Turn Ons:For $35, I spent the evening rotating between steam rooms, saunas & cold baths.
Turn Offs: It felt like a bachelor pad version of a the Great Jones Spa.
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Not My Type
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The historic Russian & Turkish Baths on E10th St. were a major disappointment for this Indie Girl seeking refuge from the rapid-paced concrete jungle of NYC. It was like a bachelor pad version of a spa that felt purely functional and devoid of any atmosphere or amenities conducive to relaxation and pampering. Nor was there any sense of hospitality; just a stern faced dude in a Kangol who assumed I knew the services, policies and procedures of this old-school facility, chock-full of regulars who already knew the drill. Without a word he slammed a metal lock box on the counter. Taking the cue from other guests, I deposited my wallet and, in exchange, was handed two keys on an industrial strength rubber band (classy). Flammable polyester robes, dollar store flip-flops and rough burgundy towels were included in the $35 spa fee. I headed downstairs to the busy spa area which was as crowded, diverse and loud as a New York City rush-hour subway ride. The steam rooms, saunas and cold pool branched off of a long, white-tiled corridor where people perched, chatted, quenched their palettes and shaved. Yes, grown men engaged in public grooming using the spa's Barbasol and disposable razors.
I found myself bathing with Hasidic Jews and hairy, pot-bellied men with bald heads and plumbers butt; heavily accented Long Island types discussing sports, labor unions and recovery, an attractive lesbian couple and a group of French tourists. There was also a man karate-chopping the air randomly while wearing a heat retaining hat, and an aspiring model; both of whom seemed to be engaging in extreme steaming to "make weight". This sensory overload inhibited my ability to relax. But when a limber yogini seated directly next to me folded her legs into the lotus position and started "ohm"-ing I, too, decided to attempt a zen-like approach to this counter-spa experience (sans chanting). I closed my eyes, focused on my breath and tried to clear my mind of any judgement.
Then, in a sudden burst of spontaneity, I decided to go for it and immerse myself in the total experience by agreeing to a supposedly therapeutic Platza Oak Leaf Treatment which is basically a public pummeling inside the Russian Sauna. My aggressive platza specialist scrubbed my body and beat me with an olive oil drenched broom made of fresh oak leaves in a way so vigorous that I thought he might crack a rib. Not to mention the fact that he shook my body so forcefully I was afraid my bikini-bottomed booty might start to clap. Face down with a cold towel smothering my head, not only was I gasping for air but, I couldn't stop wondering if people in the crowded sauna were staring at my booty bounce. So not relaxing!
I stayed at the spa for an hour, rotating from the ice cold pool to the Russian sauna, redwood sauna, Turkish room, aroma therapy room and steam room. My experience culminated with a soap-free shower 'cause I couldn't imagine lathering my skin with the spa's generic, Pepto Bismol-pink soap. Next time, I'll pay the extra $15 for the oasis-like Water Lounge at The Great Jones Spa. Yep, I'm a total spa snob.
268 East 10th Street (between 1st Avenue & Avenue A)
Getting There By Subway:
- L to 1st Avenue - 14th Street