Pros and cons of a health spa

Yesterday, I was swimming in the pools pictured below. What heaven eh? What you’re looking at is a very large pool filled with hot spring water, and a smaller pool more suitable for doing laps. The big pool has a snail shell-shaped whirlpool, bubble jets under shallow seats, a big mushroom spilling water over the edges, sprays of water from pipes (ouch), and whole areas of bubbles under foot. All around are mountains and sunshine. What’s not to love?

Les Bains de Lavey. Copyright Wendy Hollands. For Le Franco Phoney in France.

I enjoyed the novelty and even emptied a bucket of cold water on myself after fifteen minutes in the Swedish sauna area. However, a two-day break of pampering spa time and treatments just isn’t for me. Don’t get me wrong, Les Bains de Lavey in Switzerland is a beautiful thermal spa with a very high standard of customer service, a wide choice of beauty treatments, and a lavish hotel with everything you’d expect, but I just couldn’t relax. Why? Because I’m not comfortable with nakedness in front of strangers. I struggle getting naked in front of the doctor.

Day One of my ‘Wellness’ package involved wearing just a paper thong and trying to gracefully get into a giant spa bath of water while the attendant watched. Once the spa time was over, there was the salt rub. Refreshing, sure, but lying for twenty minutes wrapped in plastic and a blanket is not my idea of relaxing, despite the calming music. I felt like I was in a body bag. Itches couldn’t be scratched and I was bored. Once unwrapped, the attendant watched me ungracefully dismount the table to rinse away the salt. I’m comfortable with my body, but I’m not comfortable parading in front of strangers covered in salt and a paper thong.

And then it got much worse. I had added a massage to my package and was greeted by a hunky young French man who, as he massaged my upper leg, told me to “let it go”. I said I was finding it difficult to relax. He suggested too much stress (nope), too much work (nope), and then in jest suggested not enough massages. Wrong again, young hunk. I couldn’t relax because I knew he’d soon be turning me over and seeing my paper-thonged body from the front while rubbing oil on my chest. Of course, to save my modesty, he had placed a towel over me at the start of the massage, which he held up above his eyes while I turned over half way through, then placed back down on me. But the towel doesn’t stay on. Why bother with the towel? He used it to cover my legs while he exposed my upper body and vice versa. Did I enjoy the massage? Kind of, but not really.

Day Two involved getting naked in front of the same attendant from Day One and some weird bath cocoon that sprayed hot water from above and underneath. I was covered in cocoa butter at the time, and was later slathered with mud by the same woman, then left wrapped up once more. No doubt many people love this, but it just wasn’t for me. Thankfully, the reflexology session later that day involved taking off my sandals only. Relief. The reflexologist had barely finished before I was out the door and in my car on the road back to France!


I'm a technical author, journalist and writer from Australia who has been living in Europe since 2000 and exploring the world from there. My passions are writing, snow sports and travel.

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12 comments on “Pros and cons of a health spa
  1. Alexandra says:

    I enjoyed your article, it’s too funny!

  2. Wendy says:

    Thanks Alexandra. And there I was thinking I’d be hesitant to leave. My still-oily feet were sliding in my sandals as I raced back to my car! 🙂

  3. Angela Williams says:

    The spa days I’ve experienced have been altogether gentler, kinder, relaxing and pleasurable and my modesty has been preserved at all times. I love Bath Thermae spa where you can relax in the warm roof top pools both there and at Ragdale Hall you are given a big fluffy bath robe and towels when you check in.
    Ragdale is my favourite, there are private changing rooms and no paper thongs! We always put our swimsuits on under the robes because there are warm relaxing pools, indoors and outside, some with powerful foot and back massage fountains if you like them……I love them. Quiet, themed rooms with candles, fragrance rooms, saunas and steam rooms, a thunder and lightening storm, a wonderful cave pool with low lighting. Loungers are all around so you can sit and read or sleep. A quiet room with a huge bean bag, swing seats, chaise longues, a sleigh bed, where gentle snoring is sometimes heard. A restaurant with wonderful food or another cafe where you can take afternoon tea; you can dine in your bathrobe, we always do. If you want to go for a cycle ride, play golf, use the gym or take a class you can. There are shops at Ragdale if you want to spoil yourself too.
    I always have a massage where ever I go, England, Singapore, Australia, cruise ship, but I’ve never felt ‘exposed’ or embarrassed. I also have massages at home from my beautician because I get tension in my shoulders.
    A few years ago I had a hot stone massage on a cruise holiday, it was done by a masseur. He asked if I wanted a hard or soft massage, hard please, I had to go to sleep afterwards because tension I didn’t realise I had was gone. At no point in any place have I been watched, by other guests/clients or left to feel vulnerable or exposed. Towels are always massive so modesty has been preserved and never compromised and on every occasion the masseurs and masseuses have always turned their backs when I’ve had to turn from front to back and vice versa. I thought that was normal! 🙂
    So, no that isn’t my idea of a relaxing spa either, try one in England if you’re not too put off by the bizarre Swiss hard core version. Angela

  4. Wendy says:

    Angela, I think you’re right! There were lots of the relaxation rooms like the ones you’ve mentioned – just that I was a bit bored with it. They also gave me the bath robe, but it had to come off for them to wrap/scrub/massage etc. I was grateful for their disposable thong!

  5. Roslyn says:

    What you need are more spa trips, it gets better and better. Forget about the strangers (or better imagine its Eric form Trueblood) spa time for me is rare and I LOVE it!!!

  6. Richard says:

    Yee Gads, you’ve made it sound quite horrific, I am reminded of a Turkish rub down I once had by a burly man in a cave, I think it’s all a bit much for the travelling English and Australian, we’re just not in tune with flopping around in suds, next time? Sight seeing trip and a nice hotel!

  7. Wendy says:

    Roslyn, I reckon a non-naked one would do the trick for me – it’s the nakedness I’m not good with (Richard is spot on about not being in tune!). Might try a local facial next time for comfort zone. 🙂

  8. Ahhh! I hate massages. I’ve never had good experiences The last one I got the guy was rubbing me too hard with his elbows. When I said “ow, that hurts” he said “just relax. And proceeded to dig into my back harder. I swear, my muscles were bruised for two days. It hurt leaning against a pillow, lying down, etc. I also don’t like too much heat. God, I’m so not a spa girl.

  9. lynn braz says:

    Oh, what I’d give for your luxury problems! I love this blog. You are inspiring me to set my travel sights much higher.

  10. Wendy says:

    Lynn, if only it were! I forgot to mention that the two days were my only summer holiday, which I drove myself to, alone, and got stuck in peak hour traffic for four hours on the way back! May your sights indeed be higher!

    Samantha, I’m in the elbow camp I’m afraid! The more painful, the greater the rewards for days afterwards (although bruises don’t sound too rewarding – ouch).

  11. You need to ski more in austria!

  12. Emm says:

    Oh no! What a pity you didn’t enjoy it!! That sounds like my idea of heaven – I love spas and massages and so on. I really miss that about South Africa but then the masseurs (sp?) there are primarily women, so no need to be shy until a women appreciates your larger frame because in her culture, that is a blessing.

About me

Wendy Hollands writer in Annecy, France

I'm an experienced technical writer based in the French Alps. I enjoy learning French language nuances, winter sports and travel. Drop by, my other site.

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