Good things to know:
- This place has been here since 1885. !!! I love New England.
- It's not big enough to have separate areas for men and women, so they have "Ladies' Night" every Monday where no men are allowed, and the rest of the time it's men only.
After work last Monday I made my way to Dillon's. It's not a glamorous neighborhood/walk from the train, and the building facade is no different. If I were a random passer-by I might think it looked sketchy, but I was not. I was a steam-seeker.
So I find the building no problem and can't figure out which door is the entrance. (Are we noticing a theme, here?) So I called the number on the sign and explained my predicament and a nice lady told me which door to go to. For anyone following in my footsteps: in the parking lot with the doors, it's the door on your LEFT with the doorbell and the handle, not the door on your right or the door upstairs.
Since I had made so clear that it was my first time, the receptionist, whose name was Madeleine, explained everything to me. I paid something like $17 for entry and $8 for a platza (more on that later) and recieved a towel, shoes, and locker key. Oh--and I asked Madeleine whether most people went naked or wore bikinis (I had brought one just in case), and she said: naked, but you should do what made you comfortable.
She was right--the entire night I think I saw all of 1 person in a bikini bottom. Everyone else was some variation of towel or nothing. Oh, and don't expect to hear a lot of Russian here--the majority of voices I heard were layered in a thick Boston accent.
I was a bit of an early comer, so I got to look around in peace. There was a pretty large lounge area with a big TV and snacks, a locker room area ("room" is a generous term--it was more of a locker corner), a steam room, a dry sauna, and a shower area.
The steam room was great--when it was hot, it was HOT. It was so hot that there was a cold shower IN the steam room. That was a new feature to me, and very neat. No need to kill your buzz by leaving the room when you're getting too warm!
The sauna is where people would sit and chat. It was also pretty hot, but tolerable. The sauna is also where the platza service was.
So, the platza, which they pronounced "plah-tsee" or "play-tsee," is a treatment where you're brushed and beaten with a thick cluster of soapy oak leaves. I had heard that it was pretty nice, and I figured it was just the sort of thing to try, like when am I gonna have a chance to be beaten by oak leaves again?
I indicated to Paula, the platza lady, when I was ready, and we went into the sauna where she showed me a raised table to lay down on. So here's the thing--it's right out in front of EVERYBODY! Like, it's not like a normal spa where they take you to a partitioned-off area. The sauna is full of people and they're basically sitting facing you while you're laying naked on the table. Not for the shy!!
So the platza lady asked if I wanted the table cooled off with cold water before she started, and I said no, but once she started the water from the leaf bunch was like burning my butt for some reason, so she had to douse the table under my butt off with water and then I was fine after that. They put a damp washcloth over your eyes (she kept pointing out that it was scented with lavender essential oil but I couldn't really smell it) so you don't get soap in your eyes. Then they brush up and down your body with the leaves, which have been dunked in soap water. The bushel kind of looks like a giant kabuki brush--short thick handle (needs to be held by both hands) and big wide poof of leaves. So after they brush you down, then they basically hit you with it. Then you roll over on your stomach and the process repeats. Then they throw a bucket of cold water over you. Even though I knew that was part of the treatment, it basically came with no warning, so it was pretty hilarious. And it was the best part, because you're so hot at that point.
The table was littered with fragments of oak leaves, and so was my skin. I kept finding them trailing off me as I walked around and I tried to make a joke about how I was "LITERALLY exfoliating" but nobody got it. :(
A couple other people got platzas after me--a regular and her visiting friend, who were the only people I was able to really get into conversation with. (The friend was from Idaho and told me that when I go I HAVE to go to "The Lavas" hot springs and I'm like, done!)
It was really cute because almost everyone there is a regular and they had like boxes of toiletries and products--like, facial masks, body oils, all that nice girlie stuff--and I think they just kept their stuff there. That makes it seem really fun, like not just go for a sweat but have a whole beauty day of it. 'Cause really, who has time to do that stuff at home?
I hung out for a few hours because of the awkward train schedule. I probably could have left an hour, half hour earlier, but I made the best of it, reading in the lounge when I was tired of being hot.
Anyways, they kept trying to get me to become a regular, and I don't think I would dedicate a whole night a week to relaxing, but I'd go back if I were sore from training or if friends wanted to go. They have facials, massage, waxing... I dunno, the oak leaves thing might have been a one-time experiment for me. But it was pretty nice; don't knock it 'til you've tried it!
Dillon's Russian Steam Bath, Chelsea, MA
Amenities: Steam room, dry sauna, locker room, showers, lounge. Platza, massages, and waxing available at extra cost.
Drop-in Price: I believe it was $17 for ladies' night, though the site says $23 which must be for men.