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Want to take a short trip to an exotic locale? Do you want to be pampered by natives? Do you just want to put the romance back in your relationship, or put the focus on pampering yourself? Can this all be done in one place?

For those of you looking for a total escape from the urban jungle, in addition to relaxation, take a look at the new Tantra Spa in Bay Ridge. Located beneath the Cavale Tonuzi hair salon, on 82nd Street at Third Avenue, the spa’s interior was designed with ancient eastern cultures in mind, incorporating natural light, a waterfall, silken fabrics and organic accents.

Co-owner Georgette Francone calls the spa an up-and-coming "destination location."

The spa, open since April, has an ambiance that is a dramatic change from the building’s former tenants - Kleinfeld Bridal. Instead of high-keyed brides and their attendants, Tantra spa has attendants determined to wring the stress from your every pore.

The spa uses Aveda products in all of its treatments - from massages to body treatments to pedicures - in an environment of plush cushions and candles. (Aveda, pronounced ah-vay-da, is Sanskrit for "knowledge of nature" and is derived from the Ayurvedic healing tradition in India.) The Aveda products are manufactured from plants and flower essences, and the salon carries the entire line of home, hair and body-care products.

Upon entering Cavale Tonuzi salon for check-in, you’re assigned a coordinator for your spa visit who takes you down the large spiral staircase. The coordinator makes sure you meet the right therapist or aesthetician and caters seemingly to all your needs - including a light meal if you have booked a day at the spa.

Another pleasant Tantra feature is the bank of lockers. You don’t have to worry about your gear - or schlep it from room to room - as your bags and clothes are locked up tight while you have your services.

The tiles on the floors and walls of the spa are earth-toned, rough-hewn stones. From those first moments, as you step out of your high-heeled boots and onto the stone, changing in your private bathroom, you feel that you are about to literally become more grounded. (And the privacy is a far cry from the impersonal, tiled locker rooms of big, Manhattan spas.)

My first treatment was a one-hour massage ($80) with Kuba, who in addition to being a licensed massage therapist, is also studying acupuncture. He brought me into the tranquility room, where a modest display of fresh fruits and other refreshments were laid out on a counter. A large banquette decadently strewn with pillows and dim lighting completed the between-treatment sanctuary. (After all, who wants a bright spotlight when all you’re wearing is a robe and flip-flops? The dim lighting will certainly reassure even the most modest client.)

In this room, Kuba brought a tray of essential oils scattered with dried rosebuds. He asked me to tell him what I was looking for in this massage before offering me a scent from the tray. I told him that though I didn’t have any aches or pains, I did have stress. He suggested several scents to try, and I chose the "Water" Key Note, a blend of oils, which Kuba assured me would be calming and centering when mixed with the massage oil.

This first part of the "journey," as the Tantra folks call your spa experience, is very important. This scent stays with you - in the form of a small, brown bottle - and is used in all of your treatments that day. If you really love the scent, the staff can mix your scent into Aveda’s hair products and lotions so you can take your aromatherapy with you for use at home.

"It’s an important part of the whole experience," explained Francone. "All of your senses are tantalized." The Tantra experience is a sensual one. While there, you’ll be massaged, inhaling oils, tasting fruits, listening to soothing recorded sounds and taking in the handsome decor.

This philosophy carries over to the design of the water room, in which water cascades down an entire wall of the treatment room. There is also an adjoining fire room, with hollows in the wall shimmering with the light of votive candles. (The rooms can be combined for a Tantra couple journey, $375, where after simultaneous massages or aroma wraps and deep conditioning treatments, the couple can shower together beneath the rainfall shower heads, followed by side by side manicures and pedicures and a light meal. Francone says this is one of their most requested services.)

Kuba is skilled in many massage therapies and to treat what ailed me he incorporated some hot stone massage, reflexology, aromatherapy and Swedish massage, and even hot towels. He says he customizes his massage technique to the client’s needs.

One stroke on my back, using his forearm, literally felt like a soft but firm rolling pin which smoothed the kinks and made me feel like warm cookie dough spreading across the (slightly small) massage table. The hot stones and towels offset the cooling sounds of the ambient music and damp waterfall - a bit of yin and yang if you will. Kuba paid special attention to pressure points on my head and feet.

After the massage, I arose relaxed and dazed. For those of you looking for more than relaxation, the spa also offers deep tissue, reflexology, craniosacral therapy and sport massage.

It was then onto my spa manicure and pedicure (a must before putting my feet on display in spring sandals) with Jaquiline. She put drops of the same Aveda "Water" Key Element in the lotions she used.

The pedicure station is in an intimate room with a cushion-covered bench with more of the earthy stone tiles. As I sat atop the pile of pillows and cushions, like a Persian princess, Jaquiline filled the basin with sliced oranges, cucumbers and flower petals. My feet soaked in the citrus-floral scented bath as she exfoliated, pumice stoned, and most importantly, massaged my feet and calves. This treatment is a mini massage in itself!

After close analysis of my rough, badly treated soles Jaquiline suggested a paraffin treatment rather than a mask. Her advice was well taken. When she was finished, my feet were pink, soft and perfectly polished.

I then descended from my high perch to the noisier manicure area. Tantra does not apply nail extensions, and Jaquiline did not know how to care for my nails, which have artificial tips. She did however do an expert job of caring for my hands. She exfoliated them with a gentle scrub, gave them a paraffin bath, moisturized and massaged them until they, too, were soft and hydrated. (The manicure-pedicure combo is $60.)

While having my manicure, co-owner Violette Tonuzi stopped by to explain that the Balinese wedding procession wood carving above me, and many of the decorative touches in the spa, are antique Asian artworks and several were gifts.

Tonuzi explained that the spa, in the planning for years, came about as organically as the products they use. While under construction, Tonuzi liked the hollows in the wall of one room and told the contractor to leave it that way. Adding a few more hollows into the wall, and filling them with candles, Tonuzi’s romantic fire room was born.

The pleasant and accommodating staff and their expertise set me at ease and made for a comfortable, renewing experience. Tantra also offers many other ways to spend a half-day or day: customized facials ($80), micro crystal peels ($80 and up), waxing ($10 and up), and body treatments such as a polish and tan ($80), aroma wraps ($80) and customized body masque ($80). Tantra is also offering Light Sheer Diode laser hair removal for men and women and the Zoom! Tooth Whitening System.

In the spring and summer guests can take advantage of the Cavale Tonuzi cafe and garden in the rear of the salon.

While all spas prefer their clients come 15 minutes early to unwind and check in, Tantra rewards early birds.

"In other spas, when guests arrive early they are asked to sit and read a magazine," said Francone. "That’s so contrary to the whole reason you’re there. Why would I have you wait when I have a whole spa full of goodies you could enjoy? Why not a 15-minute backrub? That’s where our customer service comes in. It matters to us how you feel."

But it also matters how you look and the Cavale Tonuzi salon, above the spa, will help you return to the bright lights of the big city. You can book a blow out (Veronica set my curly locks straight) and makeup application to follow your spa visit, so you end up returning to the real world looking as put together on the outside as you feel inside.

See Tantra in the Spa Directory.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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Reasonable discourse

Axel says:
Your partner looked like a beautiful Roman Goddess!
Oct. 15, 2007, 7:59 pm

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