April 7, 2020
If you had the chance to go back a few weeks, back before the lockdown and the end of freedom, back when holidays were still a thing, and the sun shone a little brighter, what would you do for your last summer fling?
Fortunately, by pure fluke, we managed to fit in one last weekend of pure amazing – a two-night festival of self-spoiling at Spicers Sangoma Retreat, and if it is the last holiday we get for a while, it will have been perfectly chosen.
The truly great holidays, of course, are those on which you don’t just relax, you go into a kind of semi-conscious state of blissful indolence.
To properly indulge yourself in this way there are several things you really must have – a pool, a room with a giant bath, a vast bed and preferably a big balcony, easy access to masseuses of very high quality and a restaurant within stumbling distance that offers properly profound meals, and drinks.
When it comes to weekend breaks, of course where the time you have to reach that desirable level of relaxation is short, you really don’t want to have too many choices, because thinking is only going to counteract your blissed buzz, so you really want to find an establishment that uses those two, wondrous words “All Inclusive” (and, preferably, the other two – “Adults Only”).
All too often, proper pampering, and the kind of high-end luxury suggested by the all-inclusive promise require flights to far-flung locations, but there is one outstanding exception – Spicers Sangoma Retreat, which is not just tucked but hidden away in the foothills of the Blue Mountains, barely an hour’s drive from the centre of Sydney.
Equally as exclusive as it is inclusive, Spicers Sangoma has just six rooms – although they’re really more like small houses than rooms _ and one very plush massage tent (think glamping, not camping), as well as the requisite infinity pool with stunning views out over the greener edges of Sydney, and a sauna.
With so few guests, the staff are able to offer highly personalised service, on those occasions when you drag yourself away from your inviting room, with its Magic Pudding-style minibar (finished your bottle of Mumm champagne? Just call the office, and another one appears!), two-person bath, wood fire and large balcony. You can, in fact, choose to have your lunches and breakfasts in your room, if you really can’t bring yourself to leave.
These are some of the very few decisions your brain is asked to grapple with over a weekend’s stay, thankfully. Lunches are “harvest style”, meaning the chef selects what the best local produce is at present and serves you that, so you don’t even have to ponder a menu, other than the drinks one of course (the hotel calls you a few days before you arrive to check on your food preferences, so they know what not to serve you).
When it comes to your alcohol choices, they are vast and varied, but all you need to look for is the little “inc” symbol, and those ones are, effectively, free. Happily, the Ink Range, as we came to know it, includes not only French champagne and excellent wines but a selection of spirits. Cocktails are extra, and they have a happy hour in which they are even more tempting.
In keeping with the kind of romantic, coupling vibe, you don’t even need to be apart for your massage experiences, as Spicers offers plenty of options for you to be kneaded together in the sweetly scented massage tent.
Active types can, of course, borrow mountain bikes or go on bush walks, but they really shouldn’t, because strolling from the sauna to the pool to your outdoor lounging chair is about as much exercise as anyone needs at a place like this.
Your days of doing little are topped off with two incredible dinners, which, again, involve no stressful worrying over which food choice will be better, or which one costs more (menus without dollar signs on them really are the best menus).
On the Saturday night, a seven-course degustation meal with matching wines feels almost dangerously close to sensory overload. Fortunately, all of your senses are reporting the same thing – joy. With just a touch of exhaustion by the end.
It is theoretically possible to stay at Spicers Sangoma Retreat for more than just a weekend, but I fear that too many days of this kind of decadence could be either bad for your health, or end with an unfortunate scene in which you refuse to leave and have to be dragged away by those lovely staff you’ve now become firm friends with.
Whether you can call an all-inclusive resort good value really depends on what you personally consider a good deal, and, in some small part at least, on how intensely you took advantage of all the food and booze on offer.
It should come as no surprise that Spicers is not cheap, but it’s not outrageous either, with prices for a minimum two-night stay starting at around $1100 a night (per room, not per person, thank goodness).
It sounds like a lot, but it’s so worth it, and we are already putting the money aside to go back, as soon as we’re allowed out of the house again.
Words by Stephen Corby.
Spicers Sangoma Retreat