Dior Institut at the Plaza Athenée

Dior Institute

Last winter I tested a handful of Paris spas. At first, I was on the quest to eliminate a black head that was more stubborn than your average teen. Once that was taken care of, I still had a slew of appointments to honor, and it being a cold, grey winter, I was thrilled to oblige! And this being the first grey, rainy day of La Rentrée, it seems like the perfect moment to cozy up to some luxurious memories.

Plaza Athenée

Next on my list was the Dior Institute at the Plaza Athenée. The Plaza is the only place left in Paris that still intimidates me, it is so terribly chic. Dior is, well, DIOR, and Dior on the avenue Montaigne inside the Plaza Athenée is the quintessence of Paris. I was delighted for the adventure!

But I was also working full-time at an agency in the center of Paris and my appointment was for lunch time.  I showed up at the office that morning a bit more dressed than any of my co-workers. At the stroke of noon, I headed out the door, dove into the metro and I was off with the delicious feeling that I was leading some kind of a double life.

The top hatted doorman saw me in and the concierge pointed the way. What exactly about this place intimidates me? Surely not the friendly staff! Downstairs, an elegantly (Dior) suited hostess showed me to the changing room with its hammam and large shower and invited me to join her in the rest area when I was ready.

The rest area. I am probably not the best person to be testing spas because I am so happy about getting a treatment, that I am not the most critical critic. The little extras are what matter to me, things like all those pools I’ve been enjoying, lovely spaces and tempting treats. There was no pool, but the rest area is a true haven, with Dior designed lounges where you sit and unwind as they bring you a tea and platter of healthy gourmet treats; dried fruits with fresh dates and the best little muffin I’ve ever had. I may have been purring at this point and the treatment had nut yet begun!

My appointment was for a facial. Another elegant woman came to get me in the rest area. The esthetician. She examined my skin and pointed out that its quite dry and rather sensitive, then went to work almost like a medical professional. I was in good hands, that much was certain and the facial ended with an extra bonus of a light make-over, for additional pampering and to ensure I’d be ready to return to the office. It wasn’t easy to tear myself away from this sumptuous spa where I really felt like a princess in a palace, but it was lovely having this little secret under my smile as I returned to work for the day.

+ The undeniable luxury, welcome snacks and total professionalism //  – No pool

Facials starting at 180€

Nuxe spa

I had been to three spas now, and I still had that charming black head just left of center on the tip of the nose. It was turning out to be as stubborn as I was. This week, I decided to see an expert for the face at the day spa by Nuxe.

Nuxe has been in Paris for a long time, but it was only in 1989 that Aliza Jabès purchased the company and started modernizing it for today’s woman; a girl with a career and kids who runs around the city in her heels and deserves a true blend of Nature and lUXE; NUXE.

I arrived late, sweating and stressed, tumbling out of a taxi at the top of the rue de Montorgueil,  a bustling pedestrian street with food vendors and shoppers filling the space, the Carrera marble paving stones the only hint of luxury.

I barged into the shop announcing my arrival and my apologies in my silly accent and the women greeted me calmly, with a forgiving smile. I was immediately put at ease. But I had an appointment in a spa and this was a shop. I was sure I’d made some kind of blunder. I hadn’t, for hidden beyond the tiny boutique is a full-blown spa on several levels.

It’s a beautiful space, and I was tempted to dive into their small Watsui massage pool, but instead I was led outside, next door beyond an nostalgically Parisian gate, into a stone paved courtyard and up some steps to sliding glass doors that opened on to another world. A large Bedouin style tent graced the hall, as if I’d crossed oceans to another continent. Flying even further East, we headed downstairs to the vaulted basement that was fitted with an inspiring zen décor. There were no changing rooms. Your spacious treatment room has everything you need, including a heated bed.  It was perfect.

I lay myself down, trusting the assured hands of my esthetician who immediately set to work, again telling me that I have excessively dry, sensitive skin.  Half way through the treatment I remembered to tell about the reason for my visit. Mr Black. I explained how three professionals before her had been unable to get it to budge.  “Ah, bon?” she shrugged nonchalantly, “Its gone.”

I was shocked. I’d never even felt her digging in. Then I was thrilled. It was gone (I spent the next few days reveling in the feeling of its absence) and I was to happy I could here church bells ringing out the joyful news throughout my body. The treatment ended with a scalp massage so divine it put me to sleep and before I knew it I was upstairs sipping a tea, my face clean at last.

Treatments start at 80€

NUXE Spa – 32, 34 rue Montorgueil
, 1er – 01 42 36 65 65

Les Cent Ciels

Still on my quest to find the best spas in Paris I decided to make up for the hammam I’d missed out on at the St James Albany After the Rain Spa by going for the real deal, a traditional hammam. I have a respectable hammam habit, but I’ve been suffering from something of a Goldilocks syndrome with Paris hammams. This one was too funky, this one too trendy, this one without a soul. I was looking for something just right.

And I found it at Les Cent Ciels en Boulogne. Getting out of the metro on a freezing cold winter night, I wasn’t so sure it was a good idea as I cross the bridge over the peripherique and started looking for the number 45. A welcoming light was the sign that I was on the right path. I push opened the impressively large wooden door and the warm terra cotta walls, with a candlelit stairway assured me that I had arrived.

A smiling hostess confirmed my reservation and took me on a brief tour. I had traveled to the Middle East by metro; oriental carpets lined the floors and the dressing rooms were in authentic wood with pierced tin lights over head, bathing the room in dramatic light.  Following a souk-like labyrinth led us to a small pool where they have aqua-biking courses mid-week and then we turned into the generously large hammam with tiled walls and benches, a fountain in the middle of the room, devoid of water, but bathed in candlelight. It was the perfect room for a group of girls to go and sit and chat, languishing in the heat.

In the corner, there is a second, domed hammam, barely visible through the thick mist of humidity and too hot for a long stay. I lay myself down on one of the heated benches, letting it all soak into the very marrow of my bones, as the city dirt came to the surface.

My masseur arrived and we headed into another domes room in a corner; the exfoliation room where she scrubbed away all the toxins that had been sitting there on the surface and prepped for a massage. We headed upstairs where she really got to work, rubbing and pulling and folding argan oil into every pore. It was delightfully invigorating and it felt like I was there for hours before it was over and I was invited to follow her to the rest room with deep oriental couches and a satisfying mint tea, so that I felt sweet inside and out before heading back out the door to brave the harsh winter elements.

Visits start at 40€ with treatments up to 220€

+ The warm ambience, clean, space and charming smiles.//  – Better with a friend

Les Cent Ciels – 45 bis ave Edouard Vaillant – Boulogne – 0146200701

After the Rain

It all began with a button. I am not referring to the bright red button I saw when I was nine years old. That button was bright red and had a small sign beneath that read, “PRESS HERE” in glossy black, capital letters. Being an obedient girl, I pressed and nearly fell off the counter top as a deafening siren started wailing and customers began filing out of the store where I sat on a busy Saturday afternoon. My mother walked upstream through the slightly panicked crowd, calmly taking my hand and whispering through a force smile, “What did you???” My Mom had no doubt in her mind that I had been the one to set of the fire alarm that emptied the store. I’ve always been something of an adventure prone kind of girl like that. BUT this year’s button was the French, deceptively non-descriptive word for pimple.
It was a particularly special one; a black head that sat just to the left of centre at the tip of my nose (why do the ugliest always make their appearance at the tip of the nose?) and refused to leave, calling me to PRESS HERE, much like the smoke detector test in that store in the 70’s. I tried lotions, potions and poisons. I dug deep, I detoxed, I nearly drowned myself drinking more than two litres of water a day. It would not dislodge. Something had to be done.

Since buttons seem to inspire adventure in me, I decided that “something” was going to be an article on the best spas in Paris.

The first spa I went to was After the Rain in the Hotel St James Albany or the rue de Rivoli. I knew little to nothing about this four star hotel in the very center of Paris, but I was very excited to be heading there because when I made my appointment I’d been told to come early and bring a bathing suit. There was a pool!

I arrived an hour early for my rendez-vous, thrilled with the opportunity to be changing up my exercise routine. I was even more thrilled as I was given a tour by the receptionist, and I saw the pool, a gorgeous basin with stone walls, amber lights and wooden lounge chairs. It was utterly zen and I felt like I had my very own, private pool under the Tuileries gardens. A quick visit to the perfectly appointed locker rooms and I was ready to hop in. I did laps for forty minutes. I was alone the entire time and it was heaven.

After the pool, guests are invited to spend twenty minutes in the hammam, which has a changing LED light display to help you keep track of the time. I hadn’t arrived early enough, so I went in for my facial still buzzing from the swim.

The treatment room was a continuation of the zen design around the pool, with a splash of energizing red details. I knew nothing about After the Rain, but quickly learned that it is a very scientifically oriented cosmetics brand from Switzerland and the facials are custom blended for each client’s skin. After a quick analysis I was informed that I have very dry, visibly sensitive skin.

The treatment was fantastic, the products had cured my customarily scaly winter skin without leaving any visible redness. Unfortunately, it did leave me with that damned button, despite some considerable effort on the esthetician’s behalf. It was my fault, I should left time for the hammam!

After the treatment I headed to the rest area, another perfectly peaceful space with flavored waters, teas, herbal teas, dried fruit, fresh fruit, chocolates and fraise Tagadas candy. They even had a working wifi, so I could stretch out my lounge chair, pull out my iPad and write this piece as I Tweeted about the joys of After the Rain and dreamed of coming back with Mr French for their couples soins, La Vie en Rose which includes a rose petal bath, champagne and strawberries from the hotel’s garden.

After the Rain
St James Albany – 202, rue de Rivoli , 1st arron – Tél. : +33 (0)1 44 58 43 21

+ The feeling of having your own private pool under the Tuileries, the rest area with exotically flavoured waters and fun treats.//  – The lack of light

60 minute massage 140€
La Vie en Rose 260€

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