Paris: the city of lights, romance, fashion and gastronomy positively buzzes with sensory stimulation at every turn. And at Mandarin Oriental, Paris, the senses continue to be piqued – at the two-Michelin-starred Sur Mesure par Thierry Marx, and the sleek Bar 8, for a start – but also soothed, in the luxurious subterranean spa. It’s all a question of yin and yang, in keeping with the Hotel Group’s Eastern heritage.
The prestigious property is located in Paris’s first arrondissement, in the city centre, surrounded by high-end stores like Chanel and Tom Ford, and world-class museums including the iconic Louvre. And, seemingly hidden, tucked away beneath the vast Thirties listed building within which the hotel is housed, is the sanctuary that is the lavish, award-winning Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Paris.
Like a door into mythical Narnia, the hotel entrance – a flower and foliage-embellished portal among the marble shopfronts of the neighbouring boutiques – leads into Mandarin Oriental’s rarefied world of comfort and warmth, through to a peaceful interior courtyard and lush garden. The Spa – one of Paris’s largest, at 900 square metres – is further cocooned, nestled deep within the hotel on the two lower-ground floors. Created by talented interior designer Sybille de Margerie, its white walls depict delicate, pretty origami flowers, evoking a fresh fairytale world. Upon entering this oasis of tranquillity, you walk through a white pearlescent sphere, as if crossing a frontier into an otherworldly sanctuary. A bright, airy space features a 14-metre-long swimming pool, with soothing 28°C water, whose surrounding alcoves invite you to relax after a dip, while the silhouettes of butterflies on the walls enhance the calming atmosphere. On the upper level is the fitness room, equipped with high-tech machines.
The Spa experience starts at the reception, where ambient lighting and rich burgundy and wine tones bathe you in a blissful feeling – as do the softly spoken staff, who welcome you with a refreshing peppermint infusion as you are invited to slip off your shoes and sit. Prior to treatments there’s a questionnaire to fill in, but this isn’t just the usual nuts-and-bolts form you might get at many spas. It establishes the status of your yin and yang: are you anxious? Are you positive? Do you lack self-confidence? Do you have lower back pain? The questions, asked like a caring mother and a Chinese doctor rolled into one, determine which of the five evocatively named categories you fall into – Awaken, Bloom, Flourish, Release, Reflect – for each of the treatments, or rather experiences, focuses on a holistic approach to the physical, mental and emotional. Instead of an aesthetic or quick beauty-led fix, it’s about lifestyle, health and wellbeing as a whole.
A Couple’s Suite, with shower, steam room, vitality pool and treatment area.
There are seven suites in total at The Spa, comprising singles and doubles, allowing guests to indulge in treatments solo or à deux – this is the city of romance, after all. In either case, there’s a sense of being in your own private world. Each treatment room – or suite, no less – is entirely self-contained, so there’s no need to mix with the other guests and break the spell of being in a bubble of intimacy. The softly lit space includes a personal steam room, bathroom and changing area, sectioned off from the treatment room. Again, there are rich velvety wine colours, and white and carmine glass mosaic floors are studded with silver-leaf butterflies.
Once comfortably ensconced on the alcove seat in your suite, the therapist goes through your diagnosis, asking about any concerns or troubles and what you might want to achieve during the session. An essential oil blend, from the exclusive range of Mandarin Oriental spa products, developed in collaboration with Aromatherapy Associates, is then chosen to meet your requirements. Mine was Bloom, a blend including the warm notes of ylang-ylang and heady rose, to help rebalance the mind, body and soul. The chime of a Tibetan bell (a miniature pair of cymbals) marks the beginning of the ritual-like treatments and allows you to focus as its vibrations create a stillness in the air.
the silky, velvety petals caress your feet…
The therapists are so serene that they seem to glide as they walk and diffuse calm into the atmosphere as they talk. They are also experts in carrying out the treatments, which combine the wisdom derived from Chinese medicine with aromatherapy to treat different parts of the body and soothe the mind. In alignment with the hotel’s Asian origins, a strong Oriental thread runs through all the therapies, such as the centuries-old Eastern practice of reflexology applied in the Oriental Foot Treatment, or the use of warm bamboo sticks in the Oriental Bamboo Massage that work out deep-rooted muscle tension.
For a unique experience, the Mandarin Oriental Signature Spa Therapy is the crème de la crème of pure indulgence. The treatment lasts for two hours and 20 minutes, enough time to really let go and put all external pressures aside. It starts with 10 minutes in your steam room, followed by exfoliation with an invigorating rose, green tea and bamboo scrub to prepare the skin. Then the calming ritual begins with a hedonistic footbath filled with rose petals – a luxurious feeling as the silky, velvety petals caress your feet and their floral perfume wafts through the room. After this, a thorough massage eliminates tensions from the entire body – the focus on the feet and the head sending you into a deep state of relaxation. And as each treatment is tailor-made to suit individual needs, my therapist, noticing my skin was slightly irritated, snuck in a quick facial massage with Guerlain SOS serum (facials at The Spa use this storied French brand).
Guests can relax pre-treatment with soothing tea
The sound of the bell marks the treatment’s end, and a refreshing glass of lemon-infused water is served, along with a beautiful cake of coconut and red currants, as you slowly return to reality. The therapist advises on yoga-like exercises to practise, according to the Chinese element you are aligned with, as well as food to eat, and avoid, in order to keep your mind and body in harmony. In this way, you take the benefits of your spa experience to the wider sphere of your lifestyle.
To end what feels like a holiday in this dreamlike Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Paris, you can lounge around the pool to prolong the moments of serenity. Taking the lift back up to the entrance, the equally magical world of Paris awaits – to be better appreciated from a relaxed, restored and revitalised viewpoint, now that your yin and yang are perfectly balanced.