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Real Shopping: IS IT WORTH IT... Health spas

Unless you're a dab hand at meditation or yoga (which I'm not), you may find "rest and relaxation" rather an elusive concept these days. In which case, get ye to a spa. Run by health clubs and top hotels, "spa days" are becoming an increasingly time-friendly alternative to the old- fashioned health farm.

pounds 175 guarantees a "Thalgo Spa day" at the Dorchester Hotel, London. It's a slick operation, complete with tinkling ornamental pool, immaculate treatment rooms and ever-smiling, sotto voce staff. According to my beautician, Thalgo products are big news (it certainly was to me, but what do I know?) and I was duly Thalgoe-d for the next four hours with heat treatments, exfoliation, hydrotherapy, body massage, facial - and lunch. Sauna, Jacuzzi and steamroom were also available and I left feeling fresh and incredibly relaxed.

If the price puts you off, there are less costly alternatives. Cities outside London are particularly good value: Cardiff's new five-star hotel, St David's, charges pounds 98 for a hydro bath, body massage and facial, plus lunch and full use of pool, gym and spa; while a similar day at Edinburgh's Caledonian Hotel costs pounds 99. It's cheaper than retail therapy - and at least you can guarantee a foot rub at the end of the day.