The Shangri-la hotel in Toronto is like a very well kept secret, it’s flashier contemporaries the Trump and the Fairmont seem to dominate the luxury hotel landscape in the 6ix, abundant in their pomp and fanfare. However the Shangri-la caters to a different clientele; there is no cavernous lobby or bell carts teaming with mongrammed Louis Vuitton luggage nor loud American twangs or German fanny packs to be found. It’s located on an unassuming side street with no visible signable anywhere, the only way I found it was by Google maps, and I still missed the turnoff.
Scream five star it doesn’t, but the roaring indoor fireplaces, copious phaelinopsis orchids and high rooftops, it very subtly Chinese whispers it. Just a beautiful hotel with every amenity available to their discerning clientele and even a prolific and lengthy tea menu. A tea was $14. They take their tisanes very seriously.
Needless to say, upwards and onwards we went, to the 4th floor where the Caudalie Miraj Hamman Spa is located. With only two of its kind in the whole wide world; it’s beautiful twin sister is located in, yes New York at the Plaza Hotel nonetheless. The Miraj Hammam spa fuses Middle Eastern design and influences from Marrakech and Istanbul with Parisian sensibilities of luxury and science. As soon as you arrive, you are greeted by a spa concierge who directs you to the waiting room where you fill out a list of ailments and concerns.
Once robed up feeling very lush and giggly, we waited in the souk inspired Alhambra relaxation lounge with a variety of luxurious sultan day beds, dim lighting and copious amounts of jewel toned raw silk drapes and upholstery, with an exotic moody soundtrack. I felt like I should be sporting some kohl eyeliner and a Balmain circa 2013 dress as part of an exotic harem except I hadn’t shaved and my bedfellow was my hairy fiance.
The East meets West concept of the Miraj Hammam intrigued me, I love the concept of using French products, produced from the vineyards of Bourdeaux in a modern day Eastern souk and hammam environment. We had the Couples Deep Tissue Massage (60 mins $175 each) treatment. Many moons ago, the Hammam was known as the silent doctor and my therapist must have taken the Hippocratic oath as she found every knot and source of discomfort and by the end of 60 minutes, I was feeling thoroughly disengaged from modern, cortisol fueled life and ready for a life of gommage and sugar scrub exfoliations. My favourite part was that the spa uses the Caudalie Divine Oil which I’ve been using for a year after picking it up in Sephora on a whim. It smells divine and can be used on hair, body and face and doesn’t clog pores or stimulate oil production. WIN. They also infuse the treatment with teatree balm which targets tender muscles and also sends one to olfactory nirvana. At the end of the treatment, one is gently revitalised by a spritz that settles on the body, leaving one sad that it’s over but very glad it happened.
You’re then invited to relax in the Alhambra relaxation lounge with sugar tea and baklava to get your blood sugar back to normal. We may have overstayed our welcome but were just so relaxed it was hard to get vertical again. I’ve long been a big fan of Caudalie; they stand for integrity and luxury in their products and spas and they don’t cost the earth! Dollar wise, the products are well priced and environmental wise, they are against animal testing and donate 1% of their world revenue to NGOs to act and protect the regions of the world most threatened by deforestation.
As a verified spa hound, I always know if a spa is any good if after the treatment I cannot find my way back to the changing rooms. In a thoroughly relaxed daze, meandering past rooms I had no business being near, I had to be directed back by some lovely therapist through the intoxicating labyrinth of rooms all aptly named Fez, Marrakesh and Damascus.
he worst part about having had a seriously wonderful spa experience is then exiting outside to a cacophony of cars, sirens and irate denizens headed home.
In all the Shangri-la’s I’ve had the pleasure of visiting, they all seem to abide by the same sentiment… One shouldn’t talk about themselves, let others do that for you.
And I will gladly get on a soapbox for the Shangri-La.
Ed Note: All services at the Shangri-La were paid by moi. Ok in full disclosure, the fiance.