For Jeremy, because he asked me to

I’ve been on a nearly two-year quest to find the perfect spa in Houston. “Perfect” being defined as “just like Watercourse Way in Palo Alto.” I hit another this past weekend on this quest, but sadly, I’m still searching.

What makes Watercourse Way such a great spa is both the atmosphere and the consistent quality of their massages. The atmosphere is very New Agey, with slate tiling on the floors, gurgly fountains (some underneath fat jade Buddhas), lots of water walls, and plinky-plunky music everywhere. Even the bathrooms are designed and fully participate in the atmosphere. Their massage therapists are all very professional, and I’ve never had a bad massage there.

By contrast, Houston spas center more on medicinal and therapeutic spa treatments. Massage is tacked on as an afterthought to hair salons, nail salons, and other beautification places. Houston spas will tell you all about their dermabrasion and Botox and pore-suctioning techniques, but as a result, they tend to be more clinical than relaxing in terms of atmosphere. One massage I got was at a place called The Upper Hand, which sounded like it would specialize in massage. It’s also in a very cool building along Westheimer. But, they are primarily a hair salon (go figure!), and the “massage room” was literally a converted closet and I listened to the patrons chatter and the blow-driers being run the whole time.

Moreover, in Houston, you can’t be sure of the quality of the massage therapist. Houston, not having the granola client base nor flaky personnel, doesn’t create a lot of calming, New Age souls. One spa I tried a year ago gave me a male massage therapist who couldn’t have been more than 20 years old. I have no problem with male massage therapists whatsoever, but this kid still had acne, and I had to bite my tongue to keep from saying, “Are you just here to see boobies?” He was professional the entire time, but I was uncomfortable.

So, this weekend, I tried Bergamo’s. It perhaps came closest to Watercourse Way, since it was full of plinky-plunky music and had the softer lighting, dark paint, etc., that I associate with a calming atmosphere. But there was a lot of talking in the hallways, and the patrons seemed to be coming in clusters, which says to me that they’re not there for massage, but instead a “facial party” or other such nonsense. Next on the list to try is Sensia, which is a Japanese-influenced spa and so seems promising.

You’re welcome, J.

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