Lucky Thirteen of 2013: The Year of Disposable Knickers

I was extremely fortunate last year, and enjoyed spa experiences up and down the country. I think the only corners I didn’t get to visit were down in Kerry and up in Donegal. Well, okay, and the very bottom in Cork, and maybe there is someplace in up in Antrim that would like my kind attention to their matters of mind, body, and spirit.

Not bein’ smart: it really is beneficial to all three to go and get some class of treatment somewhere. I wrote this in a burst of gratitude and guilt, and it still holds true. Self-care is important, and under the below circumstances, it ain’t cheap. The thing that is good though is that those local to such places might like to join the mailing lists of such posh spas — you never know what sort of deals are going down. That will cost you nothing…


REVAS SPA fitzpatricks
I went to REVAS SPA in Fitzpatrick’s Woodlands Hotel in Adare, Co Limerick, less than a month after I’d arrived back home after my dad passed away. Since his mum was from Limerick City, I am not discounting his hand in this gig, and indeed in all the spa treats I got this year. This came up somewhat last minute; lots of internet organisation ensued, as I was going to have to get the bus to the train to the bus to a taxi to get there. Would it all be worth it in the end?

It would, even with the usual but-the-website-said unreliability of information on our wee rock. I had expected to leg it off the train for the bus, because that’s-what-the-website-said {is Bus Eireann’s the worst website in the world? I think so!}, but yeah, no. I did have enough time, though, to go light a candle for my dad in his mother’s parish church, which, given time, space, generations, and an ocean, was kind of like a miracle.

My treatment at Fitzpatrick’s was kind of like a miracle, too, mainly when it was over: I got tucked into a daybed, wrapped in fleece, given fruit and a healthy beverage, and left to lay there. I would still be lying there if I had my way. It felt as relaxing and decadent as anything I’d ever done, swathed in warmth and feeling entirely relaxed. I had the Essence of Fiji treatment, which involved full body exfoliation, massage, and a facial. Prior to that, I enjoyed the freedom of the Thermal Suite, which, to my mind, is as important as anything that is to transpire in the treatment rooms.

I felt that their suite, while well-appointed, was a little down-at-heel and in need some sprucing up — and then I found the mahoosive outdoor hot tub, and much was forgiven.

I will also say that the spa is a significant distance from the main body of the hotel, which is something of a buzz kill. Otherwise, everything else was fab, from the room to the food to the service. Also, having been able to drop the name of a dear pal in Dublin who is originally from the locality — well, that didn’t hurt. Heart U Éire!


SPA SALVEO knockranny
Speaking of my ancestry. My great-gran on my dad’s side is from the Ballyhaunis area, and the invitation to spend a couple of days at Knockranny House Hotel in Westport, to avail of their Wellness and Radiance Ritual also seemed eerily apt. All I remember is that they use Kerstin Florian products, that the massage got down into the marrow of my bones, and that I saw God {She’s gorgeous.}

Well, okay, that’s not all: SPA SALVEO has garnered many awards lo these many years, and it’s easy to see why. The thermal suite is compact but complete; the pool is a decent length for getting your laps in; there’s a jacuzzi type set-up in a corner of the pool that is seriously strong and feels great; the staff and practitioners are welcoming and well able to deliver an unforgettable experience.

The hotel itself is enormous. When I was heading to my room, it felt a bit like The Shining, with its seemingly endless hallways. The room itself had more furniture in it than I would sit on in a week, much less two days, and the bathroom was stunning. I love a good bathroom.

As well, the food and service was spectacular. This was a large gathering of beauty journos, and it was utterly the craic. The train back to Dublin was a hungover post-party conveyance, with the majority of carriages filled with sore-headed folk returning after a weekend of debauchery in da Wesht. Couldn’t have asked for a better crowd with which to travel.


When I was designer for lady magazines, I would routinely do layouts for spa awards, and inevitably would be working with the photo above, and would inevitably yearn to be there. CLOISTERS SPA in Muckross Park Hotel in Killarney is another one of those multi-award winning venues, and I wrote in full about it here. I just transported myself back, through time and space, to their outdoor hot tub. *Sigh*


SPIRIT ONE radisson
I interviewed Emer Gillen of Elemis here, about the tenth anniversary of Pro-Collagen Marine Cream’s launch, and about various other skincare related matters. There, too, find my review of the Elemis Pro-Collagen Quartz Lift Facial in SPIRIT ONE SPA in the Radisson Blu Galway, which also involved the massage of shoulders, hands, and feet – which is genius, because I always find myself yearning for a facial when I get a massage, and a massage when I get a facial…

This was another big beauty journo bash and once again the craic was had. Did I mention that on many of these jaunts, I am able to bring a pal? A pal was brought along on this one, and we got breakfast brought to the room, and sat around and chatted for ages — for so many ages that the front desk actually rang to see if we realised we had to check out.


FRANCE le petit dejeuner
Oh, bon jour! This was a big trip, to the South of France grace á EAU THERMALE d’AVÈNE, to the town of Avène-les-Bains, to avail of their therapeutic bath treatment and learn more about the spa, and the products in which the water figures largely.

I had met Bao-Tan Pham, head marketer for the spa’s brand, and have a Q&A with her here. She accompanied us on the junket that incorporated not only the benefits of the spa, but the indisputable delights of cold champagne on hot Mediterranean nights, chats, and gorgeous, delicious food.

The treatment itself is shown to greatly reduce the severity of skin conditions like psoriasis, and is beneficial to burn victims, too. I was the de facto translator, and I did très bien, thanks very much. The bath itself was only twenty minutes long, but oh! what a comprehensive twenty minutes it was. It was followed by a shower that sprayed at us with varying degrees of strength, and then we all got to lay down and sigh in room full of loungers that overlooked a typically Southern French landscape. Le bliss! My skin was so clean and clear that I felt the Avène products that I used, when we were done, were working even more effectively than I had known them to work previously.

One night, we went out to eat by the sea, and the man set fire to the fish:
FRANCE le grande motte

And on the last day, we sat and moaned on the rooftop terrace of a truly stylish and fabulous Montpellier boutique hotel:
FRANCE montpellier roof top pool


I zipped down to Kilkenny, a town I adore, for an overnighter in the Lyrath Estate Hotel, to give OASIS SPA a look in. I was to try their Ginger Renewal, an 85 minute treatment incorporating {ha} scrubbing, rubbing, and wrapping.

Service was a little funky, as the hotel is in receivership, but the place itself is being kept in great nick. Below, as perfect an autumnal view out of a hotel window that it is possible to gaze upon:
LYRATH grounds
Now, back in my days of designing spa awards pages, I downloaded many a photo of hot stone massage, which looked like a stupid and useless treatment, because the stones were laid down the spine, and what, left there til they cooled?

Uh, the therapist actually rubs the hot stones all over your body? Am I the only person in the world not to know that? I was too zoned out to laugh at myself, at that stage, although I am sure I made a noise. I suppose they are used to it, but I’ll take this opportunity to apologise to all the aestheticians at whom I grunted and gurgled in 2013.

Anyway, look at this.
LYRATH outdoor jacuz
I clearly have a fetish for containers of water placed in the out-of-doors, because here’s another hot tub that opens out into the wild. This is maybe the best one because you don’t have to entirely leave the building, so less feeling vulnerable in your togs. It’s more like a pool than a tub, too, and you can drape yourself over the edge and ponder the shrubbery as bubbly water massages your bod, and cool air wafts over your face.


So, fingers crossed for 2014, but also: do investigate deals and such, especially of the day spa variety. Leaving is always a buzz kill, but most of the relaxation areas were worth their weight in gold — espesh at Revas, and at Cloisters — and even when you have to drive away after, you’ll have given yourself a really fantastic treat.

Also: brides! Ask for this on your registry!


B&B! Q&A: Emer Gillen, and Ten Years of Elemis Pro-Collagen Marine Cream

EMER GILLENEmer Gillen is originally from Sligo; based in London for the last four years, she trained as a beauty therapist in the Georgina Price College of Beauty Therapy in Galway. Having had an equal passion for spa therapy and travel, she pursued the opportunity to work on a cruise ship with Steiner Leisure Ltd. “This was my first introduction to Elemis products and treatments, and was where I made such a strong connection with the brand,” she explains.

She was part of the management team that launched the Spirit One Spa when it opened in the Radisson Blu, Galway, and considered it a natural progression to join the Elemis training team 8 years ago as an International Trainer. “I have such a varied spectrum of responsibilities with my role,” Emer says, “from spa, salon and retail courses, alongside working with our Elemis Day Spa, SpaSpecialist and British Airways Travel Spa teams. Globally, I work closely with our distribution teams developing their training divisions and I also present Elemis on QVC UK.”

Emer took some time to talk about a mainstay of the Elemis brand, followed by my review of the Spirit One experience…

It’s the 10th anniversary of the Pro-Collagen Marine Cream, and I think it says it all in the name. Can you talk about the properties of both the collagen and the marine aspect, and how they are so effective in anti-ageing?
Pro-Collagen Marine Cream is about working with the skin’s natural functions to assist in improving collagen and elastin production, which leads to stunning long-lasting results.

The results really speak for themselves: the Marine Cream has been clinically proven to reduce the appearance of wrinkle depth by up to 78%, and increase hydration and moisture levels by up to 45%.

The composition of the cream challenged traditional anti-ageing skincare by combining ground breaking natural marine ingredients Porphyridum and Chlorella seaweeds along with Padina Pavonica, which is central to the cream’s activity; a fan shaped brown algae, it is handpicked daily by scuba divers from the temperate waters of Malta, and left to dry under the sun’s warming rays. This dynamic anti-ageing cream gel helps to dramatically increase skin elasticity, suppleness, firmness and hydration levels.

How does the new cult fave Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm complement the cream, and how does it work?
Make-up, sweat and pollution build up in the layers of the skin. Oils and waxes are naturally compatible with sebum, easily breaking down excess pore blocking oils. Theses oils and waxes protect the skin from being stripped of its natural lipid layer and essential skin protection. Make-up micro particles left in the skin result in a long-term dulling of the complexion and may also lead to other skin problems.

Elemis Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm is a beautiful texture for an exceptional treatment experience, preparing the skin brilliantly which complements Elemis Pro-Collagen Marine Cream and enhances its anti-ageing effectiveness.

Cleansing balms seem to be all the rage at the moment. What are your top tips for using a balm?
Scoop a small amount of Elemis Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm with dry fingertips, and massage directly into the skin. Then, wet the fingertips and continue to massage as the balm transforms into a beautiful milk. Remove with a very warm cleansing cloth, both morning and evening.

For a special treatment, smooth a generous amount over the face, neck and décolleté with dry fingers. Massage to warm the skin and loosen the balm. Leave for 10 minutes. Hold a very warm, damp cleansing cloth over the skin, practice abdominal breathing and inhale the exquisite aroma. Gently wipe away.

The Pro-Collagen Quartz Lift facial in Spirit One Spa was gorgeous. How do people go about designing facials, and what are the specific benefits of this one?
The Elemis Pro-Collagen Quartz Lift Facial for fine lines and wrinkles was designed by Noella Gabriel, Director of Elemis treatment and products development. Through Noella’s vast industry expertise, and therapy background, this treatment was developed to deliver a results-driven sensory experience for the client.

The Elemis Pro-Collagen Quartz Lift Facial allows you to experience the ultimate in scientific skin therapy. It’s an advanced anti-ageing facial, clinically proven to reduce the number of wrinkles by 94% and improve skin firmness by 57% after just one treatment. This anti-aging face and eye treatment helps to protect against the signs of ageing, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles on the face and restructuring the eye contour. Specialised lifting massage techniques are combined with Elemis anti-ageing products for maximum treatment efficacy.

Looking over the protocol for the facial, I notice that there are loads of essential oils used — lime, rosewood, tea tree, to name a few. Can you talk about the brand’s use of such ingredients, and what the benefits are?
Each Elemis product and treatment takes you on a sensory journey and the Elemis Pro-Collagen Quartz Lift Facial is no different. The use of Lime, Lavender and Rosewood Essential Oils which are anointed onto luxuriously warm mitts or facial compresses are used to enhance the aromatic experience of the Elemis facial. We understand the emotional and physiological response that aromatics have on our wellbeing, and so essential oils, herbs and fruits play an integral role in the fragrance pyramid of each unique product.


So, how was it?

Spirit One Spa is like a little fairground of therapeutic possibilities: you’ve got your sauna and your steam room, and your bowl of ice to really get those pores breathing, but there are also loads of marble beds upon which to recline, and the Sabia Med, a beach room in which you can lie on sand and relax, from a simulated sunrise to sunset. The spa is also very popular, and was rather busy the day I was there to avail of its benefits — benefits that were somewhat diminished by the chattery hen parties that were roaming about the place. Save it for the pub, ladies, seriously. Manners! One would encourage the staff to gently enforce the rule of silence. It’s only fair.

Once the hens went on their way, the place achieved the kind of serenity it aims to provide. And once I was lead away to enjoy my treatment, it was like being transported to another world. A world of seemingly endless double-cleansing, toning, exfoliation, massage… and every Elemis product known to woman. Okay, not every, but all the best ones.

As mentioned above, the use of essential oils in tandem with the glorious signature scent of the products was almost enough to send me into bliss, just on their own. It all started off with a  Hot Lime Foot Cleansing and Thai Foot Ritual, and progressed through the use of Japanese camellia oil, rosewood, more lime, and lavender, this last in the form of an eye pillow that did its work whilst I received a hand, arm, and décolleté massage.

It’s amazing how relaxing it can be for the face when your hands are getting a good going over…

Amongst the products used were, of course, the piéce de resistance of the Pro-Collagen Marine Cream, but also in play was the Pro-Collagen Quartz Lift Serum, the Pro-Collagen Quartz Lift Peel Off Mask and the Pro-Collagen Lifting Treatment. And the Eye Renewal. And the Wrinkle Treatment. And the Rehydrating Ginseng Toner! This too is like a little fairground, a little fairground of renewal and utter, utter relaxation.

The best thing was that, even after a night of gorgeous food and plenty of bubbly, my visage was not ravaged. In fact, the glow lasted the guts of a week, and as ever, my make up looked all the better for having had the canvas primed, as it were. Nothing like several hours wrapped in a spa robe and a fab facial to put all things right in the world.


The Elemis Pro-Collagen Quartz Lift Facial is 1 hour 10 minutes, €95.00. See for details

spirit one spa, Radisson Blu Hotel & Spa Galway, Lough Atalia Road, Galway, Ireland
T: +353 91 538 462 


ALSO: Some of the best sushi ever is available at the Radisson Blu’s Japanese restaurant, RAW: sushi in the sky. SERIOUSLY. And I have enjoyed sushi in both NYC and LA (admittedly not in Japan) and both of those places have the best sushi, but this sushi in Galway not only holds its own, but also beats the competition! Seriously!