It's not until you leave London that you realise how much you were gagging for a getaway. And it wasn't until I arrived at the Champeys Spa, Tring, that I realised how desperately in need of a spa break I was. (I know, the tiny violins are in full swing.)
A healthy haven that allows you to have a holiday without feeling the need to get smashed just because you don't have to get up tomorrow, the spa is perfect for a solo visit if you need to get away from it all - or them all.
The buildings shrink from high rises to single stories as the train chugs out of the big smoke and as the fields grow and trees multiply it feels like you're heading deep into the country. Instead it's an hour's drive or a 40 minute train, perfect for time-poor Londoners who just want to see some greenery.
The best word to describe Champneys is probably 'reliable'. It sounds a bit dull but when you want pampering, reliable is important. You're not likely to be let down. The bedrooms can look a little out of date and the spa menu is safe, but you know you'll be well looked after, the staff will be excellent and the food tasty (and healthy).
You really can hand in your responsibilities at the door and spend a few days living on your whims, revamping your tired body and unfrazzling your weary head.
A few treatments dotted throughout your stay is a good recommendation as it gives you some activities to punctuate your lying down (and swimming, gymming, and nature walking if you're giving your health kick some welly).
The treatments menu is comprehensive and it can be difficult to decide what you want (yep, those violins are back). Definitely take a look ahead of your visit and book in anything you definitely want before you arrive to avoid disappointment. The spa is busy, particularly at weekends, and locals often pop in for treatments.
Once again with the spa reliability is key. Champneys is a chain of spas and so the treatments and staff are uniform across all resorts. You can also feel reassured that the products used are good quality, many of them Champneys own.
Facials won't break you out and can be tailored to individual needs making it an excellent choice to try your first one. I had a relaxing personalised facial that my beauty therapist was so proud of she escorted me to a mirror forth with to see how glowing my skin was.
I also opted for a full body exfoliation in the valiant quest to prepare myself for summer bikini baring and stubborn rough patches did miraculously feel smooth after the citrus-smelling treatment.
It's always a little strange to have your body rubbed by a stranger but Champneys has a very English attitude towards it. Therapists are almost comically considerate of your modesty and will go out of their way to ensure that there is absolutely no way they will ever catch even the slightest sight of any tiny part of your breasts. If you're a little shy or not used to treatments, it's reassuring to know and you can be silently grateful.
An inexpensive treatment to try is Thalassotherapy (no we can't pronounce it either). It involves sitting in a mineral-rich pool and moving round through different water features for around 25 minutes.
There is a heavy lean towards healthy living, which is a welcome break from hedonistic city lifestyles and your average holiday over-doing it.
Food is beautiful, healthy and tasty. Breakfast and lunch are buffets packed with healthful fruits and vegetables that generally make you feel very virtuous. Plates are marked to advise the size of your protein, carbs and veg portions.
Dinner is a small menu with several options, all healthy choices. The only culinary disappointment was when my cheesecake arrived the shadow of a standard cheesecake. It was a much healthier version and I should have known better when I ordered it.
Alcohol doesn't feature particularly in your break, though you can buy a bottle with dinner.
Solo spa-ers are offered the choice of sitting on their own table or can socialise with others on the Champneys table, which is very pleasant and not as sit-com-worthy as you might expect.
Apart from it's convenient location, the spa at Tring is amid beautiful grounds and there are walks aplenty - both on your own or guided. Jogging around the lawns is an uplifting experience and there is a beautiful Olympic-length (we didn't measure it but it was certainly very long) pool. Early morning swims are definitely recommended.
The spa comes complete with sauna and steam room, as well as an outdoor and indoor jacuzzi.
Unlike trips where you feel like you need a break to get over your break, returning to real life comes as something of a shock in your zen state and provided you can navigate the Tube without too much rage, you should retain your glow into the working week.
Champneys spa breaks start from £249 for a one night stay, inclusive of breakfast, lunch and dinner and use of the facilities. For more information visit the Champneys website.