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The Bath Collector


            I think because I was born in a howling blizzard in New York City in February, Leap Year to be exact, I have been drawn to steaming baths and soothing hot soaks. I was quite comfortable floating around inside my little watery warm world and it was a shock to be greeted by an icy winter. I have been lucky enough to seek out my dream baths all over the world. A delicious submerging does wonders for me.  While my fellow travelers are checking out where to eat or what sights to see, I am hopping from foot to foot to get to my room and see what kind of immersion awaits me each night and probably at sunrise too.

Bathing is pure ritual for me.

            On our 10th anniversary my husband and I stayed at an 11th century observatory turned hotel, just outside of Florence. Besides the spectacular view, there was a tiny bathroom with a thin, ivory porcelain tub facing a slim window overlooking the gardens and hills. It seemed like the sun was turned on all day outside that opening with shafts lighting up my tub water as I slid in carefully to the narrow space to listen to birds chirping and roosters crowing below. The scent of lavender and lemon wafted up to me as I used the ornate silver handled attachment to rinse my hair and body.

            Then to Positano and a townhouse overlooking an expanse of the Mediterranean. I was greeted by a seven-foot marble tub shaped like a boat. Its spout: a golden dolphin who spewed a cool waterfall from his laughing face. I lolled in that tub on long hot afternoons and late nights watching the sky turn violet. How they got the tub up the stairs in the narrow house on that steep hill, the dolphin will never tell.

            North of San Francisco I discovered the ultimate tub experience. Mud baths. Introduced in my early twenties by a hippie girlfriend to the little town where mud is king, I have been back almost every year to submerge. A hot shower first, then buck naked into the “mud room”. Lady attendants non plussed by imperfect thighs or dimples, sit you on a pizza paddle and slide you butt first into the steaming mud encased in what looks like a stone sarcophagus. The lower you go, the hotter the muck. Hence the pizza paddle. If you stepped in, you’d scald your feet. They gently push you down, back into the terra-fermi from whence we came and pile the eggy smelly brown ooze over the front of your body. On your hair and face if you like too. A cold cloth is placed on your forehead. The steam from the geyser that is the engine of this magic elixir, is hissing through all the elaborate pipes in the walls and ceiling. You are helped out – feeling a bit woozy but oh so relaxed and into a tile shower to de- mud. Next you are taken into a white claw footed tub filled to the rim with crystal clear103 degree mineral water. A new cold compress on your head. A little nail brush and wooden stick to get the bits of mud out of your finger and toenails while you are sipping a huge cup of icy cucumber water. The heat on the outside of your body and the cold going in, is a not to be missed sensation. Time to step out and dry off with a fluffy towel. You are finally led down a long hallway with tiny rooms on either side. In each a small spotless white bed where you are wrapped up in cotton sheets and a light blanket to rest. Beams of sunlight dance on the walls as the mountain breezes play with the white cotton curtains on each window. You drift off to sleep.

          My tub at home is not so elaborate but I have made it a sanctuary. A place to cleanse. To invigorate. Pray. Weep. Sigh. Scrub. Soak.  I emerge feeling soothed and healed from the tug of the everyday world.

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