Archives for category: spa

IMG_5704For the past four years, anytime we wanted to take a break from the great outdoors (whether it was too cold or too hot or too wet or whatever), we’ve retreated to Athena Spa, a two-story refuge in midtown near Madison, where they let us take over one of the floors and roam free. We’d hang out reading in the Hwangto dome sauna or inhaling the burning, herbaceous steam in the wet room or sipping drinks and nibbling tasties in the lounge or getting the kinks worked out of our backs and shoulders and butts and calves by their talented masseuses. All naked, of course. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen six or eight or a dozen New Yorkers, many of whom have never met before, walk in off the street, take off every stitch they’re wearing, and luxuriate in the combined bliss of pampering for the body and sparkling conversation for the soul.

Well…nothing lasts forever, alas, and after more than a decade of chasing winter chills and unlocking clenched trapeziuses, Athena is closing its doors at the end of July. It’s the classic Manhattan story: they lost their lease. The owners are directing customers to another spa further uptown, but…it’s not the same. Not even close.

So we returned this week for a farewell bash. Toasted the old place with champagne and SkinnyGirl…brought some Amy Tan, some Stephen King, some Hard Case Crime, some PREACHER…brought together members originally from the UK and Poland, from L.A. and Atlanta and Ozone Park, an NYU frosh and an MIT grad, a downtown artist and an upper west side novelist, and enjoyed four hours or so of unmitigated pleasure.

Goodbye, Athena. You were special, and will sorely be missed. (And we mean “sorely” literally.)

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IMG_4726Today was originally going to be a park day for us, but the morning dawned dreary and forbidding, so we hit our favorite spa instead, for an afternoon of massages and steaming and sauna-ing (and reading: today’s books included The Hunger GamesThis is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz, and our almost-finished copies of The Twelfth Planet and Hunt Through the Cradle of Fear).

Discussion topics included the death of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, how much we love the smell of books (sniffing of sample pages and bindings ensued), the pleasures of old-time radio shows, how many calories are in a red velvet cookie, and the pros and cons of clitoral hood piercings.

All in all, a decadent day of pampering, topped off by mimosas during and ramen after. Almost enough to make us not miss the park…


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IMG_2543The latter days are upon us. It feels like fall. Suddenly afternoons in the park are brisk rather than sweltering, and walking off the street and into the sauna in a spa doesn’t feel redundant.

On a recent afternoon that was not only brisk but rainy, a small band of us visited a lovely spot in midtown called Athena Spa, where they’re cool about nudity, even the co-ed variety. The environment isn’t so photo-friendly (ever try carrying a fancy digital camera into a steam room?), but we snapped a few pics of ourselves in maximum relaxation mode.

Well, maybe not absolute maximum—but for the moments that were even more relaxing than these we turned the camera off.

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012313-nWas it 14 degrees? 20 degrees? Depends what time you checked the thermometer, but one thing’s for sure: It was damn cold today in New York City. Which made it a lousy day for outdoor toplessness but an outstanding one for visiting a spa equipped with a hot sauna, a hotter steam room, a batch of massage tables, skillful masseuses, and the makings of mimosas. (And doughnuts, and some other yummy things to eat.  And books, of course–lots of books, ones trashy enough we didn’t mind damaging them by lugging them into a sauna.)

So we met, ten of us, nine f and one m, got naked or nearly so, and killed a day knocking back Kava and Tropicana, letting the sauna defrost our flash-frozen tuchuses, and letting a team of gifted professionals unknot the muscles in our shoulders, backs, thighs, aforementioned tuchuses, and more.

Did we bring a camera? Of course we did. But the lights were low, leaving us with a choice between dim, blurry pictures or garish high-contrast ones taken with a flash that would make Weegee look subtle. We got what we got. And now you get what we got.012313-e

Someday the sun will return, and like the swallows, we’ll return with it. But in the meantime–a better time, with a better crew of comrades, could not have been had.

Stay warm.

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So…what do we do when it rains? Sometimes we brave the elements and get lucky; sometimes we brave the elements and get soaked. And sometimes we duck into our favorite spa for a an hour of sauna and massage in the hopes that it’ll rain itself out. Which, yesterday, it did.

But the ominous portents of rain meant a bunch of people cancelled (wimps!), leaving just one of us behind the camera and one in front. Oh, brave, brave one in front!  Bearing the standard for the rest of us. Was it a little bit terrifying? Yes. But also exhilarating. Any day that contains a full-body massage and a one of Tom Colicchio’s delicious cinnamon brioche buns eaten bare-breasted on the grass in the heart of midtown Manhattan is a good day indeed.

So…we were all set to enjoy a day in the park today, when what should hit town but Tropical Storm Alberto? Also known as rain, rain, and more rain.

So we hit one of our favorite spas instead and read indoors, in the sauna.

Sunny days are coming, though.  Coming soon.