There is one other thing for which Île de Ré is well known: their thalassos. If you don’t know, a thalasso is a spa that is near the sea and uses the benefits of sea water in their treatments. In fact, the root word (thalassa) is Greek for “sea.” They say the composition of ocean water is very close to the composition of plasma in our body. We are, in other words, made mostly of sea water. How perfect is that?
So I have arranged to spend my last few days on the island at a thalasso in Sainte-Marie-de-Ré. My therapist, Claire, issues me a red robe, a red towel, and—yes—red slippers. She instructs me to prepare myself for my first treatment, a hydrotherapy soak in warm saltwater. After I’ve changed, she leads me into a small room with a large tub facing a window looking out on the Atlantic. She checks the temperature of the water and says, “You should soak for at least an hour. To enrich yourself. We are sea animals—we need the minerals and elements that the sea provides.” Then she closes the door and leaves me to myself.
I feel as vulnerable as an exposed oyster, enveloped up to my chin in warm, green sea water. Outside, the ocean shimmers like shards of broken glass. Seabirds fly low over the waves. I close my eyes as hydrojets—like gentle hands—push and pull my limbs.
I can’t possibly be sleeping, yet I am in some sort of strange dream-like state. Like when you’re on a plane and you’re both dreaming and aware of sound and movement around you. The images in my head swirl and blend—the ocean, fish, swimming, children laughing, the voices of old lovers. It is like I’m being purged of something. Or reborn.