Oh La La J'adore - Aux Bains Montorgueil

It's only since I've lived in France that I've experienced the greatness of the hammam.  For those of you who've never been, it's a single-sex spa, including a steam room, savon noir (black soap), high-intensity scrub, and a combination of massages or facials, depending on what you are up for that day.  My very first hammam was with some girlfriends in Cannes (a great introduction since I had no idea what I was doing). It was there that I learned that savon noir can really sting your eye and the fact that you cannot be modest person at a hammam - tops off is de rigeur

My second hammam was the big mama of all hammams, at  La Grande Mosqué de Paris, where I almost flipped at the lack of hygiene (seriously people, they sprayed off the scrub tables with hoses, then yelled NEXT!) shudder. This hammam was like Moroccan happy hour - over 100 women in all states of nudity- chatting away as they scrubbed, relaxed and waited their turn for their massage. A cultural experience that, while a very interesting social study, now makes me dry heave when I consider the microbes that were surely floating around that place.

When my copine asked me if I wanted to go to a hammam on Saturday, my first reaction was to ask her about their cleanliness factor - AKA: are more than hoses involved in-between customers (you know, like bleach).  She assured me that (knowing me) she would never suggest anything less than a bacteria-free environment, and so I accepted her invitation to the Bains Montorgueil.

Our day started with a delicious lunch at Le Pain Quotidien that began our road to detox:

citronnade with fresh mint, organic veggie soup, ham and cheese tartines and mesclun salad 
(uh, chocolate cake for dessert not pictured)

I followed my copine through the primeurs and cafés to a door like all the others on the lively rue Montorgueil.  At the very back of a courtyard, on the right-hand side, was this...

Magical n'est pas?

We opened the door and traveled far away from Paris... 

all the way to Marrakech

We were provided with sandals, a beach wrap, a robe and a bottle of water... and then it was time for re-lax-a-tion..

It was just the two of us for the majority of the experience (nothing like the Mosqué), and the vibe inside was feminine, comforting and intimate - a secret haven for pampering. While the space is tiny, it's beautiful and relaxing, and the women inside sing in Arabic as they slough away your winter skin during the gommage, tournez-vous ma belle (I've never had such a thorough gommage)We decided to go for the gold and get a facial as well that included fresh grapefruit juice, rose extract,  honey and sesame seeds.  While the facial did its thing, they washed our hair (heavenly), sponged off the savon noir and pampered us with mint tea and little moroccan treats. Our experience ended with a massage à huile d'argan that soaked into our fresh baby skin...I've never felt so clean!  We cozied into the pillows, fresh-faced in our robes and all I wanted to do was close my eyes and take a nap...

I decided that this must become a ritual every three of four months - I knew I stopped coloring my hair for a reason! (Doesn't this seem like a more enjoyable investment??)

The day ended exactly as this sort of day should: with the purchasing of two new pairs of ballerines! Yes, I spoiled myself and it was totally worth it. (Shh, don't tell Copain).

Ballerine number 1 - soft, supple leather, just like my old ballet slippers

Ballerine number 2 - elastic around the outside hugs your foot - super comfy

If you need a you day, I highly suggest Aux Bains Montorgueil - 118 Euros of happiness and a new outlook on life is sometimes just what the doctor ordered n'est pas?

Aux Bains Montorgueil
55 rue Montorgueil, 75002 PAris
Tel: 01 44 88 01 78

Call for reservations. (We went for the 118 euro package including hammam, gommage, facial and massage, but there are other, less expensive options...) Disclaimer for Americans - while it's not required, almost all women at the hammam take off both their bathing suit top and bottom for the gommage and the massage. It's a bit strange at first, but since it's the norm, you quickly get over it and just go with the flow :-)


  1. I've never tried the hammam, but I definitely have to! Thanks for sharing.


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