Pampered like an A-list
When we heard about the Mother's Day packages available at the Royal Garden Hotel's Soma Centre, we thought we should find out what our mums would be letting themselves in for, so Michelle Byrne had her arm twisted and volunteered for a bit of pampering. It's a hard life but someone had to do it.
The reputation of the Soma Centre's manager, Carolan Brown, preceded her. The title 'former personal trainer to Princess Diana' gets you noticed and I expected something special.
I was surprised to have to enter the health centre through a lift heading to the five star hotel's car park, but travelling into the depths of the alternative health centre was like entering a different world – a tranquil breath of fresh air away from the beeping horns and backed-up traffic of Kensington's High Street.
There was everything I had expected contained in the compact and modern centre: incense-fragranced treatment and relaxation rooms, heated exercise areas, rows and rows of Pilates balls and a small, traditional gym.
But the one thing I had not expected lurking in the basement was a room full of medieval torture chamber-style machinery - the sort that Gwyneth Paltrow is rumoured to use to help her stretch. Although I didn't try any of the contraptions out myself I'm told that it really isn't as painful as it looks with professional advice.
Thankfully then, all the practioners working at the Soma Centre are specialists in their field. There are tailored mind and body courses, complementary medicine, as well as personal training and beauty therapies, but I stuck to the more conservative indulgence - a deep cleansing facial.
Carolan told me that she hated gyms. 'They're so full of testosterone and vanity - people get obsessed with what they look like without thinking about the health benefits,' she said. Having resisted entering the gym I've been signed up to for the past two months, I breathed a sigh of relief at her mantra, only to be handed a robe and polystyrene flip flops and told to undress.
The intimate and private feel they have created helped ease my nerves, but despite my pleas that 'I am only having a facial' I wrapped myself up in towelling, and was introduced to my therapist Angelika.
Thankfully for me, and Angelika, baring my birthday suit wasn't required – but a luxurious shoulder and neck massage comes as standard. 'Most people usually fall asleep during this bit,' Angelika told me, but I fought off the yawns as the young South African cheerfully and enthusiastically explained each and every step of the facial.
Sumptuous smelling Jurlique aromatherapy products tailored to my individual skin type were used to cleanse the skin, before the pores were unclogged with a steaming compress, leading to a facial massage, non-abrasive exfoliation, mask, and intense moisturising treatment. I entered the little Kensington nirvana tired and hungover, but was treated like an A-list and left feeling revitalised and refreshed.
A constellation of star clients pop into the Soma Centre for a spot of Botox, beauty therapy or exercise - Geri Halliwell's just one - and if it's good enough for Britney to take her mum to - it gets the This is London seal of approval. It won't be long before I'm going back - and this time I might take my mum too!
Facials at the Soma Centre range in price from £60, which can be included in the Mother's Day packages. For more details go to www.somacentre.com or phone 020 7361 1995.