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A Valentine's Day Hint: The World's Best Pedicure

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Ladies, who among us doesn't love a pedicure? Manicures are nice and all. I'm happy to get one, but someone fluffing up my feet and putting them back in shape is the next best thing to a full body massage. With Valentine's Day coming up, you get what I'm saying?

There's something truly luxurious about someone handling our body's mules with velvety care and attention. Not to mention how sensuous it is to slip pedicured tootsies into slinky stilettos (that is, if you haven't thrown yours all away because they either kill you or are too hard to wear).

"She has such pretty feet," my sweet Mississippi mother-in-law drawled to her son, my husband Jim, the first time she met me. He was very impressed with this. Well, I thought, that's nice...okay...a little strange. On the other hand, Jim is known among family and friends to be something of a foot fetishist, so his mother remarking on my pretty feet was giving her blessing to this son who, she intuited, was intrigued by them as well as the shoes that adorned them.

After 20 years of hard-core aerobics, my shoes breaking down and me not knowing it, I chipped and cracked some bones, and the doctor told me to stop pounding the puppies. On top of that, my skin has become quite sensitive, and I recently realized the reason I almost fall down all the time is because my feet are unbalanced. How does this happen?

In short, my feet needed help. Ladies, what about yours? How hard is it to find shoes in which you can walk all day and not hurt--or a pair that are comfy but not as ugly as sin?

I'd been looking for a fantastic pedicure in Paris, and as strange as this may seem, good nail care is hard to find--and expensive to boot. But I Googled up a foot guru. In fact, I hit the lottery and found the most famous pedicurist in the world, Bastien Gonzalez. His clients reported feeling they were walking on clouds when they left his golden hands. Why was he a Christian Louboutin while other pedicurists were Doc Martens? I made an appointment to see Gonzalez at the Hotel Le Bristol.

Bastien Gonzalez is French with Spanish heritage, and he looks like a shorter haired Fabio minus the extreme body. Gonzalez is a trained podiatrist and began his practice with offices on the sublime Place des Vosges. But then he had a vision to reach more people--and that was designing a "true pedicure"--which meant his treatment wasn't just cosmetic, as most are, but a medical curing of the feet, nails, and skin, plus a therapeutic foot and leg massage. His clients' feet would not just be attractive but also natural and healthy. Gonzalez took a preventive medical stance, which was to understand the origins of his clients' foot problems and to teach them how to better care for them. In reviving his clients' feet, the walking-on-clouds reports were born.

Gonzalez loves his job and was inspired by his beautiful great-grandmother who took time for her nails and buffed them until they gleamed. She thought polish vulgar. Part of what makes his treatment unique is that he actually removes the top few layers of nail with a dentist's drill he adapted (which, by the way, requires proper training so the nails aren't damaged). He also buffs the nails until they're so glossy they veritably sparkle. The look is natural and fresh, while the feet feel born again.

Starting his new practice in Paris's fashionista Hotel Costes, Gonzalez fast became such a word of mouth hit that he added New York to his schedule and was being flown on private jets around the world. This is a man who knows what he wants--and what he wanted to offer his clients--and he began honing his vision and business even more. Today, he has received global press and has developed a line of products called Reverence de Bastien. He did it with his own money so no one else can muck up his dream.

Gonzalez now alternates his time between Paris and London with a regular client schedule in New York and Moscow and another slate at luxurious One and Only Resorts in Mexico, Mauritius, the Maldives, Capetown, and Dubai. He has also begun to train others in his technique.

For this Valentine's Day and a glamorous special moment, Gonzalez has introduced his first nail polish--One and Only Red--to his product line. I plan to get some.

A decade ago, I wrote a book about what women should pass along to their daughters, sisters, and friends. Part of my goal was for men to read the book as well--to understand more about what their women wanted and needed. After Jim read it, he got the importance of women taking care of themselves--and for pampering. He often sent my daughters and me for manicures and pedicures.

Getting a pedicure isn't just divine, though it is that. It is also for our health and well-being, a concept Bastien Gonzalez understands and promotes. But if you can't get the treatment from him, book yourself an appointment somewhere else. Or print this out and show it to your spouse or partner. Hint hint!

And just for the record, what's your favorite treatment for your own well-being?

Beth Arnold lives and writes in Paris. To see more or her work, check out www.betharnold.com.