Monday, June 20, 2011

Steam Cleaning

This is a hammam in Olivet, also known to some English speakers as a sauna.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect when Bernard gave me a session at this place, which is located inside one of our giant grocery store complexes... After all, I only had had one reference of a hamman prior to this...

A few years ago, we were in some small village in Tunisia on one of those group trips they sell you after you're their captive in the hotel lobby... Among our stops one day after visiting a souk (an outdoor marketplace) was a hammam. The men all went one way and the women went another, bathing suits in hand. We changed, then stood like cattle in a large room with steaming rocks, and waited for our summons to another room for a brief massage. I was among the first (unsuspecting?) victims. I was told to lay on a table on my front. Now, flip over. Then, the woman actually pulled down the top of my bathing suit, gave each of my girls a rapidfire rubdown and I was sent on my way before I could even say, "Quoi?" (What?)

So I was a bit uneasy when I found out what this was on the gift certificate Bernard bought me, but totally ready to be more assertive. You can imagine my pleasant surprise when I was told I'd be completely isolated in a room with my own hammam, able to dress and change in privacy.

The hammam is basically what you see here... a modified shower that emits steam to the tune of a max of 37.3 degrees Celsius. I was afraid to look at the conversion, but just did now. Well, 99.14 doesn't sound SO bad for someone who's lived through Augusts in Texas, but when confined to a small cube, it does wonders for making you rid yourself of whatever nastiness you set up your skin for during lunchtime, as well as from last Tuesday and 15 Tuesdays ago... I sweated like... well, that's just too much to share. You'd rather I didn't go there.

It was simply a 20-minute sauna, but at first I thought I wouldn't last three minutes. I counted down the last 18 minutes. I opened the door three times. I stepped outside once, but then clumsy as I am (all my students learn this word, which in French is maladroite for a woman, so know you know too) I thought I shouldn't venture too far. After all, I'd locked the door. (No rubdown surprises this time.) BTW, sentences get awfully long when you've been melted like butter just a few hours before.

A cool shower never felt so good, and I think I sucked down a litre of water toute de suite (right away) afterwards.

There was a scale right next to the hamman, but I totally forgot to take advantage of the Before And After part of my journey. And no, had I remembered, I would not be sharing that here...

Not all of my senses got melted.

A highly recommended experience.

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