Europa Spa, Morgantown

Europa Spa is perched on the top of a hill overlooking the river that runs through Morgantown, a nice spot for a spa, and which yet does not boast of many. Though Hope, the owner, started this spa over 22 years ago, it’s only recently moved from its former location at the Seneca Glass Factory downtown to its new spot, the old chamber of commerce. Close the door behind you as you walk in, and all of a sudden you’re no longer on a busy street in Morgantown but in a closed-off pleasure dome—perhaps a scaled-down version of Kublai Khan’s, but a delight nonetheless.

Hope has been in the spa and salon business for over 40 years, beginning in Albuquerque, New Mexico at a hair salon. As time passed, she became more and more enamored with the holistic and healing benefits of spa treatments, and later on she started Morgantown’s first full service spa at the old Seneca Glass Factory.

In its present state in the old chamber of commerce building, they offer, in addition to the hair treatments at the salon, full-body massage, facials, pedicures, manicures, makeup, and even yoga downstairs (see everything they offer here and here). Her expert staff will treat you to a bit of bliss while you retreat inwardly, luxuriating, to your own private place of laughter and forgetting.

By: Ben Britz


Main Street Massage – Ann Arbor

Don’t be daunted by the two stories of steep stairs that immediately confront you upon opening the door—it’ll be worth it. Right on Ann Arbor’s bustling Main Street, next to the Prickly Pear (my fave Ann Arbor place for massive amounts of Mexican) and a short couple blocks from the Burnt Toast Inn where I was staying, these stairs offer a certain transitional period, a buffer, a challenge, a kind of purgatory one must first endure before enjoying the heavenly delights of this therapeutic, healing spa.

I was greeted with a warm smile and a glass of ice water, which I welcomed after the staircase ordeal (I was, at the time, unfortunately, on crutches). Cheryl the Therapist chatted me up a bit, finding out exactly what we’d be working on. I’d been dealing with carpal tunnel syndrome for about 7 years, off and on, ever since I gave up the piano because of it.

The massage was incredible—she got my hands, wrists, forearms, and worked her way up to my upper arms, back, and chest, rubbing out the tension and years worth of built-up problems and exasperated dreams. She was knowledgeable and explained everything she was doing, describing in detail the therapeutic benefits of each circular motion, depressed pressure point, thrumming chakra. She was kind enough to recommend making this a regular thing, that would really see the benefits over a period of time. If only! I have a dream…

Too soon, it was all over. A smiling woman, another client, offered to help me down the stairs when she saw my crutches. I declined, though, wanting to make my own way, and soon enough, there I was, blinking in the suddenly bright sunlight.

By: Ben Britz

Ann Arbor Massage: Relaxstation

There’s a place in Ann Arbor, Michigan you can go to relax. And it’s aptly titled Relaxstation, a standalone massage fort set up in the middle of downtown. It welcomes walk-in folks in need of healing to come get their muscles kneaded in a shared room where everyone is massaged at once: Perfect strangers are sprawled out in massage chairs next to each other, each fully clothed and holding separate conversations with their respective therapist. This place is cool and good for a casual massage-on-the-go or a lunchtime break when you’re hungry for zen.

What some people may not know is this: Relaxstation actually consists of two stations, and the second is just down the street. For those seeking fancier, undressed, and intimate treatments–this is the place to go.

Ben Britz and I slowly made our way down to the second location after having mistakenly arrived at the first location. A friendly guy behind the counter at the main quarters of Relaxstation offered to walk us down the street to the other building. Ben was on crutches, limping from a recent dirt bike accident.

As we walked down the stairs and through the blandly corporate Office Space-esque corridor leading to the door of Relaxstation II, we couldn’t help but notice the strange setting. Down the corridor, between glass doors, was a room–completely empty except for, mystifyingly, a lone microwave. It was hard to know if we were even in the right place. We were relieved when we finally entered the spa itself and found it to be as  serene and peaceful as the hallway was stale and sterile.

I had asked for a Hot Stone Massage, but my masseuse, a Senegal native, insisted I try her Hot Sand Massage instead, a treatment native to Senegal. I’m glad she insisted. She told me stories of treating muscle pains back home with hot sand and I was enticed. This is like Hot Stone…but more powerful, I thought to myself as she dug deep into my muscles. I loved it. I’ll officially be figuring out how to give Hot Sand treatments for my own in-home spa once I move to Austin.

Ben loved his treatment, too. I think he was even walking better as he strolled out of Relaxstation II. Or maybe I was too blissed out from my massage to notice one way or the other. Either way, this place is awesome. You should drop in or make an appointment the next time you’re in Ann Arbor.

Holding the hot sand bag, happily.

By: Elizabeth Seward, Photos By: Ben Britz

Fine Living Ayurveda Spa: You’ll miss it if you blink, so don’t blink.

Ayurveda can be, and often is, translated as the “science of life”. I’m an alternative medicine ambassador as it is, so I don’t need any convincing to try out a Hot Stone and Head massage at an Ayurveda Spa. Like most spaces in the crammed city of New York, Fine Living Ayurveda Spa is pressed for space. My bedroom in Brooklyn is bigger than the entire spa. But therein lies one of the complications with spas: shouldn’t it be about the treatment you receive–not the scattered rose petals on the long stretches of marble tiling? I’ve had enough spa treatments that were, sure, pleasant while they were happening, but underwhelming in the hours shortly after where I oftentimes felt my back still aching to know that I’d hop in a graffiti-painted dumpster for some massage therapy that actually had lasting effects. Luckily, there’s no need to dumpster dive for your next worthwhile and privacy positive massage. You can just go to this place on 14th street instead.

Ayurveda, as a practice, extends back in time at least 3,000 years, but many sources cite 5,000 years as the recorded beginning of the practice. There are documents detailing the practice dating back to the Vedic Period in India…so, all in all, this stuff is very old and has had a lot of time to evolve.

When you walk into Fine Living, you’re given a survey to fill out on everything from your digestive complaints to your sleep patterns. The results of this survey help the therapists peg you as ‘Vata’ (air and ether), ‘Kapha’ (water and earth), or ‘Pitta’ (fire and water). My therapist, Shree, announced to me that I am Pitta, which came with little surprise, and explained to me just how she’d be adjusting my treatment accordingly. Assistant Editor, Ben Britz, was also present and wowed by the right-on adjustment of his own treatment in accordance to his survey.

Shree knows what she’s doing. Straight out of Nepal and serious about healing, this lady is well-versed in the science of Ayurveda and will give you helpful health and lifestyle tips while learning about your and your body through your treatment.

For once in my life, I experienced a massage with effects I’m still feeling 5 days later. The prices are reasonable, the space is tiny and very well hidden, and the practice has a lot of years of experience on its resume. Try it out, try it soon, then comment here with your lofty compliments of this rare gem in NYC.

(Me in a taxi after the treatment, smiling ear to ear)

By: Elizabeth Seward, Photos By: Ben Britz

LÖyly in Southeast Portland

There are many reasons why Portland is one of the most Euro-styled cities in America.  It’s an incredible town to live in and a wonderful place to visit.  When in town, there are a handful of lovely spas to visit to melt away your stress, to find inner peace and to promote health and wellness.  I just discovered LÖyly in Southeast Portland on 21st and Clinton.  LÖyly is the Finnish word for the steam that emerges when water is poured over hot sauna rocks.  It is also the word used to describe the meditative experience of cleansing and wellness that comes from an invigorating sauna session. Continue reading