Nottingham and Sherwood Forest
Nottingham, England is a beautiful "village" of around 300,000 people in the center of England. Originally a University town, Nottingham is dotted with both old and new architecture. The Sherrif of Nottingham, Robin Hood, this was once their haunts, and the accent of the native Nottingham resident is like a bird singing a song, so beautiful. My hosts, Don and Sarah Camilleri have an amazing flat right in the heart of Nottingham. Don, an engineer by trade is introducing me to what I believe will be a strong part of the Wild River Spa concept. Don is originally from the small island of Malta (close to Sicily) and arriving on a Sunday night meant I was treated to his Sunday Maltese dinner- chicken, tomato pastry, and of course wine.
Don, besides being a fabulous cook, is the design and mastermind behind a concept that was adopted from Holland, Centre Parcs. Center Parcs is day break and holiday village, started in dense woodlands creating an ecosystem with lakes, streams, and sustainably built cabins/houses, treehouses, and a village center complete with resturants, swimming facilities, stores, hiking, biking, playgrounds, sailing, golf, and the spa- Aqua Sana.
Sherwood Forest is just North of Nottingham, the land of Robin Hood. Twenty five years ago Don walked through Sherwood's dense woodlands, with not much ecosystem, water, or wildlife. Now the forest is teeming with deer and small animals. There is a lake for sailing, kayaking, and streams that are fishable. No cars are allowed in the village- only bikes and walking, so for the full week that guests are in the village, their car stays parked outside and the beauty of the forest is not scarred by the sounds of cars, and thus is very safe and promotes activity. There is an entire sporting facility, two bowling alleys, the waterpark with slides and a moving river. Center Parcs is teaming with families, (4000 people per week are staying in the village), and offers a holiday vacation like no other.
In the center of Centre Parcs is Aqua Sana- a community spa that Don has created from the ground up. Adopted from the Austrian concept, the Aqua Sana Spa is tailored for everyone (over age 16), and sends the goer through different healing rooms of water, heat, cold, and relaxation, using nature as a central theme. The list of experience rooms are as follows: Aqua Meditation Room, Finish Sauna, Greek Herbal Bath, Ice Fountain, Indian Blossom Steam room, Japanese Salt Steam Room, Japanese Zen Garden, Laconium, Multi-sensory Showers, Outdoor Heated Spa Pool, Reflexology Foot Baths, Tepidarium, Turkish Hamman, Tyrolean Garden, Tyrolean Sauna, and Water Beds.
With all those choices, there is a well mapped out routine that each visitor does, travels from cooler to hotter rooms, resting, hydrating, showering and swimming along the way. It takes about 3 hours to do the entire facility as prescribed. There are also ample wellness treatments to chose from: massages to mud wraps, reflexology to ear candles. With a beautiful cafe serving Italian fare, prossecco, and of course afternoon tea and cakes, Aqua Sana is a place to spend an entire day relaxing and rejuvenating, and is affordable, non pretenscious, and the staff is happy and helpful. After doing the 3 hour ritual of rooms, meditation garden, then a wonderful stone massage and facial I felt lighter, calmer, and my jet lag started to lift.
One big difference from the States is that Aqua Sana is co-ed. The place is full of couples, young and old, enjoying their afternoon together soaking in the waters, detoxing in the saunas, and relaxing outside in the beauty of nature. As I'll come to see on my travels deeper in Europe, the couples concept (and the inclusion of children) becomes an integral part of the healing experience. Community and membership spas are a wonderful service, they provide a healthy and relaxing activity for the ever increasing stress disease, but can this work in the States where the spa culture is not yet developed? Its a question I will continue to ponder as I move through this trip.
Center Parcs was a wonderful first introduction to the world of European spa, thanks to Don and Sarah Camilleri, such amazing hosts and now friends!
Read more about Center Parcs here.
And to see more pictures of my trip- like our Facebook page!
Best in Health,
*Next stop, the French countryside