Monsieur Ho is to feet as Yves Saint Laurent was to fashion—worshipped by his fans and envied by his rivals as a master of his medium. For the last three decades his name has been passed from one glamorous Parisienne to another as the best pedicurist in town. His most fervent supporter? None other than La Deneuve, France’s most famous and demanding diva.
“Many of my clients, like Madame Deneuve, have followed me since my beginning at Carita 27 years ago,” explains Ho, a discreet and soft-spoken man who cares for his word-of-mouth clientele in his own private salon near the Champs Elysees.
In French, pedicure means something entirely different from your twenty-buck NYC pedi. It’s a treatment that only a podiatrist can give, while beauté des pieds is the typical scrub and polish you get at your average nail salon. Monsieur Ho is both podiatrist and aesthetician, meaning he can cure your feet and make them look divine (which is why he can charge 150E/hour). In a city where fashionable (read: uncomfortable) shoes are de rigeur at every age, his services can add years to feet and reduce the signs of being so coquettish.
When it comes to shoes, comfort and aesthetics don’t mix. If they feel good, they’re ugly.
Behind the rice-paper sliding doors of his mahogany-and-cream waiting area is a room the size of most studio apartments, outfitted with a single, Emperor’s throne of a chair. I’m asked to change out of my shoes and into a pair of plush slippers before ascending the steps to my perch. Lulled by the low-lit paper lamps and soothing water sounds playing in the background, I sink into the comfy leather lounge chair while Ho assumes his station at the tip of my feet.
After a lovely little foot bath and quick nail trim, Ho gets down to business. First he prepares his instruments: a thin, surgical knife (bistoury) and a small slender gouge, both outfitted with fresh, disposable blades. With gouge in hand he starts working around the perimeter of the nails, carefully dislodging any dead-skin that’s built up over and around them. “It’s important to clean the nails in order for them to breath. It’s just like getting your teeth detartered— if you don’t get rid of the skin, it’ll take up the entire nail.”
Once all of the skin has been ousted, his scrapes it all away with his scalpel using tiny gentle gestures, so that each nail is perfectly clean. Next up? The soles of the feet. After reading my feet with his fingers, he takes his scalpel to offending mounds and rough patches being careful not too take off too much, then smoothes the soles with a fine, handheld file. “The bottoms of our feet are our natural insoles, you want to give them a regular even layer.”
Then comes the epic-long filing of the nails. Using five different types files (emery, metal, mousse, etc), each one finer than the last, he gets nails as smooth and soft as crystal before performing the final climatic finish: the chamois cloth buffing that stimulates the blood flow to the toes and leaves nails naturally rosy and glistening for up to a month.
If You Go: Arrange an appointment with Mr. Ho through Zeva Bellel. The best pedicure in Paris will cost you 150€ per hour; for an extra fee, Mr. Ho will come to your hotel room or apartment.
Merci beaucoup to Zeva Bellel for guest writing this post. Zeva is American-born but has been living and working in Paris for the last ten years as a journalist, trend researcher and consultant. Her travel blog, Paris By Appoinment Only, explores Paris’ secret gems, from lingerie artisans and master masseurs to hidden restaurants. Zeva also designs custom itineraries of the city for visitors who want to go deeper on their next trip to Paris. Follow her on Twitter @parisbao