It was, basically, the weekend of a lifetime. Arriving at the luxurious Hôtel Hermitage in Monte Carlo with my best friend (and the photographer for this story) Leslie Kirchhoff felt kind of like winning the lottery or starring in a Mary-Kate and Ashley movie. (You’ve thought about it, too, don’t lie.) We were in easily one of the most luxurious, gorgeous cities in the world…and there was no sales tax. Hermès was around the corner, and so was the most famous casino of all time. Hello, heaven.
But, that’s not even the best part: Leslie and I were there to document our experiences at the Thermes Marins, an iconic spa that recently underwent a beautiful restoration. Its brand-spanking-new facilities include state-of-the-art everything, like a hammam (Turkish bath), private cabins around the swimming pool, and super-high-tech locker rooms. (And, we thought Equinox was nice.)
The highlight of this restoration project, though, was the addition of a cryotherapy booth. In case you haven’t heard of it, cryotherapy is exposure to subzero temperatures — up to -106 degrees celsius — in hopes of decreasing inflammation and chronic pain, and promoting full-body health. Athletes have been doing it for quite some time in order to speed up recovery between intense workouts and improve their performance.
The team at Thermes Marins assured me that a single session would heal my jet lag, help me de-stress, and promote a good night’s sleep. The catch? Well, obviously, it was walking around half-naked in a tiny little room that was below -100 degrees. Our server at lunch told us he had sweaty feet before his own experience, and it caused a nasty freezer-burn sort of situation between his toes. A friend cautioned against entering the chamber if I had a cold, because a similar sensation would happen in my nose. I was hesitant at best.
My attendant at the spa was a kind French man who spoke very little English, and mostly laughed when I expressed my nervousness or asked questions. He gave me a fresh pair of socks, checked that I wasn’t wearing any jewellery, and then told me to put on this little headband and a surgical mask. “Are you ready?” he asked, with the politest smile imaginable.
First, I entered the pre-chamber for a couple of minutes. This room is designed to prepare you for the extreme cold you are about to endure. I don’t know the exact temperature, but I’d equate it to going outside in the dead of January in New York City without your puffer jacket on — bad, but not really that bad.
Then, the attendant told me he was going to turn the song on. “What song is it?” I asked.
“Blurred Lines,” he responded.
“I’LL GO WITHOUT IT!” I yelled back, indignant. I was already enduring three minutes of cruel and unusual torture — I didn’t need to invite Robin Thicke to the party to make it worse.
At first, I just stood in the middle of the room, ready to cry. This was cold like you would not believe — cold that felt like ants crawling all over my limbs and stinging them over and over. My breath was fogging the window. After just about 30 seconds, I couldn’t be sure if my toes were still attached to my feet. My nose felt, all of a sudden, like it was insanely dry, which then turned into a burning sensation.
“Dance!” the attendant commanded, urging me to get my blood flowing, probably in order to avoid freezing into an ice statue.
I obeyed, singing Beyoncé’s “Love On Top” in my head, praying for the angel wings of Bey to guide me out of this miserable, frozen-over hell. I tried to do a twirl, but was nervous I'd hit the icy wall and get stuck to it, so I settled for a couple swift air-kicks instead.
Luckily, the dancing distracted me for the rest of the three minutes, and I was finally instructed to leave the chamber. There were tiny snowflakes on my lashes, I couldn’t stop quaking for many minutes, and my whole torso was pinkish-red for at least an hour afterward.
After I warmed up, I took a dip in the pool, and then ended up passing out in my bed for an hour. When I woke up, though, I was welcomed by an insane burst of energy that lasted throughout dinner and many rounds of cocktails, ultimately culminating in a jump-on-the-bed photo shoot and skyping with friends until 6 in the morning.
When we woke up at 10 a.m. for a full day of sightseeing, I was convinced we had overdone it. But, then — without a nap — we ended up repeating the revelry, befriending a band from London and staying out with them until 4 a.m. No shut-eye necessary.
You could chalk it up to the fact that we were living our very best lives in Monte Carlo — which we absolutely were. But, I like to think that it was a little bit of that ice-cold magic. And, trust me, I’d go back and do it all again in a heartbeat.
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