The first day of our second week of travel this particular trip began in the impossibly gorgeous dining room of the Hotel Vernet, sipping green detox tea and eating freshly baked croissants with French cottage cheese, which was creamy and yogurt-like and not at all similar to our American cottage cheese. Since I’d recently been checking out Las Vegas spas, KC suggested we look for a Paris spa day. It wasn’t a difficult choice to forgo the idea of standing in line at the Louvre or elbowing through throngs of tourists on the Pont Neuf to relax; we had been in 5 airports and 3 countries already and feeling desperate for some rejuvenation. So, extending our breakfast with a plate of smoked salmon, we consulted Professor Google. Les Bains de Léa showed up on a Vogue list of best spas in which to recharge during Paris Fashion week. I was interested that it wasn’t attached to a hotel; stand-alone spas are expensive to run and therefore are relatively few and far between. I also liked its location in the 8th, in the Golden Triangle off of George V, not more than a half-mile walk away. The website was promising and had enough English to figure out we could each get a treatment and a half-day pass to the spa area. We called from our room to make an appointment. The staff quickly switched to English when asked, there was plenty of availability for treatments. It all felt right, so off we went.
It was easy to find rue Pierre Charron, but not very intuitive finding the spa at number 62. There is no door open to the street, in fact, the entrance is hidden. You have to walk through the arched courtyard entrance at 64 rue Pierre Charron, right next to La Victoria brasserie; you’ll see the door on the left under a black awning.
The salon and dressing rooms
The entire salon and spa exist just-below and below street level, respectfully. The reception area is down a short flight of steps and is a luxurious space, all white floors and fixtures and moulding with bas-relief rosettes and flattering bright lights. The staff – every single person we met – was friendly. You may have heard that Parisians have a reputation as being standoffish, and that may be the case, but it certainly wasn’t our experience, not here or anywhere we went in the city. We were given robes and shown to the dressing room to change, then were collected for our treatments.
KC left for his massage, and I had a manicure. The rectangular make-up and nail room is next to reception, mostly below street level save for three windows in the top third of the room where you can watch well-shod pedestrians passing by. A white flower ball decorated each wide sill, and the walls were draped with white curtains. Opposite an oversized lighted make-up mirror, 6 feet in diameter, covered the wall opposite the windows, opening and brightening the very pretty and clean-feeling space. And I can say that it was easily the best manicure I’ve had. My hands and nails, dry from the constant airplane travel, got a big dose of TLC complete with hand and arm massage. And his massage was amazing; any travel tension had melted away.
The pool and Jacuzzi area
We met after our services and walked down the flight of stairs to the large, high-ceilinged spa area, where we spread out on comfortable lounge chairs and proceeded to spend the next four hours blissfully moving back and forth between the pool and Jacuzzi, then the sauna and steam, reading, dozing, sipping on tea and water infused with oranges and lemon, and nibbling on unsalted almonds and apples. Four hours. Nirvana.
The blue and green lighting in the large space was soothing but managed to remain well-lit enough to read and write. Surprisingly, there were very few people around. The pool was large enough to swim laps and cool enough to feel invigorated doing it. And the the Jacuzzi! C’etait incroyable. It felt nice and hot; about 102 degrees F, and the water pressure on the variable jets was just stupendous. There were even jets on the floor, the better for a hydrotherapy massage on our sore travel feet.
The most interesting thing we noted, one which really made the experience all the more special, was the complete lack of chlorine smell. Two floors underneath the streets of Paris, the ventilation system was thoughtful and robust enough to keep the air feeling completely fresh and chemical-free. No pool smell, no gym smell, no locker room smell anywhere. It was an amazing engineering feat for an indoor pool and spa: just pure clean fresh air.
The sauna and steam areas
Separate men’s and women’s areas off of the pool area each house a steam room, a hammam sauna, a shower, hooks for towels, and extra towels. The steam room was positively next-level: an ovoid room lined with wide, deep, white marble benches with under-seat lighting, niches (for a cold drink?) two hand-held showers (the better for a mid-steam cool rinse), dimly lit with tiny pin lights much like the steam room in the Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas.
The sauna was more brightly lit, with benches wide enough to recline and a bucket of cool water to refresh:
Sushi and juice bar
There is even a juice and sushi bar and a lounge area with magazines. You should really take a look at the menu. It’s an impressive offering; they serve more than a dozen types of tea, espresso and cappuccino, juices, cocktails, a sushi bar, gorgeous-looking salads, and chocolate drinks and treats.
The enjoyment of any activity often has a direct relation either to surprise of surpassing expectations or delight at having discovered something intensely amazing. Our enjoyment factor was off the charts at Les Bains de Léa. We were surprised at being somewhere so obviously off the tourist track, happy at being treated well while basically left alone, and delighted at the quality and luxury and attention to detail we had happened upon. Our day at Les Bains de Léa was one of our top Paris experiences, along with our lunch at L’Ecluse François V and tea at Angelina’s. It is expensive and worth every penny. We highly recommend a visit there on your next trip to Paris, but don’t simply have a treatment. Splurge for the entire spa experience.