Yes, I know the post title and the picture above seem to contradict each other…but trust me, my spa “day” was toddler-free and in fact preschooler-free if we’re getting technical. The picture was taken by Nathan, at home with both kids while I relaxed in a jacuzzi in Barking. This is the life alright. I’ve visited the Abbey Leisure Centre in Barking before, to visit the Idol – that scary-but-arty monochrome monolith. That was most certainly with children, as Bunny’sMummy and I sat and drank coffee and tried to ignore the madness in front of us. Standard soft play procedure. Incidentally, I was looking for somewhere to hang out near Liverpool Street the other day and a popular days-with-kids kinda website told me I could visit the Idol at the Barbican, rather than in Barking. There is a small difference between the two, and it’s not just half an hour on the Hammersmith & City Line.
Ysee, Barking has a bit of an odd vibe. You’d more associate it with the BNP than a relaxing spa day. But as I mentioned on my last visit, the area is being regenerated, artists are moving there from Hackney and they have a brand new spa, which you can hire for two hours for just £250. If you can get a group of 20 together, as we did, that’s a bargainous £12.50 each for two hours of relaxing. There are treatments and things you can pay for on top but I didn’t go for any of those. I was pretty confident I could fill two hours with lying around and gossiping. After all, the last time I’d been to a spa I was pregnant with Roo and could barely dip my feet in the jacuzzi, let alone go in the sauna. So I was going to make full use of the facilities this time.
The gossiping bit was harder than I’d imagined. When the whirlpool is on, the water jets make a deafening noise. It reverberates around the tiled walls so casual chit chat is more like bellowing at each other. However, the jets are only on periodically, so it’s a bit more mellow in between times.
The pool is the centrepiece of the wet spa area. It’s quite big and deep – I could swim three or fourth strokes across it and we could fit nearly all of us in at once without too much awkward squashing up (believe me, I’ve had THAT hot tub experience before). In front of the pool there are showers and an ice fountain and water fountain. You’re served lemon and lime water in glasses as you walk through from the changing area but you can’t then take those glasses in. You also can’t take your own water bottles but you can pop out at any time to have a drink at the spa reception.
Either side of the pool are steam rooms – a salt inhalation room, a vapour room, a dry sauna and another one of those dark blue steamy places. Now, I forget how much of a spa visit is like an endurance test. There’s not actually that much that’s pleasurable about sitting in a sauna or a salt room, except the relief you feel when you get out. But it’s supposed to help you sweat out all your toxins and genuinely I did feel relaxed and cleansed at the end of it.
Outside the wet area there’s also a relaxation room. There, you can just flop on massive beanbags and beds and honestly, you may never get up again. It might seem crazy to pay money to just lie on a bed but paying money to lie on a bed out of earshot of our small children? Priceless.
Two hours did go pretty quickly, even without a treatment and I felt very floaty afterwards. I’d definitely recommend it for a budget way to relax, as long as you have 20 patient husbands who are happy to stay home and, in one case, vacuum out the car before we got in it. The spa provides a robe and towel for you to use when you’re there but it’s BYO footwear – in my case some white linen slippers that have been sitting in a Christmas gift set for years, waiting for their day to shine.
Apologies for the lack of pictures, but I’m sure you realise why. More information is here (official site) and plenty of lovely pictures to look at too!