Sunday, June 30, 2013
Spa-mma Mia (Kami Spa, Rome)
Rome is filled with history and decaying beauty on every street corner. It's noisy and chaotic and full of modern life and rubbish on the streets. Romans race through cobblestone streets to have chimney-puffing smoke breaks and speak in rapid, angry bursts (when they may truly be saying sweet words to each other; it's a example of how the medium is the message). The food is heavy and delicious and cheesy and meaty. To say there is a lot of humanity, in all its forms (good, bad, ugly, beautiful, loud, brutal, pushy, funny, etc.) is an understatement.
On our first day, Raf and I took a walk around our apartment. We turned the first corner, onto a small alleyway, and as we passed an unassuming door, I noticed a familiar smell, like lemongrass and eucalyptus.
I stopped and stared into the calm void of basalt floors and sandstone walls. Sure enough, there was a highly rated ("Voted Rome's best day spa!") spa sandwiched between a ratty garage and a tiny wash-n-dry.
A few days ago, I decided to finish off my Roman holiday with a massage and I must admit it was one of the very best souvenirs I could have gotten.
You don't realize - or maybe you do - that being gone from your regular routine can take a big toll on you. I don't speak Italian very well and we have stayed close to the more "touristy" sections of Rome, so there is a gruffness to the way we've been treated by the tourist-jaded Romans who inhabit those areas. No one has been outright mean or rude - I don't mean that at all - but there has been a lack of genuine sweetness and connection, except by our fabulous guide Grazie.
Anyway, I didn't realize how much I needed to release the tensions of Rome until they were being knocked out of me via a blend of Oriental massage techniques.
The actual spa was not what I'm used to. I've been to spas in Vegas and LA. I love the gritty Korean day spas where they scrub you within an inch of your life, until your skin glows. And most of all, I love the fragrant, luxurious Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, where you could spend an entire day and not remember there's a "real" world outside its Moroccan-tiled walls. In all of these places, the spa facilities are a sanctuary unto themselves, with steam rooms and saunas and beautiful baths and pools and jacuzzis and showers and fragrant amenities. There's usually tea and cool cucumber water and fresh fruit and cut flowers and a bevy of spa attendants and freshly laundered towels.
Kami Spa is not like that. For 30 Euro (the add-on cost to use the "facilities" if you have a treatment), there is a tepid pool (why?) and a steam room that smelled a little moldy. The showers are in that "facility" area, not near the lockers, and you have to walk through the lobby (where other clients are sitting and which faces the street) to get to the facilities and back. Weird. I was the only one in the "facility" area, too, which was odd, and they had to pull a curtain over the window that overlooks the lobby so I'd have some privacy.
Okay, whatever. It's Rome, nothing is "usual." I'm game.
I took a quick dip in the not-warm pool and then went into the steam room. Once I got past the faint smell of mold, I found myself drifting away, my muscles relaxing into the warmth of the steam. The stress of the vacation literally melted away (you may laugh, but if you think about it, a vacation can be super stressful; this trip, I've been concerned about everyone getting enough to eat and having a good time and getting the right souvenirs and staying out of the busy streets of Rome so they don't get killed by a guy on a scooter who's smoking and talking on his mobile phone). I didn't want to leave.
Finally, it was time for my massage. The therapist (Nok) escorted me via elevator to her treatment room, which was beautiful and calm. For an hour, she kneaded my muscles and chased the stress away. I truly felt like a new person. An old, familiar feeling of calm contentedness came back... and I hadn't noticed its absence until it returned.
So what if the facilities weren't up to snuff. The massage was the best I'd ever had - firm, thorough, muscle-relaxing... and exactly what the ring leader of this traveling circus needed.