Monte Carlo spa well worth gamble

Hillside view of Monte CarloMONTE CARLO – Picture lying on a chaise lounge atop a terrace overlooking the Mediterranean. To the right is the Principality’s palace. The nearby marina teems with sparkling white yachts as a fleet of boats with fuchsia sails criss-crosses the harbor. Muted city sounds are the only reminders that life exists beyond these pampered confines.

Is it paradise? No, it’s much more. It’s Monaco. The establishment is Les Thermes Marins de Monte-Carlo – a seawater spa situated in the center of this exclusive enclave tucked between the sea and the Alps.

Montecarlo SpaAt 60,000 square feet, it’s one of Europe’s largest spa facilities. Composed of pink marble and clear glass, it’s light filled – many of its rooms overlook the sea. Spread over four floors, it features wet and dry treatment areas, two seawater swimming pools, spa restaurant L’Hirondelle, a fitness center and beauty center.

If you consider its location, you expect the best. It’s in the midst of a fairytale landscape and is only steps from the Casino de Monte-Carlo – a long-time haunt of high rollers. Expectedly, the spa is accustomed to discriminating and sometimes demanding clientele. This credential translates to a jet-set experience for any spa-goer.

The spa’s mantra is: “Care for someone you have long neglected: yourself.” This is reflective of European logic – one that counters many a North American’s conviction that a spa visit is an extravagant indulgence.

“In Les Thermes Marins de Monte-Carlo, the physique, physiology and psyche are not treated separately. In the same spirit, we do not simply ‘sell’ massages or hot baths,” explains the brochure. The spa team includes a cardiologist, physiatrist, chef, dietician and a team of marine therapy specialists (capitalizing on the therapeutic value of Mediterranean seawater).

“It’s as essential as a doctor’s visit,” I tell myself as I slip into my robe and slippers. My treatment is the Maxi Mineral (90 minutes for 140 Euros) and my technician is Annie – a tall, friendly, French-speaking redhead. She escorts me to a tiled room and we easily communicate through her minimal English, my minimal French and our mutual charade tactics.

The treatment begins with a rigorous body scrub consisting of coarse Dead Sea salt crystals mixed with essential oils. Annie quickly and efficiently presses and rubs these crystals into my skin in the direction of “energetic circulation”. It’s invigorating.

A lather of Dead Sea mud (heated to skin temperature) follows. Annie then swaddles me in a heated (she asks if I prefer low, normal or “more”) wrap. Its purpose is to discharge my body’s toxins.

After rinsing the mud from my body in the in-room shower, I return to the dry and comfy table for a massage with a rich body lotion. They call it remineralizing milk but the consequent results are the same. Ahhhhhhhhhh!

My assessment of the Maxi Mineral? It’s stimulating, soothing and has substantial benefits. Among them, I’m told, are anti-tiredness, anti-aging, elimination of dead cells and improvement of skin texture.

In further exploration of the spa, I enter the fitness center. Its floor-to-ceiling windows frame the Mediterranean – making a workout look especially appealing. A tall, tan, athletic fitness expert approaches me, “We specialize in weight loss.” His tips: moderate aerobic activity (speed walking opposed to jogging) and exercise on an empty stomach. I make note of this advice – for my home workout routine

* For information on Les Thermes Marins, visit www.montecarloresort.com or e-mail thermes@sbm.mc. For general Monaco information, call 1- 800-753-9696 or visit www.visitmonaco.com.

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