Feb 4, 2010

After celebrating with abandon during the holidays, the Hometown Pasadena “girls” spent the month of January recovering by spa-ing around town. We each did a treatment or two — yes, it’s a tough job, but as the saying goes, someone’s gotta do it — and here are our finds, some more worthy than others.

Amadeus Spa
799 E. Green St., Pasadena, 626.578.3404
For many years I viewed facials as the ultimate in decadence, the sort of thing that shallow, social x-ray women do when they’re bored. Then one day I looked in the mirror and my Bonnie Bell skin had vanished (having been reincarnated on my teenage daughters). So when I was given an Amadeus “Signature Facial” for my 50th birthday, I accepted it with gratitude and humility. And I loved it so much that the next Mother’s Day, I got another one. Ah, the neck massage! Oh, that soothing steam! My, how my skin felt wonderful for days afterward, maybe even weeks. Decadent, yes, but only in the most essential way. One caveat: During my second one, the technician casually asked if she could “clean up” my eyebrows for me. Being the clueless-about-girl-things woman that I am, I said sure. But when I checked out I found I’d been charged $26 for an eyebrow wax. I made a fuss and they removed the charge, but word to the wise. Price: $120
— Colleen Dunn Bates

Body Healing Center
187 N. Hill Ave., Pasadena, 626.795.6670
10 E. California Blvd., Pasadena, 626.795.9896
I visited the Hill location for a one-hour massage. Desk clerk/masseuse Jennifer suggested a combination Shiatsu, deep tissue and hot oil. Swell. I got the room with two massage tables (popular for bringing your best friend, I was told). On each table, a folded sheet and a pair of men’s boxer shorts. I went back to ask if I was to wear the boxers. No, women can wear their underpants. Which table should I take? You choose, said Jennifer. Okay, I’ll take the one with the ceiling rack, assuming she would walk on my back a la Lucy Liu in Charlie’s Angels. After all, I was all in knots from a stressful work week and couldn’t wait for an invigorating Chinese massage! Jennifer started a methodical massage, asking if I wanted firm or gentle; I requested very firm but I suppose that’s too subjective a term — the massage was distracted at best. But I’m to blame, too. I instigated lots of conversation: about massage (yes, many male customers expect a massage plus), about China (this girl should be a travel agent) and about cultural differences. The hour flew by… with chatter. Rats! This is an example of needing an older masseuse who can prioritize, or a completely non-English speaker who won’t chitchat. Jennifer offered a complimentary private sauna and I thought, “Yay! Maybe that will work out the knots!” I sat in the big shower while it choked out thin steam. After a few minutes she came back to tell me the sauna was out of order. She gave me a complimentary cup of water and I was on my way. Price: $60
— Sandy Gillis

A Jacuzzi pool at Burke Williams

Burke Williams
39 Mills Pl., Old Pasadena, 866.239.6635
After my fellow Hometowner Mel Malmberg described her favorite treatment here as getting beat with a grass skirt, I had to try it. I arrived to find the amenities up to the usual Burke Williams standards: a great big waiting room with a wall of water, plush robes, slippers that actually fit, water with just a touch of fruit, bowls of apples and bananas, sauna, steam room and Jacuzzi. I’d booked Hunter’s Retreat, the wet-room treatment Mel had described, and no, it has nothing to do with hunting — my therapist, Margie, explained that each signature treatment is named for a child of the person who developed it. Margie had me lie on a table in what seemed like large shower, with water jets coming from the ceiling (ironically, it had been pouring outside for days, so the idea of more water didn’t seem terribly appealing). But relax I did, as Margie first scrubbed me all over with exfoliating gloves, then rubbed me with wheat stalks (Mel’s grass skirts) soaked in exotic essential oils. Afterward she kneaded a light moisturizing oil into my skin. It was very relaxing, and my skin – usually dry this time of year – has been soft ever since. Price: $105
— Mary Jane Horton

Cote d'Azur

Côte d’Azure Spa
74 N. Fair Oaks Ave., Old Pasadena, 626.396.3030
I’d seen the sign for this upstairs spa many times in passing, so I finally checked it out. It turned out to be a little jewel hidden in the heart of Old Town, with a wide selection of massages and body treatments. It was another rainy day, but the moment I entered, I felt warm and relaxed… the incense burning, the natural-wood surroundings, the Native American artifacts, the nice people. The treatment I choose, Artist’s Indigo, was supposed to help me regain clarity. My therapist, Toni, said it opens the chakras (energy points on the body) and  clears out the bad stuff. I don’t know about that, but the massage – which worked acupressure points from head to toe – was pure heaven. It included aromatherapy with frankinsence, myrhh and sandalwood, as well as hot stones and warmed bags of rice. The one downside: It is my pet peeve when a massage therapist discovers a place in my body and points out how tight it is (maybe I never would have known), which Toni did. But I overlooked that one negative for how totally relaxed this treatment made me feel. Price: $130

Heart and Sole
163 W. Green St., Old Pasadena, 626.578.9933
This small space in prime Old Town has had quite the buzz lately. For $25 you get a foot soak and rub, head massage and full-body (through your clothes) massage. Masseuses range from tentative to competent to fantastic, and it takes an hour. You are in a large, comfy reclining chair (reminiscent, I imagine, of Gold Class Cinemas, though I have yet to go) in a darkened, hushed room, with soothing music — about ten chairs in the room. You start the treatment face up, then turn over (there’s a cutout for your face). You can’t talk, but you can murmur, and drooling and snoozing is allowed. There is a loyalty card for cost saving, but even so, this place is more expensive than similar Chinese establishments all over the SGV — except there is no Chinese television, no tea (bottled water) no talking, so if you want the hushed experience right in Old Town, this is the ticket. Price: $25
— Mel Malmberg

Pattaya offers Thai massage, not in as fancy a room as this, but with the same floor mats, techniques and stretching.

Pattaya Healing Massage
1525 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, 626.568.9570 or 568.9574
This no-frills, inexpensive, coed massage and hair salon sits in the rear parking lot of Pattaya Café, across from PCC. Look for the motel out back and you are there. Thai-style massage, a combination of deep tissue with some stretching, is what you get if you don’t specify a preference. And even if you do specify. The ladies here are sweet and homey, with a command of beginner’s English. Which is fine. I’ve been twice and love masseuse Jane. The place is whistle-clean, with four-inch-thick, firm mats set on raised linoleum flooring (no dirty carpet smells). The double-mat room, which is good for girlfriends or husband-and-wife massage time, isn’t for the über modest. You will change into prison-style PJ bottoms and remove all other garments. Modern country music and twangy Asian folk music accompanies the loud ticking clock in my room, and I feel like a puppy being weaned from her mother, especially when Jane begins my massage with a warm-washcloth foot rub. Ah. I love this place! Jane uses open palm, thumb, elbow, her ulna arm bone, and socked feet to rub, push, apply pressure and glide deeply along muscle groups to relieve tension. I ask for hard pressure and she complies until I whimper. Stretching at the end feels like working with a personal trainer, but patrons can opt out if they like. Price: $35
— SG

Serenity Day Spa
82 N. Hill Ave., Pasadena, 626.395.9787
1043 E. Green St., Pasadena 626.396.1848
I wanted a quickie — a foot massage, that is — so I called Serenity Day Spa on Green Street. From its swank website I chose the Eucalyptus Retreat body and foot massage ($65), for my sinuses. The Green Street location had nothing available that afternoon, so I was referred to the Hill location. I called  and booked a Eucalyptus Retreat, or so I thought. I arrived at a building that could double as an off-track betting parlor, complete with closed shades and windows not cleaned since J. Edgar Hoover sashayed through Washington. Clutch my pearls, they were set up for a foot massage only. I went along for the ride, and what I got was a plastic tub lined with even more plastic (their Double Double?). A slippery plastic bag was at the bottom of my bin, and so was nice warm water, so all right already. Ah, an overstuffed chair to sink into. An overstuffed chair that was slipcovered in stained and threadbare upholstery, resting atop stained and threadbare wall to wall carpet. The place was just plain tired, right down to its silk flowers, “classy” perfumed candles, loud New Age music and cheap ginormous furniture. I was surprised I didn’t sneeze. Perhaps it’s because I didn’t inhale for the hour. The foot massage was tepidly pleasant, and my technician was perfectly average, explaining, “We soak, scrub, rub.” At least it wasn’t too expensive: $25 for a one-hour foot massage.
— SG

Spa Girl

Spa Girl Day Spa & Wellness Center
2769 W. Broadway St., Eagle Rock, 323.256.6443
It is all about the black white, pink and the water feature that stage-whispers, You can leave fab, funky Eagle Rock at the door… it’s all about girl time now. And not the gossipy, loud “Hey Girl!” we’ve come to expect when we go to the salon for a cut and some color: Spa Girl is hushed but not too hushed, sweet but not precious, there for your comfort but not overly solicitous. It is an indulgence, but it won’t cost you the moon. As a newbie I was asked to fill out a basic health form before my esthetician, Wendy, ushered me into a treatment room, and my mud body mask was underway in no time. As she slathered on the light, silky mud, we gabbed a bit. She was kind enough to laugh at my little jokes, skillful and knowledgeable about her work, and before I knew it, I was covered with this savory scented mud, for my Spa Girl Body Mask (purported to stimulate your metabolic system, and speed up its ability to carry away waste products), layered with thermal blankets, and left to my drowsy repose. Time to arise came just as I was getting a little restless. I scrubbed off in the treatment-room shower, covered myself with Epicuren Rosemary moisturizer, one of several Wendy offered, and was on my way to Trader Joe’s, feeling (and smelling) great. Next time, I think I’ll try the hot stone massage. Price: $85
— Jill Ganon

Our pal Debbie Deems also recommends these two finds in San Gabriel for bargain foot treatments:

Lucky Foot Spa
1039 E. Valley Blvd., #B113, San Gabriel, 626.572.0588
A cut above the traditional foot spa, this one has a tacky Chinese décor, but it is dimly lit and relaxing music fills the air. The woman who runs the front desk, Susan, is great. Price: $15

Sole So Good
801 E. Valley Blvd., #102, San Gabriel, 626.307.1788
A fabulous and clean spot for a foot massage; a downside for some women is that most of the massage therapists are men. Price: $20

1 Response for “Spas”

  1. […] Pasadena these days, I do get to test out all the new restaurants, sneak away for a $25 massage at Heart & Sole, or catch a free concert in the […]



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