Unfortunately, time did not permit me to have a facial, and my favorite salon for facials, Samuel Par in the 6th arrondissement, had lamentably closed its doors. But I did manage to find myself in Place Vendome between two shows with about an hour of free time. The Hotel Ritz beckoned to me. The only thing I can recommend from the more than 20 years I stayed there is the beauty salon. Michel has taken care of my hair for many years, through extensions, bobs, various colors, you name it. The only time he let me down was when he left my hair-with two feet extensions, in the shampoo bowl so he could cater to Anna Wintour, who needed a fast comb out. Anyway, off to the Ritz I ran, and Michel greeted me warmly (maybe I was the first American he had seen there all summer.) The salon was having (ahem) a "lull", so I my request for a shampoo, blow dry and manicure was instantly accepted. Michel is great-there is no question about that. His style for women is always subtle, smooth and soignée. He is a believer in the classic French chic we all still revere. A beautiful young woman did my nails, and complimented me on my makeup. This is so un-French---a Frenchwoman complimenting another woman is simply unheard of-that I gasped, "You're not French, are you?" No, she said, she was Italian. I left the Ritz Salon knowing that I looked a lot better than when I entered, and I carried the smooth French style to my next show.
Next stop, Lugano, where my husband and I were fortunate enough to stay at the Villa Principe Leopoldo, high on the hills above the lake. Now was my time to indulge, I told myself. Italian savoir-faire combined with Swiss efficiency! I booked in-room massages with the hotel therapist, Patrizia, and was told she worked exclusively on the floor, and that many clients felt her massages were "the best". In three one hour floor massages, Patrizia worked different problematic muscles, always reminding me to "love myself" and "be good to myself". Her massage technique is somewhat subtle, not at all painful, and very life affirming. I asked her if she did cranial sacral therapy and she said she was hoping to learn it as this was the direction in which she wished to take her work. The hotel also recommended a day spa called Mandhara
in downtown Lugano, so I booked an appointment for "Dalla profondità della terra", essentially a fango mud bath. In this small but elegant and immaculate spa, I was treated to a light massage, followed by a scrub. Then I showered and lay on a sort of warm waterbed, where Lina applied the Fango preparation all over my body. Then I was wrapped in a plastic sheet and enveloped in the warm waterbed, and suspended like a baby in its womb. There I lay for some thirty minutes, in a kind of heaven. Getting the fango off in the shower was a bit of a drag, but there is no denying I felt like I was on a cloud for the rest of the afternoon and evening.
Next stop, London, and this meant the one and only Olympus Suite at Claridge's. I had worked with Ewa Berkmann, the head of the Spa before, so I knew of her high standards and insatiable quest to find the best and the latest for the Olympus Suite. Here is where you may have treatments with noted pedicurist Bastien, or a consultation with the well-known Paris plastic surgeon, Dr. Olivier de Frahan. On the day I met Dr. de Frahan, the most famous pop singer in Great Britain was lying on his table having a consultation. I thought I was seeing things. This girl can't be thirty! She smiled at me, I was introduced to the doctor, and we agreed to have a small interview after my facial with Ewa. Ewa uses Anne Sémonin products exclusively, and incorporates facial massage with the essential oils of that have made this brand so popular. Fresh herbs, plants and seaweed rejuvenate and soothe the tired skin of travelers. It is ninety minutes of luxury and health for your face. I felt like I was glowing, and I went from the facial to Dr. de Frahan's consultation room. He works mainly in Paris but spends Fridays in London, where he has many clients. I had actually heard of Dr. de Frahan from Fabienne, the facialist at my lamented Samuel Par in Paris. He looked right at me and recounted a story about a famous American movie actress, now in her early sixties, who has just had a face lift. "I met her many years ago in America," the doctor said, "and as soon as she learned I was a plastic surgeon, she wanted to know what she should do. I advised her that because of her prominent mouth and high, wide cheekbones, she should never allow a surgery that would pull her skin tight to the sides. Well, look at her now. This is exactly what she did, and she looks like a ghoul. And she is an intelligent woman-she knows it looks awful." Being French, Dr. de Frahan is a "less is more" type of doctor, who says he turns away patients he feels cannot or are not yet ready to benefit from plastic surgery. At the Olympus Suite, I also did a two hour massage with Sally Ramos, a tiny but strong body therapist who was not interested in telling me to love myself. Sally was more interested in a program of change. She felt sure that if I changed certain patterns of movement and habits in my life, my aches and pains would disappear. I can't argue with her, and her massage did finally put me to sleep, although Sally said she did plenty of deep tissue work. She is a no-nonsense but good massage therapist. I cannot recommend John Freida Salon at Claridge's enough. The stylists there are sweet and completely competent to do whatever the client wants. I work with Laurence, and he knows his stuff, be it smooth and sleek for a night out or wild and crazy for a photo shoot.
From London, we traveled to the Gothic southern German town Konstanz, on the beautiful Lake Konstanz. It has remained beautiful because it is so close to the Swiss border that it was not bombed in World War II. The Münster Cathedral in the center of town is breathtaking, and was the full-on view I experienced when I went to Karin Martin's Cosmetic Team for a facial. Karin, an experienced beautyworker uses the German products !IQMS for her facials, and I had a treatment that included a masque that literally came off my face looking just like me. I can only say this facial was amazing. This mask really did pull up my face, while nourishing essential oils and creams beneath it fed my skin. I think this facial took fifteen years off my appearance. Pity these products are close to impossible to find in the United States! I told Karin that whatever it took, I would return for another of her amazing facials.
Finally, Istanbul. I think this city is the great undiscovered beauty center of the twenty-first century, although we all know that Turkish beauty treatments are age old and universally revered. In the salon of the Ciragan Palace Hotel I had my hair styled a few times, I had a French pedicure, I tried Turkish Depilation (working with two strings held tightly together to remove unwanted hair)...Ouch, but "worth it." Fashionlines' Sedef Kokcuoglu, an Istanbul native insisted that my daughter Alexandra and I try to famous Turkish Hamam. The three of us took a steam bath in the elegant Onacua Spa in the Ciragan Palace, and then were moved to
the Hamam room, all in white marble, where we were scrubbed, massaged and bathed till every bit of dead skin was off our bodies. The Hamam was such a revelation to me that I cannot now imagine how humans are fully clean without it! The Hamam was certainly the highlight of my many European beauty treatments. But there was one more treatment I just had to try. The Onacua Spa offers an outdoor one hour massage on the hotel grounds in a gauzy white tent by the Bosporus River. As I lay there in a dream state, listening to the lapping water of the Bosporus, the boats passing by, and children's laugher in the nearby pool, my reverie was suddenly broken. Floating over the water, over the children's laughter, over the boat sounds, were the hypnotic chants of men's voices from a nearby mosque, calling Moslems to prayer. I was indulging in this luxury a mere six hundred miles from the Iraq border, I suddenly realized. How close, yet how strange our world is.
Mandhara Day Spa
Quartiere Maghetti 20
Olympus Health and Fitness Suite
Brook Street London
John Freida Salon
Ciragan Palace Hotel