No gain without pain, as Sofitel’s Parisian Escape spa experience goes deep

The Parisian Escape, at the Sofitel’s excellently appointed So Spa on The Palm, was a vigorous going-over, featuring a brush, a massage and a facial.
The men's plunge pool of So Spa. Courtesy Sofitel Dubai The Palm Resort & Spa
The men's plunge pool of So Spa. Courtesy Sofitel Dubai The Palm Resort & Spa

“How did it come to this?” was my chief concern approximately 15 minutes in. I’d been promised “a wonderful escape à la Paris”. Thoughts turned to blissful relaxation tinged by images of the Eiffel Tower, romance and beautiful people. But sacré bleu, The Parisian Escape experience, my chosen option at the Sofitel’s excellently appointed So Spa on The Palm, was a vigorous going-over – and no mistake. Perhaps whoever devised the triple-pronged treatment – a “brush”, a massage and a facial – was thinking of a grittier experience of the French capital, as in the 1990s cult-classic movie La Haine.

Things began sedately enough, exploring the spa’s facilities, which are positively stupendous, especially contrasted with the rather more modest equivalent at the Sofitel on the Abu Dhabi Corniche. The separate men’s and women’s facilities each enjoy sauna and steam rooms, a chilled plunge pool and another, warmer swimming area, in addition to a shared outdoor pool and a gym that are both available to spa guests only, plus nearby private cabanas for couple’s treatments. The wide open spaces of The Palm have been put to excellent use; here’s a resort within a resort.

My Serbian therapist, Igor, explained a simple pre-treatment foot ritual that used coconut milk for moisturising and peppermint as an antiseptic agent. It was then a short hop on to the massage table for a brief spell of dry-brushing. Unlike a scrub, the dry-brushing (over the back of body only) is, Igor told me, more designed to increase circulation than to exfoliate. The stimulating mini-session feels like a quick, scratchy rub-down from a shoe-shiner’s bristles.

The aromatherapy massage with lavender body oil followed. I asked for the massage to be medium-to-hard – if I had opted for the full-blast pressure, I conceivably might not have survived to tell this tale. Every time Igor detected a hint of tension, he homed in on the area with ruthless precision. That meant that my calves and the nape of my neck and shoulders were subjected to at-the-time-excruciating repetitions. But I’m of the school of massage thought that says if you can’t feel things moving, it’s not doing much good; there’s no gain without pain – and, a couple of hours after the treatment, the former was undeniable, while the latter was all but gone.

The concluding section was more relaxing. The “flash” facial, which used Anne Semonin products, consisted of a botanical milk cleanser, an exfoliating mask and gel mask, an eye-contour serum and a covering of moisturiser, with a final, short head massage. By the end, I could pick out almost every pore on my face – as well as every sinew in my legs and back.

It’s a testament to the customisable nature of So Spa’s menu that a treatment so outwardly soothing can be ramped up to close to sports-massage depth. Here, there’s something for every taste. And should you prefer to be a little less reckless with your pressure requests, there’s little doubt that The Parisian Escape would be as mesmerisingly calming as a float down the Seine.

The 90-minute Parisian Escape treatment at So Spa, Sofitel Dubai The Palm Resort & Spa, costs Dh850, including taxes. Call 04 455 5433 for more information

aworkman@thenational.ae

Published: May 31, 2014 04:00 AM

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