The dead week between Xmas and New Year sucks. You feel fat and bored and the excitement of seeing your family for the first time in 6 months has worn off. It's a dull week, with rubbish weather, and half your friends are already back at work.
This crap week is the perfect time to book a mini break, and with the only option of sun south of the equator (And who can afford a quick flight to Australia after Christmas?), I suggest you all take my advice next year and book yourself a spa break. You can get some great all inclusive offers, so sign up to the emails to some of those places you have always wished to go, and wait until that offer comes up and 'boom' - treat yourself to a decent Christmas present.
We booked two nights at The Celtic manor in Newport. I've wanted to stay here for ages. The journey is easy from London. Newport is literally over the bridge into Wales, a two hour journey straight up the M4, junction 24.
The resort consists of two adjoining hotels, a country inn, luxury lodges, two spas, 6 restaurants, three championship golf courses, two golf and country clubs, high ropes courses, adventure golf, laser tag, archery and a multi-purpose conference centre. It was the venue for the 2010 Ryder Cup, so if you are into your golf, it's good for that. My boyfriend and I aren't into golf, but we are into massages and eating - both you can have here in abundance.
We arrived the day after Boxing Day. After three days with mine and my boyfriend's family, we were excited about some 'us time'. We arrived around 1pm and got settled into our room (the Resort rooms are all huge, with balconies, so there was no need for me to attempt to blag an upgrade.) The spas all use Elemis products, which is great because you get decent shampoo and conditioner in your rooms too. I'm the kind of person who likes to go empty handed to places, so a resort like this is ideal for me as everything is under one roof.
On the first night, we booked in for dinner Terry M restaurant. It's a fine dining restaurant, so not cheap, but certainly worth the expense. The food is unreal and we spent most of the night asking Alex, their wine guy, all about wine. He talked us through what was what, which was fun and led to us having a gorgeous fruity Cabinet Sauvignon with our meal. We got a little bit tipsy and went to our rooms whilst rapping on Snapchat... you can take the kids outta London ;-)
The following day my boyfriend and I treated ourselves to a couple of massages. I had moaned for weeks about a knot in my shoulder, so asked for a masseuse with a lot of experience. I got a girl called Rhiannon Clarke (you have to name check the gods you meet in your life, it's only fair!) She came with an "I go hard" pre warning and I left feeling battered and bruised but cured.
That evening we arranged for dinner at The New Bridge on Usk. It's a gorgeous little cottagey-type gastro pub in the middle of a field. The concierge arranged Ray, our taxi man to drive us the 12 mile round trip, so we made a mate too.
It's ran by Ronan Hunter, previously head waiter at The Fat Duck. It's unbelievably tasty food, generous portions in a gastro pub environment. I couldn't't have left more stuffed if I had eaten Ronan too.
Overall The Celtic Manor was the ideal break. It came at a time when it was so much needed, it was that tranquil few days of relaxation I needed after a crazy year and busy but wonderful Christmas. I read that today (Monday) is Divorce Monday. According To Divorcedepot.co.uk 1.8 Million couples argued over the festive break. Well, it's easy to, but I think sandwiching a break in between the highs of Christmas and the lows of January helped and I think all couples could do with that 'pause and pick me up' time off in between. It can't hurt a relationship can I? (Imagine if someone reading this was about to get a divorce and then thought, "Oh, a spa. Ok, I'll try that..." HA)
I've gone a bit 'spa crazy' in 2013. Weird how something a few years ago which I would have deemed boring has now become my favourite pass times. So what I've done it collate some of my tips to share with you. YOU.ARE.WELCOME
My Spa Advice:
• I've sat through too many weak massages. You are paying on average £1 a minute. Speak up. And always explain the type of massage you want when booking. There's often a big difference between someone who specialises in deep tissue and someone who can only tickle.
• I learned this piece of advice from my mate Russell Kane. On arriving in your hotel room always request an extra room key so you can keep the air con on when you leave, and an extra pillow. (Trust me, you will love him as much as I do after this one.)
• Learn your wines: hotels are there to make money. If you know that the 2001 California Cabanet Sauvignon is nicer than it's more expensive, older cousin, you'll be quids in.
• Get to know the staff/ be polite. It's because we knew the name of our housekeeper that she kindly gave me extra Elemis shower gel to take away at the end of our trip. A perfect gift for my mates when I arrived home all cheery and chilled.
• Bring flip flops: there is nothing more annoying than putting on socks and boots to get in a lift back up to your room.
• Do your research: the Celtic Manor has 6 restaurants. I knew what was what as I looked online, but had I not, I could had skipped my favourite foods and not ventured out.
• Don't do it all: if you find yourself in your hotel room at 5pm watching Come Dine With Me, so be it. You are there to RELAX, stop running around trying to do it all and chill, however that may be.
• Deals: places as big as The Celtic Manor often have amazing deals. Sign up to the emails and grab some amazing bargains. You can get a night in the resort with breakfast for two for as little as £109 at the moment and the offers go all year round. Find a place you like the look of, sign up to emails and wait for a great offer like that.
Remember that 'crap week' and don't have another one again.