Would I like to try thalassotherapy?
When a friend with a family apartment in the Brittany resort of La Baule invited me to a thalasso weekend, I must admit there was something about the idea that intimidated me. I wasn’t sure what treatments were involved, how I was supposed to behave, or even what I was supposed to wear. Luckily, it turns out, La Baule, a beachside resort in the Loire-Atlantique, was the perfect place for my introduction to thalassotherapy.
Marine spas go way back
Seaside spas have been a tradition in Europe since the 19th century. Of course, the use of thermal baths and related treatments goes back even earlier than that, to the ancient Greek and Romans. And while there is not a lot of hard proof regarding the medical benefits of “taking the waters”, a practice that’s lasted this long must be on to something.
And, so I went and have never looked back.
Discovering La Baule
Not too far from Paris by train, and not too crowded in the off-season, La Baule boasts the longest white, sandy beach in Europe as well as many non-spa attractions: including a large, colorful open-air market, kilometers of bike paths, several nearby golf courses and the charming port of la Baule-le Pouliguen.
The gateway to Brittany sites
La Baule is the perfect base from which to explore the Brittany coast. Rent a bike and peddle to the charming village of Croisic an hour away, soak in the beautiful Breton scenery at the nearby seaside towns of Pornichet or Saint Nazaire or visit the flat salt mines in Guérande where its famous sea salt is harvested.
And then there are the spas. La Baule’s best-known attraction, besides the spectacular beach, is the Hotel-Spa-Casino Le Royal. The hotel itself was recently renovated, but the pool-spa area has maintained its old-world charm, so that stepping into it is a bit like stepping back in time.
The personnel on my first visit (and subsequent trips) were extremely warm and friendly and took the time to explain the process step-by-step. Nonetheless, if you’ve never embarked on a “water cure”, it might be helpful to know a few things before you take the plunge (so to speak).
Here are my top 4 tips on how to make the most of your thalasso séjour:
1. Prepare your trip
It’s best to book your treatments in advance as there is limited availability. Most spas offer package deals of 3 or 7 days, but you can also choose à la carte. While most thalasso spas naturally specialize in saltwater-based treatments, such as whirlpool baths, algae paste wraps, and pressure showers, regular beauty treatments and massages are also available.
Keep in mind, if you’re someone who likes things neat and trim at all times, you might want to book a waxing/pedicure appointment before you go. Many spas provides amenities like a bathrobe, shower sandals and disposable underwear in each treatment room, but check with your establishment to see what they offer.
2. Leave your modesty at the door
If you’ve booked a package of several days, you’ll probably begin with a medical exam, given by a doctor you’ve never met before, who will weigh and measure you, take your medical history, and prescribe a number of treatments. Many of these treatments will involve you being near-naked. Thalassotherapy is not a time to be shy.
But, rest assured, the staff has seen IT ALL and will do their best to put you at ease. You do have the option of keeping your bathing suit on rather than using paper panties, but also be aware if you opt for the algae wrap, your suit may smell like sushi for several months after.
3. Manage your expectations
Despite what some brochures claim, thalassotherapy is not a miracle cure for what ails you. In 3 or even 7 days, you’re not going to lose 10 pounds or 10 years from your face. There is some evidence that regular long-term treatments can help with pain stemming from arthritis or rheumatism. However, the main benefits from a short-term stay come from the rest and relaxation it provides.
Your asthma may not disappear overnight, but your stress-levels will undoubtedly drop enormously; and you’ll return home with skin as soft as a baby’s derrière.
4. Bring a friend
Downtime is programmed into your schedule, which could mean taking advantage of the spa’s solarium or treating yourself to an herbal tea. You may also have access to the pool and/or fitness room if you’re so inclined. But as most of the sessions are individual, these breaks are also the ideal time to catch up with your girlfriends and compare notes on the various activities and treatments you’ve tried. Is the parcour minceur better than aquagym? Should I opt for the hot wax wrap instead of the algae one?
Indulge without guilt
Sharing a drink in the bar or a crèpe by the beach at the end of the day, away from the demands of work or family, will bring you closer together and create fond memories to help get you through the long winter months in Paris. If you prefer to go with your significant other or family, look out for special deals for couples and new mothers, which may include free babysitting.
So if you’re feeling achy or stressed or just need a break from your usual routine, visit Brittany and give thalassotherapy a try.
Remember, it’s not just self-indulgence; it’s THERAPY!