May222012

VALEO Spa Experience at JW Marriott Chicago

VALEO Spa was kind of an intimidating experience for a spa virgin like me. I don’t mind naked time in my home or in a natural location like a river or lake pool when I don’t have a swimsuit, but I am not accustomed to having strangers touch me on my sides or legs or feet in a low lit room. I generally have to know you better.

Then I found I really enjoyed the experience of being sweated, washed and massaged at VALEO Spa in the JW Marriott Chicago.

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First you sign the form in the unlikely event you die. Standard fitness center stuff, but who reads the fine print in public?

Enter the VALEO

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The male attendant handed me a plush robe and a little wool blanket looking thing he said was good for the sauna.

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I sealed my goods in an electronic locker and donned a robe with only my underwear and my camera on me as I was escorted to a sauna.

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Valeo Spa – steam room (glass door left and sauna wooden door), JW Marriott Chicago.

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Sitting in a sauna alone all I could think of the first few minutes were New York City Italian mafia movies. I realized the underwear had to go. The little blanket thing stayed. I couldn’t help but wonder as a person who studied microbiology in college how the wooden slats are cleansed. I kept my skin on the blanket.

Then I settled into the sauna vibe in a space much darker than shown in this flash photo. The sauna is heated by infrared. Normally I find a sauna unbearable. This actually was a different experience since there was no steam or single heat source. The heaters are distributed around the benches.

Twenty minutes or so in the sauna and then I was led to a waiting lounge room.

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The St. Regis Monarch Beach, California spa is one of the few other inner spa sanctums I have seen. I never had any services there. All the grooming products available for guest use reminded me of the St. Regis spa. I thought to myself, I actually need a shave.

I was dropped off in this room that offered reading material, fruit and water.

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Now turn the brightness factor way down and you can sense the waiting lounge. These are flash photos since the actual lighting was too dim for clear photos without the flash.

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Valeo Spa has a full liquor license. I am not sure if they normally serve drinks here, but I think they might while you wait for your masseuse.

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Charles, a 20-something looking and muscular local guy from Chicago, took over my spa experience just as I was about to chill out in these chairs.The lighting was so intensely moody in a mellow way that I chilled into the moment and flowed with the escort. My spa apprehensions kind of melted away.

I had no idea what was going to happen next.

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Clarity Chamber A was an over-the-top different kind of experience for me.

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The clarity chamber has three of these marble heated tables. This was the center table. My treatment was in a side room.

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Basically I got hosed and scrubbed on this table. One of the most impressive aspects of this treatment is the care Charles took to position towels while performing the treatment. He moved towels around my body to expose most of me, but not all of me, and he held towels out in front to block his vision of me while I adjusted on the table when lying down and turning over.

The process would be much simpler if the person lying naked on the table can be directed to change positions, but in this spa experience the time was taken to carefully position towels so that the guest is not exposing himself to the masseuse.

There was washing, scrubbing the skin, and wonderful smelling scents being placed on my skin. This was star treatment which is a luxury I seldom let myself enjoy.

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Hot Lounge, Valeo Spa JW Marriott Chicago

I was serious about getting hosed with water during the cleaning treatment. You have to keep your mouth up off the table, but Charles did a good job of not getting too much water near my face.

The Hot Lounge room is a heated marble room where I waited with a bottle of water. Alex at JetSetter.com joined me, another journalist from New York. I was having those mafia movie flashbacks again.

Couples Spa Room

Charles took me into the couples spa room for photos before my massage.

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This room was photographed with my flash, but this photo is a much better indicator of the low lighting prevalent in the spa.

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Couples spa room has infinity tub.

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Couples spa room dual head shower.

I know I would have a fine night at JW Marriott Chicago if I treated Kelley to an experience like a couples massage in a room like this.

My wife has a penchant for Pebble Beach. I have to admit that now I see what attracts her to a luxury spa.

But that was not the end of my treatment. I don’t know how long I was massaged since I was nodding off while on the table during the 30 to 60 minute session. It was a full-body massage from toe to head.

I asked Charles how many people getting massaged fall asleep on him? He told me more than half. I know I drifted out a couple of times and I was on the verge of full-blown baby sleep.

BYOURBEST – Tailored to You

One thing to point out here is the customization of the massage. I was asked when I arrived at Valeo Spa what parts of my body bothered me recently.

I don’t think I ever mentioned this on Loyalty traveler, but when I went to Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas in February I had a herniated disk in my back from a prior injury.

Atlantis Resort is famous for its water rides and I was suffering intense back pain and only managed to float in a pool for about 30 minutes during the entire trip.

After returning to California I went through another five weeks of sciatic nerve pain in my leg.

Charles had my medical information and tailored much of the massage on my hip and thigh area where I had suffered the pain until about seven weeks ago.

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After the massage treatment I was escorted to the VALEO Spa pool area. This is a special UV light pool without chlorine.

The new high-tech pool located within VALEO offers a spa-worthy experience with white tile enveloped in blue stucco walls. The 11.2 meter pool features comfortable seating for 7-12 people. Instead of chlorine, the pool is filtered by UV-light, where the water flows through UV-light chambers to eliminate 99 percent of all toxins and bacteria resulting in less chlorine in the pool than in average drinking water. A separate whirlpool has been custom-designed to offer therapeutic relief to guests with PSI jets as powerful as a shiatsu massage that target highly sensitive points along the back, shoulders, and neck. TravelPulse – May 10, 2012

Five journalists were treated to Godiva chocolate covered strawberries and Mimosas. I had planned to give the pool a thorough workout, but I didn’t make it back to the spa before leaving the hotel.

That was my spa experience at VALEO Spa JW Marriott Chicago.

VALEO Spa recently opened an Express Spa. There is a Father’s Day special for three treatments for $109.

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Coincidentally I came across a 2011 TimeOut Chicago review of the VALEO Spa regarding the personalized spa treatments.

I looked at the current VALEO Spa menu and as best I can tell I received a 30 to 45 minute Clarity Chamber treatment and Hot Room and a 30 to 45 minute massage. The whole spa session was two hours start to finish.

Disclosure: The VALEO Spa sessions at the JW Marriott Chicago were complimentary as part of the Spring Media Tour for the hotel.

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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  1. @NY Banker – The reason I didn’t try the pool is I was escorted directly from the massage room to the pool wearing my robe. I had my underwear on, but my swimsuit was in the locker.

    A glass wall separates the pool from the fitness room, so probably no nude swimming allowed.

    We had a lunch scheduled and no time to try the pool before lunch.

  2. I will never understand my fellow Americans. Why would anyone wear a bathing suit or underwear to sauna or bath? Just a towell to sit on in the sauna and another one to dry off after showers and baths. Anything more is just wrong, IMHO.

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