When asked about her favorite spa experience, Renee Blizzard of Bel Air describes a spa in a hut built out over the water in Bora Bora, where she had a massage. She said she was face-down on a table looking through a glass floor at fish swimming in the crystal-clear water of the ocean below her.
When asked which spa is the most exquisite, she describes one in Cancun, Mexico, with a brick wall covered with flowing waterfalls and tearooms and meditation rooms, and any other type of room a patron might need or want.
But when asked where she goes for the best massage or facial, Blizzard said, "Right here in Bel Air."
Blizzard joins many other people who are going to their neighborhood spas in Harford County for a pampering experience.
Here are some spas in the county and a sampling of what to expect:
Par Excellence Day Spa, 452 Congress Ave., Havre de Grace.
This spa, with its feminine dM-icor, is in a large Victorian house.
The hours of operation are: Tuesday and Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Services include rejuvenating power peels, massage therapy, body polishes and herbal wraps.
One of the most popular services is a hot stone massage that costs $85 an hour and $100 for 75 minutes. Smooth river stones are placed under and on the body and then used to perform a warm, penetrating massage.
Lucy Maistros of Havre de Grace said she visits the spa a few times a month because she enjoys being pampered - Par Excellence-style. "Going to Par Excellence is like going to Cheers: Everybody knows your name," said Maistros.
Maistros said no matter what treatment she receives, she always gets top-rate service.
"The people at Par Excellence are interested in you as a person," said Maistros. "You get a nice feeling at the spa you don't get anywhere else. I definitely rate it as the best in Harford County."
While Maistros acknowledged that she could do her own nails, she said she enjoys the personal treatment so much she pays to have it done.
Renaissance Hair Studio and Day Spa, 1202 Agora Drive, Suite C, Bel Air.
Hours of operation for the Bel Air spa (there also are branches in Frederick and Hunt Valley) are: closed on Sunday and Monday; Tuesday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.; and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The spa offers many of the traditional day spa services including facials, massage and pedicures.
Blizzard said she frequently receives gift certificates for massage or other services, and her experience at the Renaissance was average.
"The people weren't very personable," said Blizzard. "They just kind of move you in and out like you're on an assembly line. But the massage wasn't good and it wasn't bad, it was just a massage."
Also included at spa are packages ranging in price from $131 to $372. The most exclusive of the packages offered at the Bel Air location is the Day of Bliss for $357. This package includes an aromatherapy facial, a hot stone massage, spa manicure, spa pedicure, a hairstyle, makeup application, lunch and a gift. It lasts about seven hours.
Visage Salon and Day Spa, 422 S. Main St., Bel Air.
Visage Salon is a full-service day spa. The hours of operation are: Tuesday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Wednesday to Friday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Visage offers a therapeutic stone manicure and pedicure using the hot stones to massage. The spa packages range from $150 to $305. The ultimate day of beauty runs $305 and included a European facial with a sea salt glow, a Swedish massage, spa manicure and pedicure, scalp massage, conditioning treatment, a hairstyle, and lunch.
Blizzard went to Visage for hair care and occasionally to use a gift certificate for a massage. She thought the service she received for her hair was above average but the massage was fair.
"The lady who gave me my massage tries to keep knowledgeable, and she does a fair job," said Blizzard. "But she talks too much. When I go for a massage I want to relax, not talk the entire time."
However, Liz Morton of Baltimore said when she went to the spa for her friend's wedding, she thought the services she received were all top of the line.
"I'm only 24 years old, so I don't have a lot of experience to compare it with, but I thought the Visage was wonderful," said Morton. "We had facials and I thought it was very relaxing."
Other popular luxury treatments offered at the spa include a seaweed body wrap, herbal body wrap, sea salt body glow, a complete full body exfoliation and a cellulite compression wrap.
Glenda's Day Spa, 21 Powell Ave., Bel Air.
This spa is in a Victorian house. The hours of operation are Monday and Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Tuesday, closed; Thursday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Friday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Spa manager Marie Dey said Glenda's is unusual because it isn't set in a hair-related environment commonly seen in day spas.
Dey said one of the spa's most popular services is a $75-an-hour raindrop therapy massage.
"The raindrop therapy is a mixture of all massages," said Dey. "It's very popular when properly done."
And Blizzard couldn't agree with her more. She frequently has the raindrop massage at Glenda's and said once you have one, you can't help but go back for more.
"The masseuse uses droplets of rosemary or lavender or other scented oils on the spine," said Blizzard. "Then she massages with hot stones. It's so smooth, it's like a butter knife cutting through butter."