Monday, September 26, 2011
A friend and fellow blogger and I decided to do some hard, hard journalistic blogging work for our Rio readers.
We went to a day spa.
There are lots of places in the city offering spa services, which can range from massages and baths (because most apartments do not have bathtubs, and so it's a major luxury!) to facials, body scrubs, and all the way to funky machine treatments for cellulite and the like. We just wanted to check out one of the basic packages and after sorting through a couple of offerings, decided on Espaço Thai (website seriously out of date) which is located in the gym at Città America.
They offer a number of half-day packages in several different price points, most centering around a trio of exfoliation, bath and massage. We chose the Jericoacoara, which used products containing Amazonian oils and scents. The whole experience lasts about two to two and a half hours.
It's not the chic-est spa in town; the little flyer they hand out has the spa's number stamped on it incorrectly, so I had to call the gym's front desk to get the correct number. Not great if you're struggling to speak Portuguese fluently, for sure, and printing your own number wrong isn't very encouraging for potential customers. We booked about a week in advance; it seemed like they needed a little advance notice as maybe not all their staff was on-call for walk-ins.
Since the spa is located INSIDE the gym, you have to tell the gym's desk staff where you're headed so they'll let you through the fingerprint scanner machines. If you'd never been before, I can see it being a little intimidating, as there really aren't any signs! Inside the spa, though, it's quite nice, if a little dark. Gentle relaxing music plays in the background and a few minutes after checking in, we were ushered to our respective rooms.
The session started out with the attendant giving me a pair of paper underwear. You could wear a swimsuit if you wanted, but since she was going to be using creams and exfoliants, I decided to use the throw-away ones and save having to launder my suit. First, the scrub, which was done on dry skin. It felt like apricot seeds or something similarly rough, but the effect was not uncomfortable. After about 20 minutes, I washed off the residue in the in-room shower and headed to the bathtub, a lovely white stand-alone in the corner.
This was the worst part of the experience. For some reason, the hot water wasn't working too well and the bath tub was...tepid. Swimming pool temperature. At first, I thought I could just run hot water and warm it up a bit, but the water coming out of the tap wasn't heating up. After about ten or fifteen minutes, I realized I was on the verge of shivering and it was NOT relaxing. Also, I could hear my friend calling out "Hello? Oi? Alo? Anyone?" from the next room because she was having the same problem. We commiserated over our mutual attack of the chills and managed to find the humor in it. For some reason, the attendants had left the floor, presumably to give us privacy! I ended up back in the shower, with lukewarm water (but still warmer than the tub!), to warm up, and then curled up on the bed with a couple of towels. By the time the massage lady showed up, I was somewhat cozy again. Like the Americans we are, we let them know that cold baths are not at all what we were expecting, and to their credit, the staff was very apologetic. I think maybe our massages were longer, to make up for the discomfort!
The massage was the best part of the experience. I'd give my massage therapist five stars. At one point, it felt like she'd grown about four extra pairs of hands! At the end, the facial and head massage was finished off with cold stones, which sounds weird but had the paradoxical effect of being both energizing and relaxing. I think I have some smooth stones somewhere at home; I may have to recreate that bit on my own sometime!
Espaço Thai only accepts cash and checks, which is fine, but they had a hard time making change. Not that this is an anomaly in Rio...we each were owed R$30 back, but the girl only had one R$10 bill, so we had to split a fifty somewhere afterwards. We cracked open a box of chocolates we'd brought with us and had coffee at a nearby café. Guess what? They didn't want to accept the R$50 note either! Oh, Rio. I lied and said I didn't have smaller bills and surprise! The cash drawer did have change after all.
Go to Espaço Thai if you want a massage. Hubby and I have been treated to couples massages there for our anniversary and other events and have always been satisfied. The body scrub was a nice treat, but not something I'd want or need very often. Oh, and book for the morning. In the evening, everything in Città America seems to close early. The café was kicking us out and it wasn't even 6:30 pm! Also, getting a taxi can be a hassle, as their taxi stand is vacant once the commuter rush starts. Taking a bus is easy, as they are very conveniently located and a bus to anywhere (including Metro buses) are right outside, but you'll be doing the standing-room-only with a zillion other commuters. Better to go in the AM and skip the crazy traffic.