A Spa day at Center parcs

This post was published in 2013. For a more up to date review, please read this post: Whinfell Forest Spa Review 

This year we are super pleased to be working with Center Parcs as part of their family blogger club. As part of this experience we were invited to enjoy some pampering at one of their aqua sana spa's. We were not obliged to blog about  it, however we had such a fabulous experience that I wanted to tell you all about it.


We had never visited Center Parcs prior to this visit. The communication between the spa and ourselves before our visit was fantastic and when we arrived at Center Parc's Whinfell, the security team were expecting us and directed us where to park our car and handed over a map with directions of how to get to the spa.

We enjoyed a 15 minute stroll through the woods towards the spa. I think it would be impossible to get lost here, every 4th lamp post displays directions which is a fantastic touch (follow the squirrel for the spa).

Our check in at the spa was smooth. We were given a personal locker key which contained our own robe and towels. As part of our spa experience we enjoyed pastries and coffee in the vitality cafe-bar which was a lovely start to our day. The quality of the food and coffee was very good.

World of spa

World of spa is the best spa I have experienced in the UK. There are so many ways to relax. The whole spa area is huge with heated floor tiles and cosy corners throughout. There is a special designated quiet area as well which is a nice place for those who want total calm. Soothing music is piped around the spa and there are refreshment tables dotted around with water and juices that you can help yourself to. There are lots and lots of loungers, reclining chairs, tables and foot stools which was very refreshing to see. In all of my previous spa experiences there are never enough. That is certainly not the case here.

There were always attendants available to refresh your towels and replenish drinks.

There are two small pools for you to enjoy - the first one is indoors and is part pool/part jacuzzi. I think idea is to swim around the pool which has various jets/bubbles which focus on different areas.

The outdoor pool is heated but is just warm - not hot. It was strangely very pleasent floating around outdoors in the rain for a while.

Now for the main part of the spa, there are 15! yes 15 experiences to enjoy. Some are dry, some are steamy, some are hot some are freezing. They are all wonderful though and you definitely need to try them all if you are here. All of the experiences are in small rooms distributed around the spa and each has an 'experience' shower attached to it. You can choose different settings on the shower depending on your personal preference. The idea is to shower - enjoy experience - shower again. There are signs by every experience door detailing what to expect and a recommended time to spend in the room (most are 10-15 minutes)

One of my favourite experiences was the  Greek Herbal bath. Everybody has their own individual seat in a room that is strongly influenced by Greek design. The focal point of the room is a herb table featuring chamomile, sage and rosemary. Every 12 minutes steam released over the herbs which fills the room with a lovely relaxing scent.

Another favourite room of mine was the Japanese Salt Steam room. This room was very hot and steamy - so much so that it was hard to see in front of you when you first entered the room. This room is circular and the main feature is a rose quartz in the centre of the room which is said to relax. The chairs are designed to that you lie back and inhale the salt and steam. Very good for clearing the airways!

Other rooms to enjoy include a large traditional sauna, a Turkish hamman, Indian blossom steam room, Laconium and a Balinese steam room. 

These rooms were never crowded and you were free to come and go as many times as you pleased throughout the day.

Other parts of the spa to enjoy are the Japanese spa garden and Tyrolean garden. It was a bit too cold to brave the gardens in January but they were nice to admire from inside. 

There is also an overflowing ice fountain which you are encouraged to use straight after the sauna! Talk about a shock to your system! Invigorating though! We also enjoyed using the reflexology foot baths - there are 4 near the entrance. You pop your feet in, press the start button and wait whilst the bath fills with water, bubbles and then drains away. Lovely!

In the quiet zone there are 4 water beds which looked amazing! They are covered in luxurious bedding and surrounded with drapes and candles. They looked wonderful however we didn't get a chance to have a go as people did tend to stay on these for hours so we never got a chance. Never mind - there is always next time!

There are 3 group spa sessions in the sauna and 3 complimentary beauty classes throughout the day. I have heard hear are fun, however we didn't participate on this occasion.

Lunch was included in our spa day and is a very chilled out affair. It is taken in the vitality cafe and you are encouraged to enjoy wearing your robe. My husband enjoyed a fresh salmon salad and I enjoyed a Spanish style panini with chorizo and roasted peppers. Both lunches were served with freshly squeezed orange juice and were of a very high standard. Service was also very good. There are a range of hot and cold drinks, champagne and even cocktails on offer so a great place to take a breather if relaxing is all getting too much.

My husband was booked in for a men's stress reliever massage and facial. His treatment lasted for an hour and it was very relaxing.

I opted for an Indian head massage as I've never enjoyed one before. You are asked to wait in the treatment lounge before your treatment where you can help yourself to herbal teas and juices. You are also asked to complete a short health questionnaire.

My therapist called me through to her treatment room and the treatment was thoroughly explained. She left the room while I made myself comfortable. The treatment was lovely and relaxing and used the most gorgeous smelling oil on my hair. It ended with my therapist giving me personalised ideas for perfect products to buy for my skin/hair type (no pressure though). You are then taken through to the post treatment relaxation lounge where again you can help yourself to complimentary herbal teas whilst relaxing on the beds and sofas. My therapist brought me some hot water and lemon which was lovely.

As you can see, we had such a wonderful day at The Aqua Sana spa at Center parcs. I think because of it's size,I perhaps wouldn't recommend it to large groups (as you would probably never see each other as there's so much to do). It is absolutely perfect for mothers and daughters/sisters/couples/groups of 2 or 3 friends to enjoy. Next time a spa day is needed, I will not hesitate to re-book here.

Nb I have taken some photographs from the center parcs/aqua sana website as cameras/phones are not allowed in the spa area.


Double Chocolate Orange Cookies Recipe

This recipe makes 24 cookies so is perfect to make at the start of the week or on a Sunday to use throughout the week as a packed lunch treat/supper and for when your friends pop over.

This recipe was inspired using a recipe from 'The Very Best Baking for Children' cookbook by Usborne books.

Double Chocolate Orange Cookies Recipe


Low Calorie fajitas

We were kindly sent some goodies from the lovely people at discovery foods to try. (You can visit their website which contains lots of recipe inspiration here - www.discoveryfoods.co.uk ) Now both myself and husband are calorie counting at the moment (as are most of the population I think!) so I challenged myself to make a meal that was under 700 kcals.

We diced 2 chicken breasts and a whole pepper and mixed with some 'hot' fajita seasoning and a teaspoon of olive oil. I left this in the fridge to infuse for approximately 30 minutes.

The whole meal took about 10 minutes to put together. We simply fried the chicken and peppers for approximately 10-12 minutes and then popped in a bowl. We then microwaved our discovery wholemeal tortilla wraps (trying to be healthy you see) for about 20 seconds each.

Now the tough part, we normally add A LOT of grated cheese to our fajitas as we make them up. We are easily talking half a pack each at times. We were disciplined though and weighed out just 30g of cheese each and placed in a ramekin on our plate. Be warned, 30g of grated cheese is hardly anything!

Luckily, it turned out we didn't need any extra cheese after all as the chicken and peppers were so flavoursome and spicy. I love how you can choose from mild, medium or hot fajita seasoning. Something for everyone! I'm also happy to report that discovery hot seasoning is actually hot (sadly too often I find that something advertised as hot is in fact just mildly spicy - definitely not the case here).

So, 1 breast of chicken, a tsp of olive oil, half a red pepper, 30g grated cheddar and 3 wholemeal fajitas was just under 700 calories. The meal was very satisfying and I'm hoping because the tortillas were wholemeal I will feel fuller for longer.


Making your own pizza's

We love making our own pizza's. The kids especially enjoy getting involved. Until now we have always used ready made bases, however this week we decided to make our own. It was a lot easier than I imagined.

Makes 2 pizzas
300g strong bread flour
1 tsp instant yeast
1tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
200 ml warm water

Making pizza dough is very simple. In a bowl, stir all of the dry ingredients together, make a well and pour in the warm water and olive oil. Combine everything with a fork. Once you have a dough you need to knead it for approximately 10 minutes. This is when the kids can get really involved, we took it in turns to knead for 2 minutes each. I have to say, I was impressed with their skills! The kids loved it and soon decided they were going to open a pizza shop when they are older.

Next, you need to split your dough into two balls and roll them out into 2 pizza shapes (make sure you use flour so the dough doesn't stick). Once you are happy with the shape, leave to rest in a warm place for 20 minutes. We left ours on the kitchen bench and covered with a tea towel to protect.

It is best to transfer the dough to your baking sheet or tray at this stage, as it is very hard to handle once you have added toppings.

Our children like using tomato ketchup on their pizza's and have lots if fun squirting and spreading! The grown ups used tomato purée.

Next we added grated cheese and various toppings (ham, pepperoni, sweetcorn, peppers and herbs). Then you just need to pop in the oven at about 200 C for 18-20 minutes.

The final result is delicious and much nicer than anything you could buy at the shop plus lots more fun than a takeaway!

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