All Abroad for Thalasso treats
Monday, September 1st, 2008
Could Thalasso - hot seawater health and beauty treatments - be the secret weapon, not just of my friend Marie-Christine but of her glamorous Gallic compatriots? When I next crossed the Channel, I made time to visit Les Bains, Dieppe's magnificent modern Thalassotherapy and Aquatic Centre which reopened last year after a £20m refit.
Taken from the Greek 'thalassa' meaning 'sea,' Thalassatherapy describes the use of warm seawater in a variety of treatments, including showers, wraps and applications of algae paste. Trace elements of magnesium, potassium, calcium sulphates and sodium, found in seawater, are believed to have beneficial effects on the skin, especially by the French who are fiercely loyal to their beloved Thalasso. Developed in seaside towns in northern France in the early 1900s, nearly every resort has a Thalasso Spa. Few, though can compete with Les Bains for cutting- edge engineering and sheer imagination in the art of having fun with seawater.
Built with long, low lines and set on the sea front, between the beach and the Casino, Les Bains is over- looked by the 15th-century clifftop Chateau Musee, with its celebrated collection of Impressionist paintings, overall it offers a 1,600 sqm space carved and sculpted into toboggans, water jets, massage benches, diving pools and a jacuzzi big enough for 10. There are 'water corridors' for walking or swim- ming against the current, shallow pools for babies and toddlers, learn-to-swim areas - even a 'water gym' with bright coloured underwater cycles, all supervised by trained attendants.
Outside is a 50m Olympic-sized pool for serious, long- distance swimming. Best of all, the water throughout is heated to a relaxing 27o winter and summer.The interior is linked by bridges, and scored with 'canals' which allow swimmers to pass from indoor to Olympic pools without getting out of the water. Dieppe, France's longest-established resort with the closest beach to Paris, has a special relationship with seawater and its benefits. It was here, in 1806, that Mme de Boignes commissioned her brother to build the first horse-drawn bathing machine (a craze imported from Brighton). Here, too, the regular visits of the elegant Duchesse de Berry in the 1820s made the town even more popular.
Les Bains is complete with a beautifully equipped Spa, where the Thalasso regime is translated into detox wraps, massage therapies and high pressure jet water treatments to combat cellulite. A day pass to the Aquatic centre costs just £11, and reasonably priced packages are also available at the Spa, including a 'Discover Thalasso' wrap/massage module for £65.
In the state-of-the-art gym, with the latest cardio equipment, classes are available to suit every level of fitness. To watch the Dieppoise diligently working through their paces is to discover, comfortingly, that just like the rest of us, Frenchwomen rely on hard work and exercise in their search for health and beauty - with no secret weapon after all!