 pancakes topped with 2 tablespoons of maple syrup.Serving Information
Makes 6 (3-pancake) servings, each containing approximately: 365 calories, 70 gm. carbohydrate, 6 gm. fat, 54 mg.cholesterol, 10 gm. protein, 469 mg. sodium, 4 gm. fibre.

Loving the idea that eating healthily could taste so good (this Canyon Ranch even allows alcohol, unlike its sister resorts in Tuscon and Lenox, but, of course, here the cocktails are organic, the beer biodynamic and the red wine green) I’m now convinced the keep-fit side of things will be a breeze too.

 

 

 

 

 

I bypassed the enormous indoor rock climbing wall, the spectacular state-of-the-art gym overlooking the ocean, and the four swimming pools and instead opted for my first ever Zumba class. Zumba was invented in Miami and claims to be an easy-to-follow, Latin inspired, calorie-burning dance fitness party. Sounds fun right? I thought so. I like a party and, although the only time I really dance is on nights-out when copious amounts of alcohol seem only to serve to enhance my natural dancing ability, I felt sure I could hold my own. Not so. My first ever Zumba turned out to be a somewhat humiliating experience as within moments I came to the sudden, stark and sober realisation that – I can’t dance! While the rest of the class, including a couple of nip-tucked octogenarians, pranced around the room in a series of highly-coordinated hip-shaking movements, I found myself flailing about like a mad jellyfish, facing the wrong way (more than once) and gasping for air like a guppy. Strangely though, I loved it and by the end of the sessions I was caught up in the feverish good fun of it all and happily ran around the room high-fiving strangers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was only one thing to remedy this sudden outburst of American-like enthusiasm and that was to head to the spa for some calm downtime. A 70,000 sq.ft shimmering, mosaic-covered sanctuary awaited me. Two floors of gently-lit sumptuous rooms, tropical “experiential” showers, pools of healing waters, thermal cabins, soaking tubs, laconiums, and an igloo (yes, really) made for a fabulous A-list experience. The massage too (just about) lived up to its $240 price tag with a hundred minutes of pounding, pressing and pulling inspired by ancient techniques used on Thai warriors.

Needless to say, as I enter into 2012 I believe that these celebrities have got the right idea and from now on I will be stuffing myself with pancakes, embarrassing myself at Zumba and all-day spa-ing wherever possible. Who’s with me?

GO THERE

Canyon Ranch Hotel and Spa, Miami Beach: Tel 305-514-7000; http://www.canyonranch.com/miamibeach/; From $400


2
Jan 12

New Year’s Eve at The Setai Miami

Well, we may tightening our belts and pinching our pennies over here in the UK but it seems that the shimmering beachside city of Miami may have missed the memo about the worldwide economic downturn. Over in South Beach, the limos are lined up and the champagne is chilling for the inevitable influx of super-celebrities ready to hit the famous New Year’s Eve party scene – Lady Gaga, P-Diddy, J-Zee and Beyonce, Gwen Stefani and Owen Wilson are amongst a huge list of stars that have chosen Miami as the place to “bring in the bells” over the last few years. And the hottest ticket for 2012? The Midnight in Marrakech Ball at The Setai.

The Lowdown

Even without a glamorous party on the go, The Setai is one seriously alluring place to be. The gorgeous, design-conscious hotel may have been open for six years now but it still has the heady buzz of a brand new opening so I was thrilled to make it my first stop on my pre-Christmas tour of Miami. Celebrity sightings at The Setai, where the enormous rooms can easily accommodate an extensive entourage, are too numerous to mention. Most recently the X-Factor USA judges, contestants and crew took over the hotel, laying down tracks in the Lenny Kravitz designed recording studio like Jay-Z and Chris Brown before them. Simon Cowell, of course, bagged the best room – in fact he won’t stay anywhere else in Miami – checking into the incredible four-bedroom Penthouse suite complete with rooftop lap pool, Jacuzzis-a-go-go, Baby Grand piano and a wine cellar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you can’t afford to drop $30,000 a night from your Prada wallet then there are another 86 ultra-chic suites to choose from. All have spectacular floor-to-ceiling windows affording views of the city or beach (or both if you’re lucky) and come with designer beds and threads, deep black granite bathtubs, rain showers, Asprey amenities, 50” TVs, Bose sound systems and Illy coffee makers. And the little touches – I love the little touches – each guest is also provided with a gorgeous raffia beach bag, sandals and sarongs. Fabulous.

 

The Highlights

The Setai is a knock-out of a hotel. From the minute you walk through the splendid Art Deco exterior, of what was once the Dempsey Vanderbilt Hotel, you’re met with an entirely different South Beach experience. There are no ice-cream colours and squidgy furnishings here, instead The Setai has opted for a cool Asian aesthetic and has totally nailed it. A soothing palette of polished woods, honey-coloured stone floors and perfectly positioned artworks are offset with flashes of oatmeal and orange – including a stunning display of 500 amber-like roses.

 

 

 

 

 

It says a lot about a hotel when you just don’t want to leave, even with a city as spectacular as Miami on your doorstep, but there was nothing else for it. After a morning spent meandering around the hotel’s tropical gardens and flitting between the three temperature-controlled swimming pools, it was time for a Mediterranean inspired lunch at The Setai Pool and Beach Bar. Thankfully the food lived up to my now incredibly high expectations (as did the cocktails) and come three o’clock I had to practically be wheeled to my spa appointment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The spa at The Setai, which carries through the same serene South East Asian vibe, overlooks South Beach and is an intimate, peaceful and stylish space. I booked in for the Ila Kundalini Back Massage which involves working on the spine to unblock the build-up of negative energy caused by stress. Now, I’m not sure if my Chakras were cleansed or any other kind of inner magic replenished but I did fall asleep within five minutes and felt wonderful when I was gently awakened from my slumber an hour later. The perfect pick-up before a night on the town.

Star Style

 

 

The ladies of Miami take their swimwear very seriously indeed so, apart from needing that all important NYE party dress, you’ll be wanting some stylish swimwear. ReallyRee over on the Hello! blog, Attempts at a Stylish Life, put me on to a beautiful beachwear collection from Paolita. If you’ve got the body and the confidence, this gorgeous silver swimsuit from their Spring/Summer ’12 collection is sure to make an impact.

 

Luxur One Piece £140 Paolita.co.uk

 

 

 

 

GO THERE

The Setai; Tel (305) 520 6000; http://www.setai.com/; Rates from US$550

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