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Thermes de Monte-Carlo

By Joel Stratte-McClure

Monte Carlo - Want to be pampered like a princess at a holistic spa built by — and for — royalty?

Then head to The Seawater Thermal Baths in Monte-Carlo that were inspired and designed by Princess Caroline and her father Prince Rainier III. The Monegasque royals hired globetrotting spa wizard/cardiologist Dr. Yves Treguer to rejuvenate thermal bathing in Monaco over a decade ago after they enjoyed a health-oriented vacation at his institute in Brittany. Then the father-daughter team personally oversaw a project that resulted in a glamorous five-story glass-enclosed spa complex overlooking the Mediterranean.

Based on the centuries-old practice of thalassotherapy ("thalassa" is Greek for sea), the opulent baths use mineral-rich ingredients, like pungent seaweed and syrupy sea mud, for prevention, healing and relaxation through marine hydrotherapy. The algae are imported from Brittany and the mud comes from Israel's Dead Sea, but the seawater is piped in from 300 meters out in the Mediterranean.

"The skin is a sponge and thalassotherapy promotes the transference of sea minerals through the skin," Treguer contends, claiming the water in the Med has a high concentration of negative ions. "The environment -- including air, light, hygiene, comfort, climate, the sea and the social attractions of the principality — in Monaco is unequaled."

The center features the latest high-tech pulsating, vibrating, spraying and bathing equipment. There's also a large hamam built by workmen imported from Morocco and an array of different massage techniques, therapies and treatments (Try the body scrub made with diamond powder followed by a four-handed massage with rose-perfumed oil!) to knead you from head to toe. The 80-member staff will also create a specific program to control stress, stop smoking, promote sleep, ease back pain or change your diet.

You'll not only bathe next to royalty (I've taken a bath in the same tub, though not at the same time, as the princess!) but might also luxuriate amidst well-known locals (who include Ringo Starr, Formula One driver Rolf Schumacher and Aussie motorcycle champ Mick Doohan), top models (Claudia Schiffer and Carla Bruni), and visiting jet setters and gazillionaires (Ivana Trump and Paris Hilton). And don't be surprised if you run into reigning Prince Albert.

How often should you dip your body, mind and soul into the healing sessions?

"Two week-long sessions per year are the ideal required to rejuvenate anyone," concluded Treguer, noting that Les Thermes Marins also features state-of-the-art fitness equipment, a beauty parlor, a dietetic restaurant and a hairdressing salon that even features a 45-minute old-fashioned shave for men.

But even a day trip makes you feel like royalty.


Les Thermes Marins de Monte-Carlo, Centre de Thalassotherapie, 2 avenue de Monte-Carlo. Tel: 377-98066903. Email: thermes@sbm.mc. Web: www.montecarloresort.com.

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