Last weekend my husband took me to Hot Springs, AR. I know, so glamorous, right? Not. He needed to see an account and I decided to ride with him and make a weekend out of it.
Apparently the thing to do in Hot Springs is the baths. They have a whole row of bath houses, which are terribly cute.
Before we left I scheduled appointments for the both of us not really knowing what we were getting into. A bath and massage sounds pretty harmless, right? Hahahahahaha
We arrived into town early Friday afternoon and Bryan saw his account leaving me to drink on the patio. He finished up his work with a few hours to spare before our appointments. We decided to use this time to explore because I had a feeling after our baths and massages we’d be too much like putty to consider moving, much less exploring a new city.
Behind bath house row is a brick pathway called a Promenade. I didn’t really read all the signs, but apparently in bath culture you should exercise or something. The end of the walk spits you out at the other side of the bath house row and in front of spring water fountain. Apparently the founders of the town were not really creative when coming up a name for the town. The springs are actually hot. Huh.
We walked back to our hotel along the bath house fronts admiring their beauty. Only two of them are still open and functioning today. One of them is used by the National Park Service. We stepped in and the whole bath house is open for touring. I thought this would be a great time to see what we were getting into.
First we watched an educational video on the whole bathing process circa 1980. Besides the hilariousness of the 80s hairstyles, it was horrific. I was scared and traumatized. Oh how I wish that video was on YouTube for me to share with you. I searched and couldn’t find it, so instead I’m going to share with you the bathing process. Below are photos I took of the Fordyce Bath House which is now the National Park Service museum.
When you walk in you check in like you would any spa appointment, but they send the men and women their own separate ways. Once inside the segregated door you get ushered into a locker room in which you strip down into nothing but a towel wrap. You are assigned an attendant who draws you a bath in a very large soaker tub. The water is spring water that’s been cooled to about 100 degrees. You can get it warmer if you like to burn.
Above is a men’s room. Behind each of the wooden doors is a tub.
The attendent hands you some hot spring water to drink. I hate drinking hot water, but you’ll need it due to the steam and how dehydrated you are about to become. The attendant turns on a whirlpool thing and you soak in your whirlpool steam bath for about 20 minutes. Then they come back and scrub you. Yes, they scrub you like a baby.
My attendant made a joke of it saying, “Sit up, Miss Rachel. I’m going to bath you like a little girl.” Somehow this made it seem more natural. With a loofa mitt the attendant scrubs your back, arms, and legs. Bryan said his attendant only scrubbed his back and then handed the mitt to him to let him do whatever other areas he wanted scrubbed. I guess men aren’t into letting a stranger scrub their naked body. Whatever.
After rinsing off the dead skin you and your attendant dry you off a bit. You can spend a few minutes in the sauna at this point if you choose. Let me recommend that you skip this portion. The bath is steamy enough.
Next you are ushered into the cooling room. The cooling room is a white, all tiled room filled with lounge chairs and signs that warn you this is a quiet zone. Its a marvelous, marvelous place.
You lie on your lounge chair and your attendent hands you some cold water to drink. Then she’ll put a towel soaked in hot water over your shoulders. She’ll also wrap up each of your arms and legs in hot towels. As you lay down, she’ll also put one over your entire body. To finish you off she places a cold wet towel over your face. Now that you are totally mummy-fied you sit and enjoy the quiet for 20 minutes. This was my very favorite part.
After 20 minutes of peace and quiet its time for your needle shower. It’s not as terrible as it sounds. You walk into a small shower with pipes on 3 sides. Holes are cut into the pipes making “needle” streams of hot spring water. Apparently this step is to rinse off all the dried sweat from your steaming. I’d say the needle shower lasted about 5 minutes then your attendent wraps and dries you in a sheet. Yeah, you walk around in a sheet like a Roman.
The final step of the whole bathing ritual is a massage.
The standard is a 20 minute rub down. I upgraded to a 60 minute.
My only complaint about this whole process is the massage, surprisingly. The massage section was not as private and as quiet as I’ve become used to at home. You’re in your own private room, but it’s the equivalent of a dressing room at the Gap only a little larger. And my masseuse wanted to talk the whole time. I prefer to not talk and concentrate on the movements when I get a massage, but that’s just me.
In conclusion, the whole bathing process is the ultimate in lolling. Here’s why:
- Someone is responsible for you the whole time, leaving you free to wander in your thoughts. Don’t worry about what you are supposed to do next, they’ll tell you.
- Whole chunks of time are devoted to just laying there and relaxing
- People bring you water (if only they’d bring cocktails!)
- You don’t even have to bath yourself.
- Comfortable attire (i.e. towels and sheets), when you have to be clothed
- You can just lay there and people rub on you
Would I recommend getting a bath? Hell yes! I will do it again. Next time I’ll be even more relaxed since I know what’s coming next.
Have you ever had a bath?