Trendy Getaways: Where the Boys Are

Stripped. Scrubbed. Kneaded — he thinks. And that wasn't even the best part of being just another guy at the (Bermudian) spa

IT WASN’T UNTIL I got my third facial — my third facial within about 48 hours, mind you — that I finally got the hang of this spa thing. Not the motivation to go to a spa — I get that: It’s relaxing, a reward, a way to physically recover, recharge, etc., etc. No, the hard part was the nomenclature, figuring out what the hell everybody was talking about. Spa shoes? Ritual experiences? Thalasso bath? Visiting a spa felt like a Mel Gibson movie without the subtitles (or the disembowelments).

It turns out that I am not alone in my ignorance — nor in my newfound appreciation for the exfoliating arts. According to the International Spa Association, men now make up 31 percent of the spa-going public in this country. And that percentage is growing rapidly, particularly when it comes to destination spa-ing — traveling to a spot specifically to get your Thalasso needs met.

With all this in mind, I jetted off to Bermuda over the winter for a spell of arduous reporting, which mainly consisted of getting my scalp, legs, shoulders, back and rump massaged for several days. (Anything for quality journalism.) My destination wasn’t random. Since Bermuda isn’t tropical, it actually has a "winter" — at least, if your idea of winter is five minutes of rain and lows in the 60s — during which time tourism drops off significantly. To help juice off-season numbers, the island has transformed itself over the past several years into one of those spa destinations. Today, nearly every major resort there has some sort of facility, many incredibly luxurious and elaborate, and almost all with treatments tailored to men.

I got a sense of just how luxurious and elaborate at my first stop: Willow Stream, the spa at the Fairmont Southampton, one of the largest hotels on the island. Like the hotel itself, Willow Stream is huge: 31,000 square feet, with three lounges, a heated indoor pool, a hair salon and 15 treatment rooms, all feeling as exclusive as the toniest country club. I opted for the "customized gentleman’s barber face treatment" and a pedicure. Designed to analyze and revitalize men’s skin, the "barber face" did just that — my visage felt like a pat of butter afterward. But the real revelation was the man-centric pedicure. Like many a philistine, I had always assumed that a pedicure pretty much consisted of getting your toenails clipped and painted. How dumb am I? It turns out that "pedicure" is secret female code for "kickass foot massage." Who knew?

My education was just beginning. The next day, when I arrived at the Ocean Spa at Cambridge Beaches Resort — intimate cottages that sit on the southern tip of the island — for my Sothys Homme facial, a very nice British lady handed me some "spa shoes," which looked an awful lot like "flip-flops." Resisting the urge to get etymological with her, I took my spa shoes and went off to get my facial, which promised to detoxify my skin with black pepper and oliban essential oils. Again, I had no idea that oliban was essential to anything, let alone my face. To the Ocean Spa’s credit, I did come out glowing like a firefly. In a good way.

The best was yet to come. On my final day in Bermuda, I headed off to the Spa at Elbow Beach. A sprawling, picturesque resort spread along a hillside overlooking the Atlantic, Elbow Beach is owned by Mandarin Oriental, and its spa is certainly up to the chain’s swank standard. When I showed up for my "signature two-hour time ritual," they proffered a towel and some tea. And some spa shoes, of course, delivered on a platter. Properly be-sandaled, I was shown to my "spa suite," a sort of Asian-themed luxury bathroom/locker room/treatment area where I received said "ritual." Despite the silly name, the signature, which you design yourself from their menu, was an ideal indulgence. I, for one, got a hot stone massage, a scalp massage and some acupressure, I think. I say I think because I pretty much lost consciousness about halfway through. And complete repose wasn’t even the best part. With the treatment finished, I got more tea, and the invitation to hang out on my own personal porch overlooking the Atlantic for as long as I chose.

As I sat there, totally relaxed, staring out at the water, listening to waves crash against the reef that parallels the island’s south shore, my mind went quiet to all but the essential mysteries: What the hell is a Thalasso bath?

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