Oh, the winter. Until Christmas and New Year’s Eve, I can cope with it rather well, especially in Paris. I love the Christmas lights and the cheerful atmosphere around every corner when not only the Champs-Elysées flashes like a Las Vegas Casino but every self-respecting shopping street turns the night into day. At the end of January, however, the fun is over and it gets really dark and cold. I then even avoid my much-loved pavement cafés, where patio heaters turned up to the max roast your scalp and make your cheeks burn bright but fail to warm up the ice blocks that used to be your feet.
A while ago, my friends and I therefore came up with an alternative for really cold weekends: we search for an oasis of warmth where we can return our bodies to a constant, comfortable temperature from our heads right down to our toes. Piscine de la Butte aux Cailles is a listed swimming pool dating back to the 1920s that was fully renovated in 2014. It is not only one of the most stunning public Art Deco indoor pools around but also has its own spring, which is why its water is less chlorinated than in other pools. Flooded with natural light under the domed roof, the water in the indoor pool has a cosy temperature of 28°C and stretches 33 metres, ideal for swimming lanes. The decision was recently made to also open the warm heated outdoor pool all year round and we were lucky enough to have it virtually all to ourselves. Gliding through the warm water and steamy mist on our backs with nothing but the Parisian night sky above our heads was like floating through space. (www.paris.fr)
When looking for a real cocooning session, we visit one of Paris’ many hammams. One of the best for our money to date has been the Hammam Medina Center. For 59 euros, you leave the winter behind in the changing room and spend the entire afternoon or evening enjoying the swimming pool, steam sauna and dry sauna in a fluffy borrowed bathrobe. To top it off, you are treated to fresh, hot and sweet peppermint tea and Oriental biscuits – when you’re not being exfoliated from head to toe or gently massaged with almond oil by one of the charming assistants, that is. I could have spent hours on end just lying on one of the warm heated marble benches. (www.hammam-medina.com)
If you prefer a less oriental and more modern and urban setting, the L’Echappée day spa is ideal. This hidden gem in a former backyard artist’s studio feels like a designer’s private loft and the friendly ladies at reception ensure that there are never too many guests at once. The spa features two steam saunas at different temperatures, a range of massage and care treatments and a spectacular pool with massage jets. For 35 euros, you can use the pool and saunas for as long as you want, lie on the comfy loungers and flick through fashion and gossip magazines, sip on tea and simply forget the grey world outside this little haven. This is the perfect way to make winter blues disappear. (www.lechappee.com)
© Silke Bender