TV presenter and @ByramBod fitness expert Amanda Byram checks out some of Australia's hottest spa retreats...
The Shangri-La Hotel, Sydney
Ohh la la... The Shangri-La's reputation definitely precedes it, possibly as one of the world's most luxurious hotels. Stepping into the lobby - a little oasis in the heart of Sydney's CBD (Central Business District) you feel a sense of old world grandeur that you don't find much of in Sydney's kicking modern city. The lobby's vast marble floors lead, like the yellow brick road, to the lobby lounge. Tea enthusiasts be prepared for your taste buds to get tickled, as you are enticed to wallow in the comfy sofas under lofty high ceilings while your bags are being delivered to your room, and indulge in one of their tea experiences. Choose between the traditional high tea or the decadent chocolate high tea! Marble lobbies and tea (exceptional as they are) aren't exactly out of the ordinary, but where the Shangri-La kicks serious hotel war butt, is the moment you walk into your room... They know that this is their equivalent of Superman's Kryptonite or Samson's hair... The view. Ohh La la Shangri-La... The view. Superman and Samson would be proud.
Opening the door to Room 1710, on the 17th floor was like opening the wardrobe into Narnia, a mere door is all that stands between you and the most fantastical, unbelievable view. One of the world's most famous vistas hits you like you've been smacked in the face with a postcard. But no paper cuts here, just a lack of breath as the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House in all their glory lye in wait, leaving you gasping.
The bedroom, cosy, comfortable and like a scene from a Galaxy chocolate bar ad with its gold and chocolate hues begging the question "why have cotton when you can have silk?" The bathroom was fit for the Queen of Narnia, marble everywhere, left over from the lobby perhaps, a walk in shower you could happily set up home in, and delicious products to wet your appetite for the spa that awaits.
The Spa: CHI Spa
Whispers are the order of the day at CHI spa. A softly spoken therapist puts you at ease in a split second as you're ushered to a waiting area and wrapped in a "Kashwere" robe, designed especially for CHI Spa. I would personally like to suggest that the designer of this robe be nominated for the world's first Humanitarian Comfort Award. I could happily have stayed in that robe all day, but time for The Signature Sodashi facial (Sodashi products are all organic and made in W. Australia). For 90 minutes my face was treated to a range of pleasures, first a clay cleanser with sandalwood and a balancing exfoliator wiped away the jet lag from my pore clogged skin. Chamomile eye gel, skin boost serum were all applied before the clay and organic salt heated thermal mask was applied, during which my hands and feet were massaged. Deep breaths were recommended as I inhaled sandalwood, and it felt like I was being administered gas and air as I was swept away into a euphoric state. Narnia would have to wait.
To Eat: Altitude Restaurant
If being in room 1710 felt like being on top of the world, I clearly hadn't see the view from 'BLU BAR on 36'. Because Yep, you guessed it, it's on the 36th floor! Don your finest frock and be sure to start the evening with a cocktail there, and if you're afraid of heights don't look down. Shimmy over to ALTITUDE restaurant as the sun goes down over Darling Harbour, Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House and watch the city twinkle as you fine dine on Australian cuisine. If you can peel your eyes off the view to inspect the menu, I recommend the prawn with crab, caviar and melon and freshly shucked Sydney rock oysters, lemon granite/pickled seaweed to start. Australian fish barramundi served with kombu, smoked forest mushrooms, yuzu, chicken floss, mussel foam. YUM! For meat lovers - the Black Angus with oxtail croquette, liquorice, potato, onion ash is to die for. And if all that wasn't enough, try the selection of three cheeses, each paired with a different wine and the banana and peanuts, with white chocolate, caramel, crumble to round off the evening! No need for the elevator - You'll positively roll back down to your room!
Mornings aren't void of a good slap up. The buffet is second to none, incorporating cuisines from around the world. From eggs cooked any style (get in the queue), Asian, Mexican and many exotic fruits, cheeses, smoked salmon, and their very own honeycomb. A perfect start to the day!
There is a very well equipped gym should you want to sweat it out indoors, but Sydney with its rugged coastline and beautiful weather will make you want to enjoy outdoor activities instead. Don't miss a surf lesson with the gang at LETS GO SURFING down on Bondi Beach. They are the best teachers in town, and come hell or high tide, they'll have you cruising the waves in no time, an absolute Sydney MUST!
Words: Amanda Byram
Kuoni (01306 747008 or www.kuoni.co.uk) offers 7 nights on room only at the 5-star Shangri-La Hotel, Sydney in a deluxe harbour view room including flights with British Airways from Heathrow and private transfers in resort.
Prices for May 2014 are from £1,588 per person, based on two sharing.