Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Travel: An Oasis of Calm and No Argument; Andy Gilpin Discovers the Spa's the Star with a Luxury Break

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Travel: An Oasis of Calm and No Argument; Andy Gilpin Discovers the Spa's the Star with a Luxury Break

Article excerpt

Byline: Andy Gilpin

I'VE always thought romantic weekends away are problematic at best. Case in point: a few months ago we went for a city break in one of Europe's top capitals. Without wanting to name the place, it was rubbish.

The attractions were over-priced, disappointing and miles away from each other.

The food was expensive and only so-so, while the travelling time to even get there took its toll.

It was all very stressful, and my girlfriend and I spent a lot of the time arguing.

So after we calmed down, for the next weekend away I vowed to take all the stress out of it... I decided on a spa break.

And when you look at the website of the four-star Donnington Valley Hotel and Spa near Newbury, Berkshire, you wouldn't think it was such an outlandish idea either.

It had a state of the art spa (always important for today's modern man I find) and an 18-hole golf course.

There was a top-notch restaurant with a choice of more than 300 wines to accompany your meal. And Lambrini wasn't one of them.

But, most of all, the four-star hotel was going to provide me with a worry-free weekend. The sort of trip where the staff are so helpful that even the slightest of problems is dealt with quickly and easily.

Yes, the customer is always right, and I do like being right.

After checking in, we were presented with a large double room, with en-suite bathroom and importantly for me, a large plasma TV with Sky Sports on tap.

While my better half wasn't exactly overjoyed with this news, the complimentary basket of fresh fruit went some way to appeasing her. After a bout of shopping in the quaint town of Newbury we were ready to be pampered.

But before pleasure, I always enjoy a little bit of pain so I headed off for an hour or two at the well-equipped gym, which again had Sky Sports on every wall so I could grimace towards it.

Then came my "gentleman's facial".

Now this isn't exactly a new experience for me, and I don't think there is anything to be ashamed about in that.

On a cruise ship some years ago I was given another treatment by a young Croatian who heroically spent 20 minutes squeezing my blackheads and muttering under her breath in her native tongue that I was using all the wrong soaps. …

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