Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Peace and Calming in San Francisco

I'm not really a city girl unless the city is surrounded by mountains, but now that I've visited San Francisco twice and spent some time there, I find myself falling in love with the place. The tall buildings are more comforting than claustrophobic and the fresh crab on the wharf is the most perfect food known to man. What I found tucked between the towering buildings in a space in the heart of downtown where people hurry past most of the day never thinking to stop was a pleasant surprise and a wonderful bubble of serenity I was happy and relieved to find after my previous day's adventure which led me to walk the entire way across the Golden Gate Bridge.

The Spa Bar is a full service spa located on 2nd Street near Lombard with a classy yet unassuming storefront that, once inside, opens up into a spacious upscale retreat complete with an oxygen bar, salon, and quiet treatment rooms enjoyed by entering through a private door at the rear.

I had an appointment with Paula for a 90 minute Thai Massage, something I'd never tried before. I've heard it's like assisted yoga done on a mat on the floor and have been curious about it for quite sometime. Paula is actually from Thailand and received her massage training there and she explains to me that she has developed a Thai massage hybrid where she incorporates Thai style techniques with traditional Swedish, Deep Tissue, and Sports Massage which I am more familiar with. I will be on a massage table rather than on a mat on the floor and I will be undressed and draped with a sheet rather than remaining clothed as is typical with a traditional Thai Massage. She says she likes doing it this way better. Should be interesting!

The combination proves to be magic. Paula uses luxurious warm oils and gliding strokes fused with deep muscle manipulation and clever movements of my limbs I've never experienced before. She drapes my body effortlessly with the sheet, often using it to position my legs and arms in various stretches while leveraging my limbs against her own body to apply pressure to my muscles and traction the joints. I am aware of her climbing on and off the table many times throughout my massage as she artfully composes her native Thai style into a complete stress reliever with the aggressiveness to really work out all my kinks. I'd say she beat me up in a good way and pampered me all at the same time. There were moments I wondered, "How did she do that?" when she'd use her petite body to move mine into a position. At one point she was actually underneath me on the table stretching my entire body into an arched position. I have no idea how she got there, but it was seamless.

When the massage was over, I was given tea and sent to wander back out into the city in my blissed out state. With a calm smile on my face, I walked to the nearby Museum of Modern Art, ordered a spinach salad and a glass of wine at the cafe and then strolled peacefully through the sculptures, paintings, and photographs on display there. It was ones of those days in the city where you think to yourself, "I could get used to this." And I really think I could get used to all the fine art, culture, and food mixed with the grittiness and raw humanity that is the city of San Francisco.