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A few weeks ago, I felt the need for some serious indulgence and quality ‘me’ time so I booked a visit to The Sanctuary, a ladies-only spa discreetly tucked away in London’s bustling Covent Garden area.
It’s been said that the Sanctuary is ‘an oasis of luxury and tranquillity, where self-indulgence is the only rule’ (ooooh, yes please!), so I thought I’d sacrifice 4 hours of my life to let you, dear reader, know the ins and outs of the joint (er, that’s the spa I’m talking about, not the smoking variety! Ahem!)
To attend the Sanctuary there is a choice of 6 types of ‘memberships’ and 4 ‘Escape’ options which are as follows:
‘Day Membership’ (Mon-Thu) £60;
‘Select Day Membership’ (including Fri/Sat/Sun) £75;
‘Evening Membership’ (Wed-Fri/5pm-10pm) £40;
‘The Sanctuary Spa Membership’ (premium spa membership unlimited use of the Spa) £2460 or £220 per month;
‘Annual Spa Membership’ (Mon-Thu) £2100 or £187 per month;
‘Evening Spa Membership’ (Wed-Fri) £1260 or £112 per month;
‘Day Escape’ (6 visits in the year Mon-Sun for £399 or 12 visits in the year Mon-Sun for £798); and
‘Off Peak Escape’ (6 visits in the year Wed-Fri for £216 or 12 visits in the year Wed-Fri for £420).
All entry fees above include the spa's use of: Sauna, Hammam Steam Room, Sanarium, Atrium Pool, Exercise Swimming Pool, two Spa pools, the Lounge and finally the Meditation Suite.
For private functions, the Sanctuary can offer a full catering service for any number of guests: call 020 7420 5105 for further details.
Day members can attend Mon-Fri from 09:30-17:30 and 09:30-19:30 on weekends. Sat/Sun visits usually require 4-6 weeks notice of reservation. Evening members can only attend Wed-Fri from 17:00-21:30.
To make a reservation or enquire about any of the facilities, call 0870 770 3350 or fax 0870 770 3359 (Mon-Fri 08:00-20:00 or Sat/Sun 09:00-17:00).
All bookings are pre-paid at the time of reservation so keep your flexible friend and a credit card handy when you make that phone call! Once your reservation details are entered on to their database, you’ll be given a unique reference number (because you’re special y’know!) which will have to be quoted should you need to telephone the helpline again.
At the time of making a reservation, you’ll be asked if you’d like to book any treatments which range from:
A series of facials (prices vary from £33 to £85);
Body treatments (mud wraps, salt scrubs etc which cost between £33 and £58); or
Hand treatments (manicure, polish & massage which costs around £25-£39 depending on the duration of the treatment); or
Feet treatments (massage, pedicure etc – again prices vary from £25-£39 depending on duration of the treatment).
You’re advised to arrive 30
Pictures of The Sanctuary
Koi Carp Lounge
minutes prior to any treatments you book if you don’t intend to use any of the spa’s other facilities.
Once all your requirements are noted the operator will inform you that a letter of confirmation will be posted to you with your reference number etc within the next 7 working days. My letter arrived within 3 days!
For a full list of treatments, prices and a location map log on to www.thesanctuary.co.uk
The beauty of attending this spa is that your comfort is essential. To this end, you need to bring very little with you. The Sanctuary supplies you with a towelling robe and towels, cleanser, body lotion, shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, cotton wool make up remover pads and hairdryers! All you need to bring is footwear suitable for damp surfaces/stairs and a swimsuit.
All lotions/gels etc are The Sanctuary’s own brands: a good way to try before you buy, as there is a ‘Sanctuary Shop’ located just inside The Lounge (see below) – but it’s worth noting that the goods available in the shop are not sold at a discount compared with other stockists and can easily be bought from larger Boots stores with the added bonus of totting up Boots Advantage points: need I say more?! ;)
My choice of reservation was a £40 weekday evening visit and my choice of treatment was a relaxing ‘Marma’ Foot Pedicure (£25 for 25 minutes).
If you’d like to treat a friend or loved one to some heavy duty pampering, any of the above treatments or memberships can be purchased in Gift Voucher format as full or part payment towards the visit(s) booked – just telephone the number quoted above or log on to the website for further details.
On arrival you’re required to ‘check-in’. Just hand in your letter of confirmation to one of the many attendants on hand at the desks in ‘reception’ and she’ll strap a cloth band on your wrist (the width of a watch band) – this is your ‘locker key’ and losing it costs you £20, so it’s your responsibility to make sure it’s on properly!
Once ‘check-in’ is complete, you’re escorted to the changing room. Lockers are small (about 17inches wide, 20 inches deep and 15 inches high), so travel light. You are ushered to a locker by an attendant who shows you how to use your strap cloth to open and lock the door before she leaves you to it. Sounds weird, I know, but trust me - it works! The straps don’t have locker numbers on them, so memorise the locker number you’ve been taken to.
Inside each locker is a towelling robe (one size fits all), 2 towels, a clear plastic 'Sanctuary' tote bag for carrying around any essentials (i.e. novel, magazine etc - in my case a notepad and pen to make notes for this review!). Of course, common-sense prevails: jewellery should be kept to a minimum and you don’t need to keep your wallet with you – any purchases you make (see later) are put on “account” under your surname and paid in full on ‘check-out’.
Changing is communal but there are a few curtained cubicles dotted around for those less comfortable undressing amongst strangers. At the far end of the changing room are the showers – these are separated by frosted glass panels, but there are no doors – so you’re visible to those walking by…
Between the changing and shower rooms is another room with stools, and long tables where you can remove/apply make-up; hair dryers are fitted into the panelling and there are wall-to-wall mirrors and ample lighting. This is where the moisturiser, cotton wool pads etc are kept for your use.
Once I changed into my towelling robe and locked any valuables away, I was given a guided tour of the premises by another attendant and also shown where to wait before I was due for my foot treatment. Tour over, I was given a “free drink” token for use in the Koi Carp Lounge, so off I went to choose a beverage!
The Koi Carp Lounge is a sumptuous room with bridges and walkways under which Koi Carp swim by; there are potted palm trees and plants dotted around and ample seating by way of cane chairs, divans and loungers and scattered cushions…
Along one wall is a bar providing a choice of soft drinks, teas, coffees, herbal concoctions and fruit juices. After a hard day at work, Tiger gratefully lapped up a freshly squeezed orange juice: deeelish!
A nice touch about the bar is that there is free use of lemon and lime infused water (jugs of still water with chunks of lemon or lime in them – very refreshing) – just help yourself to a plastic cup nestled next to the jugs and drink away!
From the Koi Carp Lounge I ventured off to pummel away any muscle aches/pains from built-up tension during the working week by taking a dip in the Water Garden Spa pool (jacuzzi).
The pool is 'horseshoe' shaped and 1.22 metres deep: you walk down 6 steps into it (there’s a hand rail, which goes all the way around the pool to help keep your balance). There is a limit of eight guests at a time for no longer than 10 minute slots to reap the full benefits of the hot, gushing water massaging you all over.
At one point I had the entire pool to myself: mmm - thousands of hot bubbles tingling my aching bod into a state of bliss!
Soon it was time for my foot treatment, so I dried myself off and went to the waiting room for my therapist (!) to arrive.
Punctual and polite, she lead me to the treatment room and I filled in a 10 question medical ‘yes/no’ questionnaire. After that, I was asked to lie down on a black leather reclining bench, where my feet were slightly raised in relation to the rest of me!
My masseuse started her magic: first of all was a basic salt scrub to exfoliate and soften my tootsies and then a more intensive massage starting from shin to ankle and then continuing on to the foot. It was heavenly. Once the massage session was over, I was given a glass of water to “re-hydrate”.
By now time was ticking along nicely and Tiger’s tum was starting to purr for attention… Hm, time to get my fangs into some food!
Welcome to “The Lounge” – a haven for IKEA lovers the world over! The furniture is ‘boxy’ and practical, but comfortable on the body and eye – décor is autumnal in colour and lush in texture; lit scented candles gently flicker away ensuring wafts of vanilla, cinnamon and burnt oranges further unwind your senses to a state of total relaxation.
This room has waitress service – so choose your meal, drink and dessert if your daring enough from a menu already set out on each table and tell the waitress your surname - she’ll process the order and add the total bill to your ‘account’.
There is a choice of 5 main meals:
The Italian Style Platter - ham, salami, whole roasted garlic with olives, shaved parmesan, extra virgin olive oil, rocket, mascarpone cheese and a chunk of ciabatta (£12).
The Oriental Platter – Satay chicken strips served with peanut sauce, prawn crackers, steamed dim sum, mooli and spring onion salad with sweet chilli & plum sauce (£12)
The Fish Platter – salmon rosette, Mediterranean prawns, garlic roast potato wedges, cucumber salad with a fresh coriander dressing and crostini (£12)
The Sanctuary Club Sandwich – 3 layers of white toast, smoked bacon, smoked turkey, sliced egg, sliced tomato, iceberg lettuce and mayonnaise (£10) [this is the most popular dish: was sold out by 18:45, so order early to avoid disappointment!]
For dessert there is:
Individual cut fruit platter £6
Warm poached figs £6
Honey and Lemon cheesecake £6
Selection of English Cheese £6
And to drink:
Beverages range from mineral water, tea, coffee and soft drinks to wine and champagne (sold by the glass or by the bottle). Prices are similar to those in most restaurants.
Once my meal was over (for those who want to know, I chose The Lifestyle Platter, washed down with still mineral water – yum!), I returned to the glorious Koi Carp Lounge to soak up the relaxing atmosphere for a while before heading back to the changing rooms and then checking out.
The check-out system is very organised: simply return your cloth wrist strap, state your name and the attendant prints out your invoice for goods purchased. Payment can be made by cash, cheque, or plastic…
I left The Sanctuary purring with love for the world around me – a feeling I recommend everyone should experience! Let’s face it, we all deserve some ‘timeout’… :)
This would make a great present - covered everything I wanted or needed to know
silvajade 06.02.2005 00:43
You pretty much answered all the questions I have ever had there except it wasnt too clear, whether you could book just a one off treatment without having to have one of thos membership things! So I got a tad confused but otherwise sounds like a amazing treat to yourself! Glad you enjoyed it!
salem_witch 20.08.2004 13:08
I would LOVE to go here. I've always wanted to go to a health spa!