All of a sudden everything has gone quiet. Paris big-city noise dies away and all that’s left of the late summer sun is fair light filtered through sheer curtains. We’ve just entered Or’Normes Spa close to Panthéon in the Latin Quarter, but it feels like we’ve voyaged back in time.
“Our spa is ... inspired by our own discoveries travelling the world," explains Anna, the spa director, as she greets us and shows us Or’Normes’s spa menu.
No matter what you pick, your first experience will be the Or’Normes hammam. Here, tension and toxins are whisked away by the perfumed steam from the calming bath. Then it’s time for a full body massage and wrap made from rhassoul, a clay that’s extracted from the grounds beneath the Atlas Mountains. Stories about its beauty benefits go back centuries. Afterwards, we drape ourselves in velvety dressing gowns and unwind even more with mint tea and some makroud, a North African pastry made of dates, almonds and honey. The combination of extravagance and conscientious service makes us feel so relaxed, we could move in.
Paris is not a wellness destination in the traditional sense, but the City of Light offers plenty of trendy takes on the spa experience. Plus, travelling to Paris trip in search for modern wellness means a lot more than just facials and body wraps.
One of the foremost Parisian pioneers when it comes to external allure is found at the Hôtel le Meurice next to the Louvre. This is where hair colourist (and celebrity fave) Christophe Robin runs his intimate namesake salon. You won’t find any scissors there — only dyes, brushes and styling products. Even though Monsieur Robin is one of the most sought-after stylists in the business, he's warm and welcoming, and sits down with us when we visit to share a few stories from his long career, like the fact that he credits supermodel Stephanie Seymour with his big break, and that it took 62 tries to find the right components for his famous shampoo.
But Robin’s personal success formula, it seems, is based on a genuine delight in other people. “Women have always been my biggest source of inspiration," he says. "When you do what I do, you have to love people — it doesn’t matter if it’s a doorman or a super star that’s sitting in your chair.”
Getting some hair-colour care by Robin is not impossible, but it requires a decent amount of patience. He’s booked solid for months, and regulars such as Catherine Deneuve and Kylie Minogue are prioritized. “I always try to look after hair in the very best way," Robin says. "A truly beautiful colour won’t last unless the base is good. It’s like cosmetics — if you haven’t looked after your skin, the makeup won’t (matter).”
One of the best spots in Paris for skincare, then, is L’Ambassade de la Beauté, housed in a former presidential residence. There, you'll find the beauty brand Biologique Recherche, and in what look like curiosity cabinets are rows upon rows of their oils, serums and lotions. Cream-coloured treatment rooms are found at the back. There, I sank deep into a chair while my face was given a two-hour "firming cure". Careful peeling, kneading and massaging left my skin soft, moisturized and (hopefully) healthier.
A treamtent like this makes you feel worthy of a different kind of pampering — like, say, splurging on luxe lipsticks — pop into Paris' newest Christian Louboutin boutique, located in the covered passage of Galerie Véro-Doda. The shop reminded me of a gallery: merchandise is displayed like jewellery in alcoves designed by interior architect Pierre Yovanovitch.
Round out a day of glamour by visiting one of Paris’s oldest perfumeries, By Kilian. ”Just like fashion, perfume can mirror and smell like its time," says owner Killan Hennessy. "A certain mix of armoas can move you to the 70s, the 80s, to this very day … And since we can’t smell the perfume we’re wearing ourselves, I asked myself, how I could offer beautiful objects that will fill your whole home with a lovely fragrance?”
These words are uttered by the owner, Kilian Hennessy. As his name suggests he’s an heir of the prominent cognac family, and one of the grandchildren of the founder of luxury conglomerate LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy). But the family business has never interested him. From a young age, he’s instead worked as a perfumer for fashion houses such as Dior and Armani. Ten years ago he established his very own niche brand that also makes fragranced jewellery, handbags and interior decor items. His polished, scented candles in black lacquered wood holders with real pearls, for instance, look like small pieces of art.
Having said all this, if there’s one Paris locale where all of the above pieces of the beauty puzzle come together, it’s Maison Guerlain on Champs-Élysées. The house is said to be the true secret behind the meticulous Parisian look and lifestyle. It's at once a accessories boutique, a perfumery (offering custom scents), a makeup studio, and a spa — and it even has its own restaurant.
In one of the queues at Guerlain, I overhear two Parisienne women asking for ”the same procedure as usual next week.” I can only enviously dream of the same. But with a suitcase carrying a bit of new perfume, nail lacquer and scented candles, I look forward to enjoying tiny bit of Parisian wellness with truly French finesse back home.
Ready to bask in some Parisian-style beauty and wellness — or just check out the City of Lights? G Adventures can get you there. Check out our small group tours of France here.