This Place Rocks

A hot-rock manicure and pedicure at the homey Carol Lewis Day Spa is a cool idea
This Place Rocks
Photograph by David Lewinski

I have nothing against classic cars; I just don’t derive any pleasure from gaping at them for hours on end. Looking without touching is no fun, whether it’s an automobile or — never mind.

But plenty of people are car voyeurs, as evidenced by the throngs who show up for the annual Woodward Dream Cruise. I was trying valiantly to wend my way down a traffic-choked Woodward, lined with onlookers oblivious to baking in the August sun — and this was a full day and a half before the official start of the Dream Cruise. With all the GTOs, Mustangs, and Chargers crawling down the street, their engines revving for attention, I was getting frantic. I had a spa appointment, for Pete’s sake.

I made it to the Carol Lewis Day Spa in downtown Birmingham with a few minutes to spare, but I still had to decompress from all of the hubbub. Just walking up to the place, whose porch is adorned with Boston ivy and pots of pink impatiens, had a relaxing effect. There are more tranquil spas, to be sure, but how many can claim to be in a homey 1916 row house? Originally residential, the Shain Townhouses have been home to businesses for years. Their Arts and Crafts architectural flavor is a nice old touch among the increasing modernity in Birmingham.

There are three floors at the spa, and it still feels more like a residence than a business, which is a good thing. I was escorted to a room at the rear of the first level, painted in half apple green and half mocha, with cream-colored crown moldings and an antique crystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling. It seemed an ideally restful ambience for my treatments: A River Rock manicure and pedicure.

If that sounds exotic, it isn’t, really. In addition to the amenities of a regular manicure and pedicure, hot rocks are glided across the hands, forearms, feet and lower legs as a sort of grand finale. The heat relaxes tired muscles and has an overall soothing effect. I’ve had hot-rock treatments applied to the back, arms, and legs during a massage, but never during nail treatments. Granted, it’s not for everyone. Some people are heat sensitive, but I could be dropped in a pot of lava without wincing.

Lauren, my nail technician, was deft and industrious, as well as friendly without being a chatterbox. One can tell she knows the drill, but she doesn’t make the experience seem perfunctory. As my feet were softening in the whirlpool, she offered me a glass of red wine. Now, normally, I don’t touch booze during the day, but I also normally don’t have manicures and pedicures in the afternoon, so why not? Next, my hands were dipped in hot paraffin a few times, then covered in plastic, and finally wrapped in terrycloth mitts. It made holding the wine glass a little dicey, but there was nary a slip from cup to lip.

My cuticles were groomed and my nails and soles buffed. My feet were scrubbed and massaged, which was predictably refreshing, but I particularly liked the hydrating masque applied to the entire foot; the moisture just seemed to seep in. Several Qtica products were used, a brand I’ve always liked.

But those hot rocks really broke down tension, especially in my taut calves.

After Lauren removed the mitts, my hands were primed for a similar treatment. I opted for a matte finish on the nails; the shiny finish is a bit over the top for me. I mean, if you have a nice manicure, you don’t have to call attention to the fact.

Carol Lewis has been in this location for 17 years and, before that, was on Adams Road for several years. The affable owner was on the premises during my appointment, and that’s always a good sign when the proprietor cares enough to put in time at his or her business. An expansion was in progress while I was there, which should be completed by the time you read this. Accommodations were being constructed for spa parties and a relaxation room.

As for me, I had all the relaxation I needed, which allowed me to cruise down Woodward — slowly, perhaps, but with blood pressure in check.

386 E. Maple Rd., Birmingham; 248-642-1570, Mon.: 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; Tue.: 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Wed.: 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Thur.: 9:30 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fri.-Sat.: 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sun.: closed.

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