Holistic Travel: Pop-Up Spas

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Holistic Travel: Pop-Up Spas

It’s Thursday evening in Mexico City and we just sat nearly an hour in traffic en route to Frida Kahlo’s house. When we finally arrive at the electric blue home where the Mexican artist lived until her death in the 1950s, there’s a line of people stretching around the block. Closing time is in 10 minutes, and there is no way we will be able to make it inside the museum in time. While this was our draw to the bohemian neighborhood, there’s another equally good reason to visit Coyoacán: the mercado.

Two blocks away from the museum, the Mercado de Coyoacán is the perfect definition of a Mexico City market with its fresh produce, street food stands and artisan handicrafts—minus the crowds you’d find at the more popular ones in the city. We’d also heard this was the spot where you could snag the best tostadas in town at Tostadas Coyoacán, which opened the same year as the market in 1956.

While searching for the signature mustard yellow stand housing the infamous seafood-stuffed tostadas, we passed by Tarot card readers and stalls selling mounds of grasshoppers and jewel-colored chilies, displayed just as regally as spices at a souk. But it wasn’t the presentation that caught my attention. It was the Argentinian masseuse sitting calmly in the corner by the staircase on the second floor. His stand wasn’t as colorful as the rest. Small medicine-style bottles of essential oils sat on tiny wooden tables and a white sign simply read “massage.”

I had been on the hunt for a massage for the past week after a series of long-haul flights, and despite the fact that the massage chair was sitting in the middle of a bustling open-air market, it was exactly what I needed. After 20 minutes (and around 100 Mexican Pesos, or $5, later), the masseuse worked his healing energy, relieving all of the built-up tension I’d been storing in my shoulders.

While this rustic version of a spa treatment can be found in markets and beaches everywhere from Barcelona to Bali, indulging in lavish spa treatments on the go has never been easier as luxe brands like exhale are popping up in airports, and haute British skincare lines like Bamford are turning to trains.

Belmond Royal Scotsman spa car courtesy of Belmond.jpg
Image: courtesy of Belmond

Last week, the new Bamford Haybarn Spa carriages debuted on board the Belmond Royal Scotsman, a train that travels from Edinburgh through the Scottish Highlands. Dubbed “the country house on wheels,” travelers can soak up the surrounding scenery from the comfort of two new spa treatment rooms—designed with sustainable wood hailing from Scotland and the Cotswolds—and take their pick of ways to zen out. One of the top choices: the 55-minute Bamford Bespoke Facial, a blend of facial reflexology, lymphatic drainage and yogic breathing designed to restore and repair the skin.

Belmond Royal Scotsman spacourtesy of Belmond.jpg
Image: courtesy of Belmond

At the Miami International Airport, meanwhile, American Express’ The Centurion Lounge is like walking into one of the city’s best boutique hotels. James Beard Award-winning chef Michelle Bernstein is behind the Miami-inspired menu of lemon ricotta pancakes and chorizo and kale quiche, while Jim Meehan, author of “The PDT Cocktail Book,” has curated a list of locally flavored libations like the Key Lime Gimlet.

While the elevated food and cocktail scene is reason enough to enter the lounge, exhale mind body spa’s airport outpost is another draw. The yoga studio and day spa has 28 locations around the U.S. and Caribbean—with three in Miami alone—and brings a sampling of its treatments to the terminal. Take a seat and sip on herbal tea while a manicurist works their wonders on your nails, or opt for a 15-minute deep tissue chair massage.

If you’re commuting through Paris, Charles de Gaulle offers a similar way to de-stress pre-flight. Air France’s Business lounges feature complimentary spa treatments in the form of massages and facials using one of France’s favorite skincare lines, plant-based Clarins. Upgrade to first class and you not only have access to Air France’s La Première lounge with Alain Ducasse-designed cuisine served tableside, you can also indulge in a two-hour customized treatment courtesy of Biologique Recherche, the same skincare line used at haute hotels in the city like The Peninsula Paris.

If you’re flying airlines like Emirates, don’t think spas are limited just to land. The first class cabin is now home to an onboard Shower Spa, where you can take your pick of products, from Italian fave Bulgari to Ireland’s organic seaweed VOYA line, while an attendant brings over detoxifying fresh juices. Shower sessions are capped at five minutes, but after a long-haul flight, even this short session feels as luxurious as a two-hour spa treatment.


Lane Nieset is Paste’s Jet-Set Bohemian columnist and a freelance writer covering all things travel from her home base in Nice, France.

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