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La Prairie Spa

Putting on the Ritz

Relaxation Lounge

Something unusual happened while I was sitting in the reception area of La Prairie Spa at The Ritz-Carlton on New York’s Central Park South. A fragrance was created just for me. I had asked the receptionist about the collection of rain drop-shaped silver ornaments in the display case and was told that they held vials of La Prairie’s chameleon-like customized scent, "Silver Rain," whose odor changes with each wearer. Several of the guests participated in an "eau de parfum" smell test and validated the claim.

Silver Rain was inspired by the alpine glaciers at the top of the world where there is no pollution. In spring the ice crystals melt and rain on the alpine valleys. When the sun shines the pure drops of water appear to be silver-colored.

Like all La Prairie skincare and makeup products the perfume, compounded from roots, herbs and flowers, is pure luxe. The largest of the sterling silver flasks, crafted by Christofle, are numbered and signed. Only two thousand were produced and each contains three bottles—Silver Spice, Sensuality and Rain. Laboratoires La Prairie had been associated with Clinique La Prairie in Montreux, Switzerland, an innovator in cellular, anti-aging therapy. The Laboratoire and the Clinique are now separate entities, but the Laboratoire remains at the forefront in the development of skincare treatments,

La Prairie Spa made its American debut in 2002 in the newly renovated Ritz-Carlton, which reappeared on CPS by moving down the block after a four-year hiatus and into the renovated St. Moritz, a revered landmark. Designed by noted architect Emery Roth, who helped transform New York’s skyline in the late 20s and early 30s, the imposing exterior
conveys gentility, an image that flows through the front door.

The activity level in the park was high on the bright day that I arrived to have a few treatments in the second floor spa. But in the lobby the mood was subdued as guests took afternoon tea and music played softly. A conscientious attendant escorted me to my destination. After registering and changing into a Frette robe I waited in the lounge for the masseuse. Most recently opened spas are high tech, but the waiting room at La Prairie stays faithful to English club style, a signature Ritz look.

Silver Rain

Of the many lavish body, facial, and beauty treatments several are designated Manhattan Minutes because they are dispensed in record time and designed with a mix of restorative pleasures for the business person, traveler, shopper, and party-goer. My 60-minute Executive Stress Break, 30 minutes of upper body massage and 30 minutes of reflexology, literally unburdened the weight of the world from my shoulders. Jennifer not only worked on my neck with her fingers and thumbs, but she used her entire arms to massage my back. The pressure applied to my feet and ankles foot reduced the tiredness accumulated from pounding New York’s pavements. Another treatment in the category, Jet Lag Therapy, combines three half-hour sessions of aromatherapy, foot and hand reflexology, and a facial.

I was also scheduled for a one-hour facial, but it was not until Kelly looked at my skin that she suggested a combination of de-toxifying and de-sensitizing. As I lay back in the chair with caviar revitalizing pads covering my eyes and mitts on my hands many products were applied. When we finished I asked Kelly how many creams, serums, mists, oils and lotions were used. She said 15 and if at all possible not to wash my face until the following morning.

Back in the lounge after the treatments I met another client, Eva Petrofsky, a house guest, and we compared notes, both exclaiming about what terrific massages Jennifer had given us. Half of the spa clients stay at the hotel and half, like me--o.k., I live 48 blocks away--are from the neighborhood. Men make up a good portion of the clientele and two treatments are just for them—heads up deep cleansing and cellular hydrating facials.

I delayed my departure and rested to avoid facing the traffic and noise immediately. I was offered complimentary champagne or wine. Sipping a relaxing drink was a great way to end the afternoon. Now why don’t more spas think of it?

La Prairie Switzerland at The Ritz-Carlton Spa, 50 Central Park S, New York, NY 10019. Tel. 212-521-6135.