Laughter is the best medicine – but it won’t work off any calories: Weather forecaster Lucy Verasamy locates her inner goddess on a spa detox weekend in sunny Portugal
After ending last year on busy note – a flurry of pre-Christmas parties, overindulging on mince pies and working over the festive period itself – I wanted to start 2014 on a healthier note.
It was definitely time for a detox.
Wellbeing Escapes offers a Booster package, described as ‘an ideal pause in hectic life’.
Balancing act: Lucy steadies herself as she gets to grips with her yoga break
It sounded like the perfect antidote – the promise of relaxing therapeutic spa treatments and ‘energising’ activities including laughter yoga (of which more later) spread over two-and-a-half days.
With no time to waste, I rounded up a gal pal and headed to Portugal in the hope of finding some winter sunshine.
The Penha Longa Hotel, which is just a 30-minute drive from Lisbon airport, is set among rolling green hills.
As well as containing a spa, the hotel boasts a golf course – cue lots of men wearing crazily coloured trousers and jumpers.
Secluded location: The Penha Longa spa in Portugal is miles away from the hustle and bustle of city life
After a tour of the Six Senses spa, my friend and I went straight to the sauna to see who could stand the heat the longest, before popping on fluffy white towelling robes and slippers and heading to the Thai herbal massage area.
The scent of the oil and incense was amazing, and afterwards we felt totally floppy and relaxed.
In the afternoon, instead of undoing all our good work and going to the bar for a glass of wine, we decided to go out exploring on bikes. We were taking this detox seriously.
The hills provided a strenuous workout for my thighs, and I struggled to keep up with my friend, who has competed in half-triathlons.
Grassy hill-tops: The region offers plenty of areas that are great for walking and biking
Our first full day at Penha Longa started with a yoga session in the spa to stretch our limbs and test our balance.
Next on the agenda was a holistic massage – it felt so blissfully relaxing that I almost nodded off. Therapist Sandra then demonstrated a detox massage with seaweed.
It was a strange sensation, but I was willing to try anything to get rid of those mince pies…
In the afternoon it was time for a meditation session. This was all new to me, but it certainly helps if you usually find it difficult to slow down and clear your mind.
On yer bike: Lucy Verasamy, pictured on holiday in the Maldives, tried yoga in Portugal
Determined to keep up our good work, we stuck to healthy menu choices such as sushi in the restaurant that evening.
Our final day started with a tai chi session – it was much harder than I thought it would be and I struggled with some of the trickier moves.
After lunch we tried out laughter yoga. Yes, I’m not joking.
It’s true that laughing is infectious – and it had the added benefit of releasing endorphins while working our stomach muscles at the same time. Now that’s an exercise I can manage!
Travel Facts: Plan your own detox break in sunny Portugal
Wellbeing Escapes (www.wellbeingescapes.com, 020 7644 6111) offers three nights at Penha Longa from £867 per person. This includes return flights to Lisbon, transfers, accommodation on a B&B basis, admission to the Six Senses spa, massages and yoga classes.