Monday, 2 April 2012

Spa Review: spa LONDON

Bianca's Beauty Blog was invited to new spa, spa LONDON, ahead of its official launch tomorrow (April 3rd). Blog representative Gillian reports on her experience.

--What does the promo say?--
“spa LONDON provides the perfect escape. Combining the best of traditional, thermal therapies honed over centuries, with leading contemporary treatments, there is nowhere better to indulge yourself and restore harmony to your life. An oasis of calm, where you can leave the stresses and strains of modern life behind you. spa LONDON offers the perfect environment in which to restore both mind and body, lifting your spirits through each experience.”

--The reality--
I arrived at spa LONDON in Marshall Street W1, to a very sunny and as usual busy London town. Situated close to Regent, Oxford & Carnaby Streets it offers the perfect escape and possibly a welcome addition to a perfect girls' day out. The men who work and live in the area will also find that essential pick you up or wind down that is often needed in a busy city life too.

Upon entry, the receptionist on the ground floor telephoned to announce my arrival. This was a nice touch, as despite being early, at the bottom of the stairs (lift also available) I was welcomed by my beauty therapist, the charming Fatima. Knowing that I was there to look around the facility for the first time, I was also introduced to the manageress Lisa, and given the opportunity to look around the thermal spa area and ask questions about the facilities.

I was not disappointed: spa LONDON welcomes its clients to a clean and modern “easy on the eye” environment and a pleasing ambience, with scented candles burning and fresh green apples for the taking. I particularly liked the spacious named treatment rooms, many with showers, and the thoughtful frescos in reception (Peaceful, Energising, Calming, Tranquillity, Serene, Uplifting, and Soothing) and comfortable sofas provided to relax in while awaiting your treatment.

I then embarked upon nearly 2 hours of sheer bliss, which delivered several of the above fresco promises. All the important things were in place: a warm low lit room, enough instruction, privacy and change time to get ready for my treatment. I was also provided with the music of my choice, which could have been my own iPod if I’d liked, and a heated treatment bed; the scene was set.

Firstly I experienced the Spa London Body Massage, £59. Fatima made sure to ask me how I liked my massage - most important for a girl who likes a firm hand and who is prone to bouts of “tickleness”! (If you can’t press hard please don’t touch my neck and feet!) Thankfully what followed was one of the best 50+ minutes ever, with every moment well spent. I have experienced everything from the ex-Army deep muscle massage of a sport physiotherapist to a limp wristed massage which should have been called a body “stroke.” What a joy to experience just what was requested. I’m particularly sure, after my circuit class earlier that morning, my upper back will have really enjoyed this as much as I did. Along with the peppermint aroma of the treatment room I felt relaxed and moisturised all over - heaven. Another bonus following this treatment was that a shoulder joint that I have been experiencing some minor problems with certainly felt better the next day.

Next followed my first Elemis Skin Solutions Modern Skin Facial, £57. I think it’s probably the first facial in which I nearly fell asleep - maybe that was the lavender aroma of one of the products used? Elemis use pure extracts in its products, another being rose, and neither of which was too strong. Whatever this facial delivers it certainly relaxes you, and was extremely enjoyable. In addition your hands, head, arms and neck also get a massage - utter bliss & probably one of the best facials I’ve experienced. Afterwards advice, not sales pressure, was offered. This was welcome and I purchased an Elemis eye mask, which will also be reviewed soon on Bianca's Beauty Blog. The following day, looking in my mega magnifying mirror, the open pores on my nose were most definitely diminished. A few Elemis sachets were also given for trial (some may also be reviewed here at a later date, but only if the samples are big enough to allow this). My one regret was not taking along a hair brush, as this facial included some head massage, so one would have been useful.

Spa LONDON has also decided to offer dedicated male & female times in the Thermal Spa relaxation sauna and steam room areas. What an excellent idea for those of us who still feel that men are from Mars and women from Venus! For those of us who prefer to glow alongside each other, mixed sessions are evening from 4pm to 9pm & and all day at weekends. This ruling does not impact on the private treatment rooms

Spa LONDON W1 has its official launch on the 3rd April between 6 & 9pm. I urge you, be you visitor, worker or resident of W1, to visit; I doubt you will be disappointed. For further infomation, see here.

If you live or work further afield in London, spa LONDON also have venues in York Hall E29, Swiss Cottage NW3, and Wimbledon SW19, as well as in Epsom KT17. If these locations offer therapists with the same skills, I would like to recommend you give them a try also, and see if they offer the same city haven. ENJOY! I did, and although I don’t live in the area I would return, most probably added onto a girls' shopping day.

Prices for treatments can be found here.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

The Perfume Lover: A Personal History of Scent (Denyse Beaulieu)

 --The blurb--
"What if the most beautiful night in your life inspired a fragrance? Denyse Beaulieu is a [...] fragrance writer; it is her world, her love, her life. When she was growing up, perfume was forbidden in her house, spurring a childhood curiosity that went on to become a[...] passion. It is this passion she pursued all the way to Paris, where she now lives, and entered the secretive world of the perfume industry. But little did she know that it would lead her to achieve a fragrance lover’s wildest dream …When Denyse tells a famous perfumer of a [...] night spent in Seville under an orange tree in full blossom, wrapped in the arms of a beautiful young man, the story stirs his imagination and together they create a scent that captures the essence of that night. This is the story of that perfume. As the unique creative collaboration unfolds, the perfume-in-progress conjures intimate memories, leading Beaulieu to make sense of her life through scents. Throughout, she weaves the [...] history of perfumery into her personal journey [...]: the masters and the masterpieces; the myths and the myth-busting, down to the molecular mysteries that weld our flesh to flowers…[...]Your world will never smell the same."

--The review-- 
I always enjoy receiving books for review, but I especially enjoy receiving titles that are relevant to the multiple audiences of my very different blogs (and not only so that I can cross-post the review!), as such books quite frequently offer insights "behind the scenes" of the world we often get only limited glimpses of - in this case, the complex world of perfumery. Beaulieu's privileged position as perfume writer and general expert (she teaches courses on perfume in institutes in London and Paris) means that we are allowed access to this world at last, in a candid yet approachable fashion.

But there is more to it than this. This beautifully-presented edition of The Perfume Lover, which came wrapped in black tissue and pink ribbon, and with a sample of the perfume created by Beaulieu in the book, is a truly interdisciplinary adventure. Not only does Beaulieu effortlessly blend the history of perfume with her own selective biography, she also takes us on a rich journey through religion, art, literature, and etymology. By combining this with perfumers' secrets of the industry and the mechanics of making a perfume, we almost feel like she is doing the latter herself in book form as she mixes all of these 'notes' to make a unified whole.

We are certainly not disappointed by the amount or quality of insider information that Beaulieu gives us: we are let into how far celebrities are really involved in creating the scents bearing their names (answer: it varies!), told which perfumes are favoured by luminaries such as Michael Jackson (answer: Bal à Versailles), and told why you'll never find a bad review of a perfume in a magazine or newspaper (answer: you'll have to read The Perfume Lover to find out). All of this sets us up for an intriguing read - but none of it is the main part of the story.

Throughout the book we are given tantalising views not only of the laboriousness of the perfume-making process (hundreds of formulae can be conducted in the creation of just one perfume, in the hope of hitting on the right combination) but also into the perfume that Denyse herself created, leaving us wondering what the perfume (whose sample is given with the book) will finally be like when we sprinkle it on our skins. When I finally did, I can't pretend it was completely as I had expected, and obviously reactions, likes, and dislikes will vary from person to person. But there is certainly a thrill to be had not only in knowing that you're testing a perfume that's not due out for another 6 months (it will be released by L'Artisan Parfumeur in the autumn), but also that you know the entire story and process behind it, in intimate detail.

This brings us to the only negative that I detected in this book. While Beaulieu is a master of beautiful description and detail, this does at time lead to too much information regarding her own sex life and what I perceive to be her personal levels of promiscuity (do readers really need to know that as a young girl she practised fellatio techniques on ice cream cones?!). Indeed, for someone who is clearly intelligent and talented, this promiscuity is disappointing; while perfume clearly has a sensual aspect, and Beaulieu is not wrong to emphasise this in the book, in some aspects of this she does take it too far for my liking.

This also means that despite her literary talents I am unlikely to read any more of the books that Beaulieu has worked on as a translator. I mention this because as a translator myself I wouldn't ever associate my name with anything I would be ashamed of or was contrary to my morals and interests. People see that a translator is associated with a work and it can influence their views on that person, even if they did not write it. With empty-headed chick lit on offer (mostly in French, but also in English) and a book about sex games and the history of sexuality (available in French and in English) among Beaulieu's translation repertoire, I somehow have the feeling that our interests don't coincide much, and it therefore doesn't endear me to her in terms of what she may put out in future. This is a great shame, as The Perfume Lover itself makes for an enjoyable and fascinating read. I'll therefore be very interested to see what Beaulieu has waiting in the wings for us.

This review has been cross-posted to Bianca's Book Blog.