With the due date of my cousin's second baby rapidly approaching, we decided to grab a bit of child-free time while her husband held the fort at home. And Manchester was the perfect location - an easy hour's train journey from her home in Preston, with the Radisson Blu Edwardian just a ten minute walk from Oxford Road station.
This five star hotel is set in one of Manchester’s most historic buildings, the Free Trade Hotel, the place where Bob Dylan was branded a traitor for, gasp, wielding an electric guitar. However, as we stepped into the grand lobby, I noted that its current guise seems to owe more to the venue's last public speaker, the Dalai Lama, with oriental-themed decor and a peaceful air.
The rooms were equally tranquil, with comfortable beds and air-conditioning - bliss for an uncomfortable expectant mum! Our ninth floor twin room had spectacular views over the city and came with both a spacious shower cubicle and bath, plus a huge mirror for getting ready.
The recently refurbished and extended Sienna Spa in the hotel vaults was an oasis of calm from the moment we slipped into our robes and the friendly staff handed us glasses of refreshing water flavoured with fresh mint. Part of the extension work involved creating a new relaxation room with cream leather adjustable loungers for visitors to chill out between treatments, read a magazine and have a chat.
The treatment rooms themselves are set in atmospheric former cellar rooms lit with candles that instantly send you into a serene state. I opted for the aromatheraphy full body massage and my therapist took a little time first to ask what feeling I wanted to achive ("Relaxation, please!"), before putting a choice of oils from the ESPA skincare range on my wrists to choose my favourite. A delicious sandlewood and citrus combination selected, I slipped onto the heated massage bed and had a hard time not dropping off for the next 60 minutes as she gently worked the knots from my shoulders.
Back in the relaxation room, I had to fight the urge to keep sniffing my skin as I waited for Katie to return. She reported back that her pregnancy full body massage using organic oil (perfect for stretchmarks) had been gentle and the therapist had let her lie on her sides rather than using a bed with a hole in for her bump.
Full pampered, we donned our bathing suits and went off to try out the pool, plus jacuzzi, steam room and sauna for me. It was just a shame that I had to wash off that lovely massage oil in the shower beforehand.
What we ate
Feeling utterly blissed out by our pampering afternoon, it was wonderful to simply take the lift downstairs for dinner at hotel restaurant Opus One. I'll confess that I wasn't expecting much for a hotel chain restaurant, however high end. But this place was a real find, marrying a cool New York decor of red lighting and black laquer with a beautifully presented seasonal and locally sourced menu. Not only that, but it was reasonable priced and had plenty of choice despite being fixed price.
Naturally, we couldn’t resist three courses. I started with a rolled confit chicken with chorizo, while Katie had to avoid her favourite goat's cheese tart ("A good reason to come back once I've had the baby," she noted) and went for tasty smoked mushroom croquettes. Picking a main course was agonising, but the duck for Katie and halibut for me did not disappoint. Stuffed, lemon parfait was all we could manage before rolling into the lift back up to those ever so comfortable beds.
You'd imagine breakfast wouldn't be on our minds the next morning, but we couldn't help but indulge again. The buffet breakfast in the Alto dining room was plentiful and fresh, with everything from continental cheeses to fruit salad and a good old fry-up.
If, unlike us, you don't want to loll around in the hotel, mind blissfully free of thoughts about what to get for dinner and that school project to make, Manchester has shops, bars and restaurants galore. Next door to the Radisson is Great Northern, a Grade II listed Victorian warehouse that is now home to a cinema, bowling alley, casino and shops, while Deansgate is just a stone's throw away along with the designer shopping mecca of King Street.
Radisson Blu Edwardian Manchester from £135 a night including breakfast, radissonblu.co.uk
ESPA aromatherapy massage, £65; maternity massage, £60 (both 60 mins), siennaspa.co.uk. Call 0161 835 8900 for more information.
Three course dinner at Opus One, £25 per person.
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