Time Out of Time: Lusty Beg Island

Take time out, they say. It’ll be grand, they say. Truth: there is nothing like a nice weekend away, much less one that involves pampering. I’m honoured to have been hosted at spa hotels all over the country, but the sensation of being on an island almost exactly in the middle of this island added even more of that special feeling of ‘being away’ than I’ve experienced so far.

Lusty Beg Island sits in Lough Erne, Co Fermanagh. The drive from Dublin to Enniskillen was a manageable 90 minutes-ish on the bus, and travelling from the depot to the island took about half an hour. When we crossed a bridge onto Boa Island, I was a tiny bit bummed and said to the driver, ‘Oh, so… this is like Achill? You can just drive on?’ He said, ‘You’ll see,’ and in moments, I did: after going up a boreen (okay, it wasn’t that bad, but it wasn’t a dual carriageway), we came to a dock, and zipped onto a tidy little two-car ferry.

It was a journey of less than five minutes, if that, but once we disembarked, everything changed.

Lusty Beg Exterior (11)

Lusty Beg accommodation — one of the many options

From the Irish for ‘small lodge’, Lusty Beg was once home to monks, and within moments, I felt like I was stepping in their contemplative footsteps. Even with all the accommodation — 40 rooms, and an assortment of chalets, lodges, cabins and apartments — I felt like I had the place to myself. Even after having a lovely lunch in the bar, and seeing actual other people in the place, once I left to get my treatment, I had an uncanny sensation that I had the whole island to myself.

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THE SEAWEED BATH

Deep bath + VOYA seaweed = bliss!

I am masso fan of Lazy Days Seaweed Bath from VOYA, as I have described here; in fact, this was one of the very first products I ever blogged about. I haven’t had one in ages, so the chance to enjoy one, practically at the source, wasn’t something I was going to pass up. I’d already had a facial in the Island Spa that used VOYA products, and as such was pretttttty relaxed, but the soak in the seaweed-infused water finished me off, in the best possible sense.

There wasn’t a toxin left in me by the time the 30 minutes was up — and I didn’t actually make it for the full time. The tub, straight out of a sexy, renovated TV-decorating show bathroom, was long enough for me to stretch out in, and I added a bit of hot and cold water as necessary… but the drinking water from the pitcher that was set tub-side ended up going over my head to cool me down, as much as it went into me. I crawled out to take a break, and just as I was about to go back in for more, the knock on the door landed. As much as I wished it could have gone on forever, half an hour was in fact exactly enough.

I made my way to my self-catering log cabin (the kitchen was nicer than the one in my apartment), didn’t bother unpacking, and sat myself down on the couch, because:

THE VIEW

Utterly relaxing, rain…

And the next day, I spent a good few hours there again, because:

THE VIEW2

…and shine

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It’s not all seaweed baths and contemplation: there are numerous activities to avail of as well, of the casual adventure-type — although, having said that, the off-roading probably gets pretty hairy; from my own experience in the speedboat, don’t eat before embarking, because even if the lake’s not rough, which is was when I was taken for a spin, then the speed may make you want to vom.

THE BOAT

Yeah, okay, it looks as smooth as glass — it was not

Or you can try archery for the first time ever in your life and MAYBE HIT THE BULLSEYE.

BULLSEYE!

BOOM

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I adore a good illustrated map.

LUSTY BEG MAP

I literally didn’t even get to explore anything but the long skinny part #GottaGoBack

I can’t recommend the place more highly: it’s perfect for families, couples, solo travellers, you name it. Don’t bother thinking you can have your wedding there anytime in the new few years though, someone told me they’re booked out ’til 2018 — and I can’t imagine a better, low-key, fun, beautiful place to get hitched. See here for all the ins and outs and special offers, but honestly rain, shine or hail (I am pretty sure we got a little dose of that at some stage), this is one of the better breaks I’ve ever had — and I think it shows:

GLOWING!

Relaxed and glowy

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Tried & Tested @The Herald: Cleansing Balms

My new favourite thing! As I say here, I have always hated, if not completely loathed, the fuss of using a cleanser. These go on your face and stay there, working away as you massage them round, without making a splattery disaster of the sink, or dripping down to your elbows.

Clean up without making a worse mess! That’s my new motto.

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OMChristmas 2013: Guaranteed Irish Gifting

GUARANTEED IRISH We are a small island, but we make a whole lotta stuff. It’s not all jam and rashers either — although! I can thoroughly vouch for the deliciousness of the brown bread that comes from Fitzpatrick’s Woodlands House Hotel in Adare, as I have scarfed that up myself during a stay there, reviewing Revas Spa for the Irish Tatler Spa awards earlier in the year. Must post about that here…

Anyway! I spotted a loaf during a recent presentation from Guaranteed Irish, a showcase of the very best that Ireland has to offer during the festive season. Everything looked gorgeous, and it was a revelation to see how well-represented the Irish touch is, in terms of self-care — and by self-care, I mean beauty products and candles. Candles are so important.

IRISH STILL LIFE 1I wanted allll the candles. Having been made familiar with the Cloon Keen brand, thanks to their presence in the Shelbourne Spa, I was happy to see them represented, and was also happy to meet a new brand, about which I will talk below.

I don’t even know what’s on this table, and I’d enlarge it but I was so overwhelmed, it’s a little bit shaky. Maybe not overwhelmed as such, just dead impressed at the lovely, lovely things arrayed before me.

Here’s more:
IRISH STILL LIFE

And here’s a small round up of things that I love, and think you — I mean, your loved ones! — will love, too.

IRISH BIA feed your skin
BIA BEAUTY Feed Your Skin set {€80} includes Mellow Mandarin Moisturiser; Orange & Grapefruit Exfoliant; Stop the Clock Eye Gel; Apple Blossom Body Butter; and Detox Body Scrub. All take their scents from essential oils, and the scrub in particular is terrific for treating cellulite. There’s more info at the Cork-based concern’s website on biabeauty.com.

GREEN ANGEL face cream set
O, seaweed! Is so awesome. GREEN ANGEL offer up their fab duo, Daily Moisture Face Cream & Night Cream {€39.99} I can personally gush about the day cream: it is so silky and absorbs perfectly, yet feels so rich. I love the little blast of aromatherapy too, as the Jasmine and Neroli are invigorating enough to give me a wakey-wakey boost in the morning, but not so much that I am bouncing off the walls. Go to greenangel.com to see the full line.

IRISH PIXY TEMPTING GIFT BOX €14.95
All of PIXY NATURAL SKINCARE’s Christmas offerings are priced under €20! I myself am tempted by their Tempting Gift Box {€14.95} which comes with a heart-shaped soap, two skin nourishing mini bath bombs, a creamy lip balm, and the Internet’s favourite Lime Body Scrubs, also heart-shaped, and a perfectly natural exfoliating treat. See pixy.ie for more well-put-together gift boxes.

LA BOUGIE
Ooh, LA BOUGIE! Also from Cork — what is going on down there, is it like the locus of creative beauty entrepreneurs or wha’? — the company present us with candles in an array of scent combinations that are spectacular. Pictured is my very own Sweet Pea & Pear 140g candle {€19.95}, and I gotta say, I am deeply attracted to the Ginger & Black Pepper and the Honeysuckle & Sea Salt. This bad girl will burn for 40 hours; there’s 220g versions that burns for 55! {€29.95} Go for the glow on labougie.com.

IRISH VOYA
VOYA is also a purveyor of Irish seaweed-infused products, and here’s three gift sets that pretty much are like their ‘best of’ collection of hits: the Organic Voyager Set {€40} features 75mls each of Squeaky Clean Body Wash, Softly Does It Body Moisturiser, Silky by Nature shampoo and Forget Me Knot conditioner; 1,2,3, Glow {€58} comes with a full-sized Ritzy Spritzy facial toner and Cleanse & Mend facial cleanser, and a mini 7ml jar of Me Time moisturiser; the Body Gift Set {€48} Softly Does It body moisturiser and Squeaky Clean body wash. Not pictured is the Hair Gift Set {€40} Silky by Nature shampoo and Forget Me Knot conditioner. The full complement of product is on voya.ie.

NAT'L PRINT MUSEUM FAIR
The Christmas Fair at the NATIONAL PRINT MUSEUM runs from 29, 30 November and 1 December; rock up on Friday between 16.00-20.00, and on Saturday and Sunday between 11.00-16.00. It’s free to enter, although your wallet ought to be lightened considerably once you clap your eyes on all the artistic, unique offerings. There are also make-your-own opportunities for all the family, although I’d say it’ll be a bit late to be hand-printing your Christmas cards, hmmm? See nationalprintmuseum.ie for directions and the like.

Also, for more creative goodness, check out TALBOT GALLERY & STUDIOS on Talbot Street, D1 and their Selection BOX exhibition. All the artworks are 12 inches x 12 inches and priced at €200, making for an affordable start/expansion of your collection. Find the list of artists here; I bought a picture a couple of years ago, and it’s really one of the nicest things you can do for yourself — loved ones! Loved ones! Everybody! Art is for everyone!

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Sweet Sixteen Minus Six: Voya Lazy Days

Wish I had one of these on me right now. Still the best, most relaxing bath I have ever enjoyed. This is Sweet Sixteen Minus Six, number 6.

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I have always loved seaweed products. I used a powdered version for the bath {Seavite? I think so} that really required a strong drive to use, as it made a complete and utter mess of the bath after it was done. I mean, like, total ring-around-the-tub mess, and talk about a buzzkill, having to clean it up almost immediately after having sent all your tension down the drain. [Or else you have an argument with your live-in-fella-at-the-time because you let the mess go for a day or two, also a buzzkill.]

VOYA Lazy Days Seaweed BathI wasn’t sure about this when I got the box. I mean, it’s a box. How’s seaweed supposed to fit in a box? I knew the Voya line very well, and have even had their seaweed baths, based in Strandhill, Co Sligo, on my to-do list almost since I moved to Ireland. I knew that the entire product line was organic, and that the seaweed itself is harvested by hand. I didn’t know that you could get it freeze-dried into a roughly rectangular bundle.

Well, it is possible. The hunk of seaweed has been helpfully inserted into a mesh bag; there is, in addition, a wee bag of dead sea salt. <I wasn’t sure whether to captilise that or not, but Voya haven’t. Is ‘dead sea salt’ a thing that is separate now from the Dead Sea? Anyway: as instructed, I ran the bath full of hot, hot water and dropped the brick of weed in. I left the room to let it sit — I had to, because almost immediately the pure, salty scent of the seaweed began to waft around the bath. As I didn’t want to lose a layer or two of skin, which I would have done had I immersed myself, I went and did some email.

When I could bear it no longer, I went back and ran the water cold, sprinkled in some salt, and got in. Now, I love a good bath, and I go the full whack, with candles and a glass of wine, or when the circumstances demand, a short glass of Laphroaig, and appropriate musical accompaniment. Even then, I tend to get bored long before the water begins to cool. Not this time: I kept topping up the bath with as much hot water as it could handle without overflowing. I squeezed the now-football shaped net of weed to release even more of the gel that had infused the water. I was in there for almost 45 minutes.

If you take good care of it — I put mine in a large mixing bowl and covered the top with cling film — you can get another bath out of the ball. It’s not as transcendent as the first, but it is still pretty boss.

The re-hydrated bag of seaweed was pretty impressive, and also pretty: it bore no resemblance to the stuff that washes up on a beachy strand, and looked as if each… frond?… had been groomed to reveal its jagged beauty. I felt as relaxed as if I had visited the Strandhill baths themselves. This is a sublime treat for body and mind. Bonus: a cursory swipe of the bath the next morning was as hard as I had to work to clean up. In my book, there is no higher praise.

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Voya Lazy Days €16/£15.50/$32

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The Scrub of a Lifetime: VOYA Organic Lavender & Seaweed Sugar Glow

I exfoliate a lot. Like, I am pretty sure that I have exfoliated all the hairs off my arms. Plus, I use the gloves along with the exfoliant, which is cray-zay, I know, and I’m surprised I haven’t scrubbed myself down to the bone.

Exfoliant and me, yeah, nothing new there. But you know what? There is absolutely something to be said for getting a professional treatment.

I very happily found myself once more at Therese R Wellness and Beauty in Rochestown Lodge Hotel, Killiney. I had forgotten my togs — clients of the spa may avail of the leisure centre, which includes jacuzzi and sauna and steam room, oh, my — so I stripped down, bundled up into a beautiful spa robe, headed into one of the well-kitted-out treatment rooms* and lay myself on the plinth.

Okay: did you know that when you exfoliate, it doesn’t have to be like you are keelhauling a ship? It’s no surprise that I’ve scoured all the hair off my arms {if only it would work on my legs!} I lash away with the stuff like I am scraping barnacles. Susie, my massage aesthetician, applied VOYA’s amazing concoction with all the gentleness that one would bring to tending a little baby.

At right is not me, but that is a true representation of the colour and texture of the scrub. A combination of organic ingredients,with the main players being hand harvested seaweed, lavender buds, and cane sugar, there’s a bit of a pong off it at first because, hey, there’s no fake rubbish in this bad girl. Once you get used to it — if you have to, it mightn’t even register for you at all — it’s nothing but gentle application and the feeling that dead skin cells are going on to a better place.

After the scrub is showered off, Susie applied VOYA’s Softly Does It Body Moisturiser, again, in a professionally massaging manner, not in the slapdash way I would do it. I’ve used this moisturiser in the past and wasn’t crazy about it, but my mind has been changed: the combo of the scrub and this was excellent.

This is not a total, float-away-into-the-ether thing: it is relaxing, sure, but it is primarily a very functional treatment, and you come out with astonishingly smooth skin — I made my friends touch my arms the next day, and they were gobsmacked.

Pretty perfect! Although… if there had been a wee facial exfoliation to go along with it? Just something to think about, VOYA…

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The VOYA Organic Lavender & Seaweed Sugar Glow treatment is €55 at Therese R Wellness & Beauty, Rochestown Lodge Hotel, Killiney, Dublin.

*OMG, remember the hydrotherm mattress?!?

Snap! Judgements: Clean Your Face and Smell Good

Among other things.

Snap! Ah, the sheer joy of opening up something from Chanel. It’s not just that the signature black-with-gold box is so evocative — I think it’s the little black velvet sleeve that everything comes in? It’s little a little tiny posh sleeping bag. After having enthused over the elegance of the packaging, I gave my face several well-placed swipes of the Luminous Bronzing Powder in Sable Beige (€42.70). It seems a bit… subtle, which is not my usual self-tanned-mode, but it takes more to be a Chanel Woman than simply having the stuff around the house. Am I up to it? Time will tell.

Snap! My supermodel thumbnail is threatening to get an agent. While she dithers, I gave her a dose of Sally Hansen Complete Care Extra Moisturizing 4-in-1 Treatment (€10.95). This claims to do all the things that my manky, manky nails need to demankify themselves. It’s meant to smooth the ridgeyness, strength ’em, grow ’em, and when applied as a top coat, protect ’em, too. Initial application looks good, and the ridges have been noticeably minimised. I need to grow ’em a bit before we move forward with this product.

Snap! Are you getting married? Aura by Swarovski Collection Mariage Eau de Toilette (€56) is really pretty. It looks pretty: very shiny and with a lacy detail, and the Swarovski crystal on top, oh wow! And it smells pretty: powdery, but not too light, it’s actually got a bit of a bite to it, like, ‘Okay, dude, I am pretty, but I am also fierce, in case you haven’t figured that out by now!’ I am imagine this little internal monologue happening just when the bride arrives at the altar, and the groom turns to her, and he picks up this thought psychically, which would be amazing. You light like to get this if you want to get married, and the dude who infers all the above and totally gets it, then he is the man for you.

Snap! The round gold thing is Maybelline 24 HR Colour Tattoo Eyeshadow in Eternal Gold (€7.99). I love me some sparkly, and this is sparkly, and when I opened it and rubbed some on to the back of my hand, I thought: You know, I’d like to use this as a highlighter. And so I did! Blended some on the cheekbone area (because I don’t have discernable bone structure) and it worked. It was good on the lids as well, but I am looking forward to using this all over my face, like an escapee from Cirque du Soleil. Will get back to you re: 24 hours.

Snap! I just used this VOYA Cast Away Facial Wash (€26) in the shower, so I can’t really say at this juncture whether it effectively cleanses away all the make up and grime one applies and collects on one’s face (hopefully in that order!) It’s a nice soothing gel that feels cool, literally and figuratively. I felt it was a bit slippery, and almost lost the palmful of product down the drain. This is unique in my experience, and those prices, be careful!

Haiku Review: VOYA Organic Marine Eye Treatment

Voya’s seaweed treat:
The eyes have it, and also?
Hydrotherm mattress!

I have been fairly blasé about eye creams, eye treatments, and the entire eye area in general. This view {ha, ha} has been altered somewhat since the great Botox/Restalyne adventure. Areas that have been plumped up are now highlighting, in an averse fashion, areas that are not so plump. Which is the first step down the slippery slope to pillow face.

In a bid to delay injections of stuff into the eye area, which just makes me go ‘Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!’, it seems like a good idea to A} start using eye cream, and B} check out a treatment that targets the delicate area, and see what kind of improvements can be made organically.

Organic being the key word when it comes to VOYA. You can read all about their use of seaweed here, and as I’ve said in the past, I adore a good marine-based therapeutic experience. There is nothing like water for healing what ails you, from the physical to the emotional. I was delighted to avail of the leisure centre in the Rochestown Lodge Hotel before my Organic Marine Eye Treatment. Got some laps in, in the 15 metre pool, sat in the steam room, sat in the sauna, sat in the Jacuzzzzzz — ah, God, hot, bubbly water. Best. Thing. Ever.

Already completely relaxed, I entered the hotel spa, Thérèse R Wellbeing and Beauty. I chilled for a bit in the room on the left, and then in the room on the right:

Both proved to be excellent venues for putting up one’s feet and almost falling asleep.

The 45 minute treatment, like all good ones, involves more than the eyeball area. Whilst they were, of course, the focus {ahhhh}, I also got some decolleté action, and a scalp massage. A scalp massage!

Okay, I’m getting ahead of myself.

>First: general cleansing, of the face and the chest area, followed a misting-by-toner, which was great. Christine, the beauty therapist, sprayed it like, four feet over my head, and the anticipation of it wafting down on to my skin was half the pleasure.

>Second: lymphatic massage. Still haven’t really satisified myself as to what the lymphs are, besides glands. I am sure I looked this up before, and probs even posted about it. It has not sunk in. Whatever it is, it felt great when Christine administered it, all around my eye socket and then down to my neck and shoulders.

>Third: Seaweed eye patches. Seaweed eye patches! Now these — I definitely want these for home. The patches are loaded with vitamins, and they were so cooling and soothing… just what I’d like to lay on my lids after a hard day’s blogging. They did their job during my scalp massage, which is just the next best thing ever, after hot bubbly water.

>>>Meanwhile, let us not forget the hydrotherm mattress, which gently supported me, warmly and whooshily, throughout the whole process.

>Finally, the application of VOYA’s Bright Eyes cream. Why does it feel so much more effective when someone else applies it? My eyes looked amazing after, and I never thought I’d ever recommend something like this, but this would be the perfect treatment to get on the day of a big event. I would never recommend doing anything after a treatment, apart from going home and napping, but this was relaxing without being completely … emptying, if you know what I mean? This would be an excellent bridal thing, on the Big Day.

I hope I get into the habit of this eye cream thing. I have, somewhat, since I am testing a bunch for the Herald, and I’m lining up a few that seem to make a difference. We’ll see. {Sorry.}

The VOYA Organic Marine Eye Treatment, €52, is available in spas nationwide, ring VOYA on 071 9168956 for more information.