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Queen for half a day

George S. Bolster Collection
Bubbles gently rose and fizzed on the surface of a tiny beer-colored sea, while every movement launched waves of warmth beneath. The air was fragrant with eucalyptus and grapefruit, a whisper of lavender, a hint of ginger. Pleasantly innocuous music meandered in the background, punctuated periodically by the distant clunk and whoosh of tubs draining.

I was neck-deep in Saratoga’s famous mineral water for a twenty-minute infusion that was just the beginning of my half-day “Washington Revitalizer” at the Roosevelt Baths. The larger of the two bath houses in the Saratoga Spa State Park (the other is the venerable Lincoln Baths), the Roosevelt recently underwent a thorough renovation at a cost of $5 million. My personal renovation cost $180 and was thorough enough for a spa neophyte like me. I had visited the baths once before, decades ago, and what lingered in my memory was a dreary sanatorium with rusty pipes and scratchy blankets. But the spa experience has come a long way since then, and Americans have learned to embrace the benefits of mineral bathing long revered in Europe.

Those benefits, according to information from the Roosevelt spa, include increased blood flow and elimination of toxins from the body, stimulation of the immune and digestive systems, therapy for skin diseases, and improved physical and psychological well-being due to high amounts of negative ions in the water. Ions or no, everything about the experience helped my well-being.

I arrived for my appointment early, as advised. After filling out a brief health form, I chose the Cold and Flu herbal bath additives, passing up tempters like Minty Muscle, Tension Tamer, and Grapefruit Energizer. The attendant led me down a gleaming white hallway to a comfortable private room with a massage table and white porcelain bathtub. He poured the herbal mix into my bath, and as soon as he left I poured myself into the buoying, body-temperature water.

After the bath, I settled under the comfy sheets and blankets for an hourlong Swedish massage. The grapeseed, apricot, and sesame massage gel gave out the most delicate fragrance—as did all the products used at Roosevelt—a pleasant relief for someone easily overwhelmed by strong perfumes.
Next stop was the facial studio, where I was treated to a mini-version of the classic European facial—with cleansing, toning, massage, steaming, exfoliation, fortification, and moisturizing, but without the “painful extractions” (whew!). Finally, in the manicurist’s lair, I enjoyed beautiful classical music as my hands were soaked, massaged, and then softened in warm paraffin. The finishing touches on my expertly shaped nails were a strengthener, two coats of polish, and a clear finish.

If you go: Bring plenty of folding money for tips, shower first (you won’t want to wash off those delicately scented gels and creams), leave your cell phone home, and don’t plan too much for the rest of the day. There are several package deals and dozens of treatments available—from hot stone massage to craniosacral therapy, algae wrap to sugar scrub. There is a pregnancy massage and a gentleman’s facial, body waxing and hair styling, fitness center memberships, and the delightfully oxymoronic “back facial.”

Or just have a plain mineral bath ($18) and soak in a bit of Saratoga history. —KG

Visit or call the Roosevelt
at 800-732-1560.