My Spa Day at La Perla in San Sebastian, Spain (+ the naked truth)

Spa Day in Spain

For months I've meant to share the story of my spa day in Spain. With over two weeks of travel, through Portugal and Spain, under our belts, spa time was needed to work out the kinks, and soften the edges. The La Perla Spa was located just a few steps down the promenade from our Hotel Niza, in San Sebastian. I had seen the glowing locals leave the spa, as they paraded down the promenade, and thought that would be the perfect way to spend my birthday. When we stopped in to make our reservation, Scott and I looked over the menu with assistance from two beautiful, Spanish women, in stylish black uniforms. They were professional, enthusiastic and glowing. It was one of those "I'll have what she's having" kind of moments. After some consideration, we selected the seaweed scrub and mud wrap special, based on their recommendations.

I've had a number of massages, many while traveling abroad, but I've never booked a scrub and a mud wrap. Somehow the process seemed a little too intimate, with all the scrubbing and wrapping. Do they scrub and wrap ALL the parts? In the luxurious comfort of the La Perla Spa spa concierge desk, I threw caution to the wind. In my mind, I had the impression that these two lovely, professional women would be performing my treatments. THAT was where my logic went wrong!

Following a light birthday breakfast at Hotel Niza, Scott and I made the short walk down the boardwalk to the spa. I love those moments of feeling like a local, and we were feeling it. Following our check-in, changes into comfy terry robes, we waited in the spa lounge sipping on citrus-cucumber water. This is the life! Suddenly, two young men entered the lounge. They were dressed in tight white t-shirts, tight white jeans (leggings?) and...get this...they were wearing plastic gloves. One was snapping the wristband, "Ready??"...snap, snap....I looked at my husband, in horror, and whispered, "Oh Sugar (or something like that)! I forgot to say I didn't want a man"...Snap, snap! Scott later describes these young gentlemen as the "lumberjack and the waiter". I considered my two options: running up those spa stairs to safety or putting on (taking off) my 'big girl' pants. In the end, the birthday girl decided to grin and bare it. After all, it was already paid for!

La Perla Spa San Sebastian Spain

As the "waiter" stepped closer and said my name, I nodded. My cheeks were already burning. He led me to a private spa room where I noticed a shower, table, hoses, a vat of 'mud' but, unfortunately, a surprising lack of any sheets or towels. In America, and luxury resorts abroad, towels and sheets, are abundant. I especially appreciate those privacy sheets, designed to protect the eyes of your spa therapist, and your dignity. You know the ones? I didn't spot a single one. As my "waiter" handed me the teeniest, tiniest, paper string bikini bottom, I would have paid big money for a privacy towel about then. He pantomimed that I should take off all my clothes and get on the table on my stomach. I realized his English was sparse and wondered if that was a good or bad thing. The inner dialogue in my head was deafening, "He's young enough to be my son," "Poor kid, I hope this doesn't burn his eyes!" "Did I shave under my arms?" and "Maybe it's a scrub for the backside only, not the front?".  I was wracking my brain to remember how much of the body they actually cover with a scrub and mud wrap. Clearly, he had given me no top to wear.

As I changed into my dental floss bikini bottom and laid face first on the table I felt very vulnerable. The European idea of nudity seems to be completely different than in the United States. I wondered why I felt so vulnerable, while some of the Europeans paraded confidently, and openly, around the pools, locker room, and beaches.

La Concha Beach San Sebastian Spain
La Concha Beach San Sebastian Spain

I am no prude. I had my dalliances with tiny bikinis back in the day, skinny dipping, a French clothing optional beach on St. Martin, what have you. The idea of almost complete nudity, alone with a young Spanish man, covering my body with seaweed scrub and mud, was not on my radar for my birthday. Now that I think of it, what a decadent gift from my husband, right? LOL!  My burning question, and pardon me but it's the truth, do they put mud on your boobs? There, I said it!

Back to that table, and the naked truth of my spa day in Spain. Turns out my "waiter" was adept at applying scrub all over my backside. The toughest moment was when he pantomimed for me to roll over on my back....ugh!! If I could have communicated in Spanish I might have said, "Just the backside is fine."  Why was this so hard? If I had been 30 how would I have felt? It's a good thing he didn't speak English, because the stream of quips and jokes coming from my mouth, to break the tension, would have been endless. Instead, I steeled myself, and kept quiet, as I rolled over. Hello, glory!  All the scrubbing, and eventually mud application, continued on the front side. In the end, I was relieved when he directed me to rinse my body off in the shower, alone. I'm happy to report that the boobs were left untouched...

Still, poor guy!

San Sebastian Spain, La Concha beach.jpg

I remembered a moment, during our trip to St. Martin, when I saw this difference firsthand. Scott and I took a day trip to the island of St. Barth's on the ferry. We chatted it up with several German and American couples on the way. As we neared the island, the German women, still chatting, pulled their tops off and stowed them in their bags. The American men, including my husband, were suddenly speechless..... imagine! The topless women just kept on chatting. It was comical! I admired their confidence and non-nonchalance. They are just boobs after all. Maybe we treat them a bit too 'preciously', with all the nip-slips and such, here in America. It's definitely a cultural difference that intrigues me when traveling.

Men on the beach in San Sebastian Spain
Men on the beach in San Sebastian Spain

 These gentlemen at the beach, next door to La Perla Spa, have no problem letting it all hang out.

Guard my life in San Sebastian
Guard my life in San Sebastian

A final "I'll have what she's having" moment.

Wait, is that my "waiter" moonlighting as a lifeguard?

My spa day in Spain....revealing!

Is it just me? How would you feel about all that 'naked truth' at the spa?

To my European friends, any advice for getting through those revealing moments?

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