Amid the trees and cabins of Woburn Forest Center Parcs lies a tranquil haven, the Aqua Sana Spa, which gives non-residents the chance to experience something of the Scandi-chic holiday resort.
I visited with my husband on a dreary Thursday in November. On arrival we were handed towels and robes, and once we had changed into our swimming costumes, we passed through the changing rooms and were immediately transported to a fragrant and warm world, far away from cold Bedfordshire.
Inside, we saw relaxed, happy people enjoying time together, unbothered by their phones and incessant emails.
Their calm expressions made us feel a bit like we were in an action sci-fi film – the sort where the unsuspecting heroes were treated to fruit juices and massages before having their brains extracted by aliens, or being sacrificed by a cult.
But we soon got into the spa-vibe, and appreciated how the beautiful rooms gave us time to unwind and really focus on each other. We noticed other couples similarly pleased to remember how much fun the other person was, while groups of women naturally fell into giggly conversations, sharing the secrets that once told in a spa, stay in a spa.
Aqua Sana is also a place to go for solitary relaxation. Some people, revelling in having a moment to themselves, took books, read the complimentary magazines or simply shut their eyes in quiet mediation.
The experience started with a snack and drink in the Vitae Cafe, with its beautiful view over the forest. We sidestepped the healthy options going instead for pastries, coffee and hot chocolate. Thus laden with calories and caffeine, we set off to explore.
Aqua Sana is set over two floors, each divided into themed areas: Fire and Ice, Blossom, Herbal, Sensory, Mineral and Gemstone and Salt. These contained pretty much the same ingredients - a steam room, a sauna, showers and a chill-out area. However, each area had such a different look and feel to the others that it was like a mini-adventure going round them.
As part of our day we chose the Serail Mud Treatment as our optional extra. We were led through the curvy corridors to our own private steam room where two pots of mud were waiting to be applied to our bodies, faces and hair. Once left alone we had a fun time smearing ourselves with the therapeutic mud until we looked like we’d just come from a particularly wet Glastonbury Festival. While it did its magic, the room heated up with steam. When we’d had enough, we washed it off, scoffed the complimentary chocolate-coated strawberries, said a firm no to the complimentary champagne and headed back to the main spa with our skin feeling smoother.
After an included lunch of juice and salad (we were definitely getting into the health and detox vibe by now) we sampled some of the other facilities.
My favourite was the reflexology footbaths. While lounging on a comfy chair, you put your feet in an individual bath which is filled with hot water and have three massaging programmes to choose from. Bliss.
There is also an amazing infinity pool which allows you to swim out of the building in wonderfully warm water. Once outside the pool has beautiful forest views, and at this time of year it is exhilarating have the autumnal chill on your face.
While taking a husband on what could be perceived as a girly destination could have been a disaster, it proved to be a great decision. Aqua Sana is for anyone who fancies a pamper, male or female, with a friends or without.
We agreed it was such a wonderful day, we’ve promised ourselves a return trip soon.