A friend and I recently treated ourselves with a visit to Hammam Pascha, a Mediterranean style “spa” offering massage, steam baths, body scrubs and beauty treatments for busy Parisiennes. It bills itself as an urban “oasis of serenity” to relax, indulge and unwind. After two and half weeks of 24/7 quality time with the kids, I’m tightly wound indeed. A day spa sounded like just the thing.
With various treatment packages all promising inner peace, glowing skin and free mint tea, I opted for “Well Being” and hoped for the best. Did Pascha deliver? Well, that depends. If your relaxation ideal includes fluffy robes, Zen music and iced water-with-a-slice-of-cucumber, Pascha’s probably not for you. If however, it includes a full body scrub-down by an aggressive Moroccan wearing a sarong and a lethal loofah mitt, Pascha may just fit the bill.
Because it isn’t a day spa at all (silly Californian). It’s an authentic hammam (Turkish bath), just like the name says. So instead of soft lighting, aromatherapy and discretion, you get colorful Moroccan tiles, a large soaking pool and treatment stalls complete with hoses and squeegees to tidy up between clients.
Stripped of our street clothes and wrapped in wafer thin robes, our misplaced Anglo modesty quickly became apparent. Prone Parisiennes splayed around the steam-filled space, thoroughly engaged in the act of posing, er relaxing. Some swanned about in chic floral sarongs (it is Paris after all), some in nothing at all. Either way, our body-covering swimsuits looked silly at best. My masseuse gruffly ordered me to “enleve votre haut” with a roll of the eyes that said, “Cherie, I’ve seen it all.”
I had bravely signed on for a full body scrub (gommage) having been warned that it might seem a tad rough compared with what I’m used to. If a sanding that could resurface an oak dining table could be considered rough, then yes, this was rough indeed. The peels of epidermis I unwittingly shed on the tiles were proof enough. Ouch.
Then came the full body massage (again, modesty has no place) and unanticipated nutritional pep talk. I need to eat “much, much, much more bread,” according to my masseuse who found my corps wanting in the poundage department. What’s more, I needed to learn to r e l a x. When I replied that in fact, that’s precisely why I was getting a massage, she sniffed and stated that wasn’t sufficient. Prescription medication for relaxation was deemed necessary. Oh, and extra Vitamin B.
Ah, the French and their deep devotion to meds.
And so we emerged into the Paris sunshine, devoid of dead skin cells and polished head to toe. Was it relaxing? Mmm, not so much. Entertaining and enlightening? Ah oui, bien sur.