BUDAPEST — If you’ve ever watched “Mary Tyler Moore” show reruns, you probably remember her friend Rhoda’s remark that went something like: “Why am I eating this? Why don’t I just apply it directly to my hips?”
She might have been eating chocolate. At least, when I succumb to chocolate attacks, I often remember this remark.
Her words came to mind when I was in Hungary earlier this month having a chocolate body wrap and massage at the historic Hotel Gellert Budapest.
The stately hotel is noted for its architecture as well as the warm mineral baths it offers along with other spa treatments.
On this three-country tour of Eastern Europe, I moved about carefully. I’d injured my leg in an accident I’d had in San Francisco in May. The European trip had been fully paid for in December, however, and I’d undergone weeks of physical therapy. I was determined to go.
On the second day in Budapest, rather than doing the daily ice pack routine on my knee at my hotel, I grabbed a taxi to the Gellert. Here, I hoped to soak my tired bones and sore leg in the soothing, healing waters.
But a notice on the window of the cashier’s booth inside the hotel changed my mind. “New Services” it said. “Chocolate Massage” was one of several things listed — and the most interesting. Not being much of a spa devotee, I’d never heard of such a thing. Maybe it was all the rage in Hungary; how would I know?
As it turned out, the cashier hadn’t heard of it either. I mentioned it to her several times before finally reaching around the corner of the booth and peeling the taped-up flyer off the glass window. After I handed it to her she looked at it, still puzzled. But she finally took my 8,900 forints (about $42) and gave me a ticket.
Off I went to the next station in my journey. I imagined I could detect the lightest hint of chocolate lingering in the air. Would I be immersed, like a large, ungainly strawberry, into a warm bath of chocolate? Would whipped cream be involved?
My fantasies were interrupted, however, when I encountered another roadblock. This came in the form of an attractive but quite formidable middle-aged woman. She was standing in a small enclosure near the gate that admitted one into the hotel lobby.
No sooner had I presented to her my ticket than her face clouded over. She whirled around and grabbed a telephone, casting angry looks toward the cashier booth. After a energetic conversation, she hung up and turned back to me.
The cashier should never have sold me that ticket. The chocolate massage required advance notice and a reservation. Did I have a reservation? No. And so on and so forth. I didn’t say much to her, I just adopted what I hoped was an expression of sad pleading on my face, deferring to her authority but making it clear I wanted what I’d paid for.
She made another telephone call, throwing a few dark looks my way but speaking in ordinary tones this time. My hopes rose. Sure enough, she flung open the door to the gate and set off walking through the lobby. I followed at a fast hobble.
We came to a long, rather dark hallway where she summoned a masseuse, a trim, red-haired woman whose face seemed to smile even when she wasn’t. This was promising.
And so it was. I would have my chocolate massage after all. I followed the masseuse into a smallish room and closed the door.
Since I returned from Europe, I’ve enjoyed discussing the chocolate massage experience. Mostly with women, who of course are interested and want the details.
My male friends, on the other hand, look slightly embarrassed when I bring it up. They don’t say anything. Even so, I can hear their little-boy voices begging, “Oh, please. Do NOT give me any more information.”
Truthfully, the windup to the experience was more exciting than the massage itself. There was no total chocolate immersion. No chocolate masque to be peeled off my face like a sheet of dark fondant. I didn’t even receive a hand-rolled truffle when the one-hour experience ended.
On the other hand the soothing chocolate lotion the masseuse applied first had a fresh, subtle fragrance, slightly minty, and left my skin feeling clean and tingly. She used a darker chocolate lotion for the massage. Again, the chocolate fragrance was light and the masseuse was skilled. I was relaxed and pleased with the experience as I left the hotel.
That night I took my seat in the National Concert Hall to hear the Colorado Symphony Chorus present Giuseppe Verdi’s mighty Requiem. I knew I was fortunate to hear such a piece in such a setting. I might have been a bit teary-eyed to see my sister standing among the 158 singers who’d come to Europe on the group’s 25th anniversary tour.
Under such extraordinary circumstances I wasn’t thinking much about the afternoon’s adventure. But I may have once, ever so discreetly, lifted my hand to my face to catch its scent.
(photo: ronald schuster)