Between 2006 and 2010, I lived in Tianjin in northern China (I have written several journals about my time there on this very sight). For the most part, I absolutely loved my time there. However, during my final six months, work concerns began to make things a little more stressful than I would have liked. So, I often found myself in search of an escape, somewhere to help me relax and to allow the stresses of the world to dissipate. The closest I came was the gym and spa at the Nikko hotel in the centre of the city.
There were many reasons that I loved spending a lazy afternoon at the Nikko. The gym was excellent, the pool was very nice and the sauna and steam room were invigorating. However, no trip to the Nikko would be complete without a stroll in their massage pool. This was a small circular pool that was lined with soft round stones. These stones were there to provide a type of foot massage - without the need to actually have your feet rubbed. I loved them. And, sadly, no matter how much I tried, after I left Tianjin I was unable to find anything similar.
After living in both Turkey and Oman for six months and finding nothing to compare to the Nikko, I was resigned to the fact that the only way I could make my feet better was to go for an actual foot massage. I was not keen on this idea for a couple of reasons: (1) I always get very self-conscious when other people touch me, which makes massages bizarrely stressful, and (2) On the French Riviera, foot massages are expensive treats. All looked lost until the arrival of summer and my first trip to the beach.
The majority of beaches on the Cote d’Azur are not covered by beautiful golden sands. Rather, they are made up of small grey rocks. For example, both Nice and Cagnes sur Mer are totally made up of rocks. Most people see this as something of a disadvantage as they are less comfortable for sun bathing. In fact, many beach clubs have sprung up in Nice that offer elevated sun loungers and wooden decking to minimise the effect of the rocks. In truth, the rocks are a little uncomfortable. However, they have one major advantage, they offer great foot massages.
This realisation struck me for the first time as I made my way out of the water and back to my towel after swimming in the Mediterranean for the first time. For my first few tentative steps, I tried to pick my way through the rocks. However, I soon began to realise that those very rocks were kneading the stress out of my feet like no masseuse ever could.