Monday, December 25, 2017

Aire Ancient Baths brings Roman luxury to River West

  
 

     When I wrote about "111 Places in Chicago That You Must Not Miss"—the column where I go to Englewood to get a cup of coffee—I spoke with its author, Amy Bizzarri. We talked a bit about Red Square Spa, and she mentioned this new Greco-Roman bath that had just opened, too new to be included in her book. I asked her if she planned to write about it, and she said no, so I snapped it up. That's TWO columns I've gotten from her. Thanks Amy.

     What do Chicagoans have in common with ancient Romans?
     Beside living in a crumbling empire ruled by an unstable tyrant, that is.
     Well, we've got our own Roman bath now.
     Aire Ancient Baths Chicago, 800 W. Superior, opened late last month.
     Doing my due diligence, I noticed something surprising: The Tribune, Crain's, Chicago Magazine, TV stations, all noted that a Spanish company was opening a 20,000-square-foot bath complex in the basement of a rehabbed 1902 paint factory in River West. Then all overlooked one vital step in the journalistic process: The actually going there part.
     As a former card-carrying member of the Division Street Russian Baths, I sensed an opportunity, and visited Aire last week.
     But not before getting in the spirit by reading Seneca's Epistle 86, where he discusses Roman baths. Seneca habitually praises the simple life, as only a fabulously wealthy man can, and so lauds the rustic baths of yore, with their chinks admitting light, so superior to the marble splendor of the baths of imperial Rome, with their big mirrors and fancy windows.
     Seneca's scolding, combined with Aire offering a $450 bath in Spanish wine, inclined me to expect over-opulence. A place for Trump-era plutocrats to percolate away their excess cash.
      So I was pleasantly surprised, walking in, to discover Aire has found the sweet spot between spartan and excessive. The tone is not gilt but exposed brick and rough-hewn beams. You are assigned a white glass locker, change into a bathing suit — it's co-ed — and little black water shoes, then plunge into the bath complex.


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6 comments:

  1. Beautiful look to the place. When the photo showed up last night, I thought it was the erstwhile Russian Baths and wondered how they could afford such opulence.

    John

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  2. Neil, you really nailed it with that photograph. Everything about it is great. The color, the light, the angle and lines, the depth.... Great job!

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  3. Seneca habitually praises the simple life, as only a fabulously wealthy man can...

    Sentences like that are why I enjoy this blog so much.

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  4. I hike a few hours up a trail in the gila wilderness in New Mexico to a hot spring adjacent to a cold mountain stream. It's my favorite place in the world. Not that I've been to many others. I've been there many times in the last 30 years and last went with my teenage age sons. They recently asked when we are going back. Maybe I'll take them to Aire instead . So much closer.

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  5. Looks fabulous; exactly what I imagine a Roman spa would've looked like. If I ever visited this place I think I would never want to leave.

    SandyK

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