I love Paris. You can have a terrific time here without spending a ton of money. (Or you can spend a ton of money). We’re here for 10 days with my daughter Megan and her partner John.
Yesterday Meg and I went to a hammam – a steam bath – a first for both of us. We went to the Great Moslim Mosque in the 5th arr. It was wonderful, an amazing physical experience and visually stunning. Mosaic tiles, arches, the steam swirling around, half masking everything.
You start by having a shower and then you go into the first steam room with your little paper cup of savon noire. It’s not really black, sort of an amber coloured gel. Meg said that it had pine tar in it. Definitely soap though. It helps to be with someone who can rub the mixture on your back! You steam, rub the savon noire into your skin, keep cool by pouring buckets of water over your head.
Once you feel comfortable with the temperature in the first room you go into the second steam room. It’s a lot hotter and there are tiers so you can get even higher and hotter if you want. There’s also a little pool that you can dip in to cool off.
After about 20 minutes of steaming you shower again and get in line for gommage. Exfoliation. You lie on a table and a woman uses a fibre glove to scrape off all your dead skin. Even the skin in your armpits! And nipples apparently, although she didn’t do mine.
After that it’s the massage. Gobs of oil all over and 20 minutes of bliss.
It was very busy yesterday so we had to wait for almost an hour for the massage. I kept falling asleep and snoring. Lovely. At least I wasn’t the only one.
The massage room is also the entrance to the changing rooms and to the steam rooms. It’s a big square room with wide – about 2 metres – tiled benches around the walls. There’s a big round fountain in the middle and 4 massage tables around that. At one end there’s the reception counter and a counter where you can order mint tea and little sweet snacks.
Everyone has to go through the room when they arrive and when they leave. there are women on the benches sleeping, chatting, sipping mint tea, all in various states of undress. There are women having massages, oiled and glistening on the tables. There are women bundled in coats and scarves arriving and leaving.
It was wonderful. My skin is softer than it’s ever been. The massage got most of the kinks out of my back. I can’t wait to do it again. As soon as I got back I checked pagesjaunes to see if there’s a hammam in Carcassonne. There is!