Spa


27
Dec 12

Powder and Pamper in Whistler Part Two: The Pamper

I love to visit a spa on pretty much any occasion, but that afternoon as I creakily got into a cab at the Westin to the Scandinave spa, my thighs already beginning to ache after my first morning on the slopes, I felt for once that I really deserved what lay ahead. The Scandinave specialise in Nordic spa-ing, a traditional form of relaxation through heat and bathing. Located just a mile or so out of Whistler village, the Scandinave could not be any prettier; from the car park you get to it via a winding pathway through the trees (dusted with that powdery snow!) which seems to set the mood that you’re about to enter a different world.

Relax in natural beauty at the Scandinave

The reception area is cosy with a roaring fire and small cafe area. I checked in and got two towels and a key for the lockers. Once showered, changed and in my bathing suit, I padded outside into the cold air and tip-toed towards the large heated pool. The spa space is silent which lends a positively dream-like atmosphere to the experience. Steam rises from the heated pools and the only sound is of the pool’s waterfall. I sank into the hot water and felt incredibly sleepy and happy. Hydrotherapy jets are stationed around the pool to pummel tight muscles into relaxed submission. I spent 20 minutes soaking up the heat before braving the next part of the Nordic spa experience: the cold plunge.

A waterfall massage surrounded by the mountains? Yes please!

I am a coward when it comes to this. I creep rather leap into the cold. I know that it does marvellous things to help cleanse my pores and remove toxins but I am a wimp. However, I think I finally found the secret, instead of stepping in, I just sat on the side and fell in. I stayed with my head under the freezing water, feeling my heart pounding and the blood racing to my skin’s surface. I bobbed around for a minute, trying hard not to shriek, then leapt out, grabbing my towel and scurried off to the next part of the Nordic spa experience; resting.

No, not me, but seriously, I was too chilled to take a camera!

I lay down in a heated solarium overlooking the beautiful mountains and trees. Close to sleep, I felt positively drugged. My achey legs ached no more. My body felt positively boneless. I repeated this cycle twice more and by the third time I was feeling invigorated and alert again. In the space of a few hours I’d gone from physical exhaustion to feeling like I’d had a restful night’s sleep. Those Nordic types knew what they were doing…

Find out more at Tourism Whistler.

I travelled as the guest of Enjoy Whistler however my views are 100% my own.

 


30
Nov 12

Facing up to winter

Winter is well and truly here in Vancouver; my morning walks with Freddie the dog are becoming a lesson in the art of layering and cunning application of wet weather gear. I have never been so glad of anything as I am of my rubber boots.  But it’s not just ridiculously wet, it’s also bitingly cold down on the beach and my skin has been protesting.

In my efforts to keep things 100% Canadian, from food and drink to fashion, I decided that I should try and track down a Canadian-made winter skin care solution and guess what? There’s a company in Kitsilano (where I’m currently living) that does just that.

Skoah’s funky store on West 4th, Kitsilano

I went to see Skoah on West 4th Street to get a ‘facialiscious’ facial and came away with great skin care advice for the change in season too. During my treatment, my therapist, Katarina, gave me some savvy tips and showcased a wide variety of Skoah’s range. The first thing that I noticed was the creamy quality of the products; Skoah use shea butter, olive oil and coconut oil in a lot of their products and I have to say I really liked it. It felt nourishing and not at all harsh on my wind-chapped face.

Katarina’s advice for me was simple but it’s been pretty effective over the past couple of weeks. Katarina told me that I should go back to skincare basics; cleanse, tone and moisturise – I never tone as I always thought it was too drying but she steered me towards Tonik, an alcohol-free toner which balances the PH of the skin and helps strengthen it with hyaluronic acid.

I find most exfoliators are too rough for my skin, but Face Skrub uses perfectly round beads which gently polish the skin without causing it stress. The proof was looking at my skin afterwards – no redness at all and the blend of plant extracts that Skoah use to calm and soothe the skin certainly seemed to do just that for me.

A slick of this means winter is no longer a problem for my skin

Katarina also recommended that in winter I should look at ‘layering’ product on my skin like I do with clothes, so – using a serum to help strengthen my skin and reduce the capillaries bursting which happens when I go from cold to hot and back again, the Skin Quench contains ceramides which can help with that. Her final two pieces of advice were to lessen the effects of the intense changes in temperature by wrapping a scarf around my face whenever I go outside, so that my skin cools slowly and also to look at using an extra-thick product like the Face Balm, which has olive oil and shea butter to keep my skin hydrated and rice bran wax to form a barrier between my skin and the elements.

I’ve followed her advice and yes — it definitely seems to be working. The switch from autumn to winter seems less harsh on my skin and I love that it’s all from a Canadian company who are based right here in Vancouver.


25
Nov 12

Whistler Weekend

One Mile Lake, just past Whistler

Winter takes on a different feeling when you have one of the world’s most beautiful mountain playgrounds on your doorstep. When it rains in Vancouver, you know that it’s probably snowing just 90 minutes away in Whistler, making perfect powder to play in. Whistler is less than two hours away from Vancouver and the drive there on the Sea to Sky Highway is simply breathtaking. The road twists and turns as you hug the coast and venture higher into the mountains. Each turn brings a fresh and gorgeous perspective. Take it slow though; it’s also one of Canada’s most dangerous roads. So stick to the speed limit and don’t try out any F1 moves.

I stayed at Nita Lake Lodge, a little distance from Whistler village and for me, if you’re looking to soak up the relaxing side of the mountains, the perfect place to chill. I loved my room on the top floor; huge ceiling and a gorgeous fireplace. I curled up on the sofa, reading a book and got lost watching the flames. I have to mention the staff here; the brilliant receptionist who went the extra mile for me as I’d forgotten my adaptor plug and she found a mac cable for me so I could re-charge and the friendly driver of the hotel’s shuttle bus who cheerily drove me back and forth into the village.

Nita Lake – the perfect view for breakfast

There’s a spa at Nita Lake – which unfortunately I didn’t get to try out – especially as it has those gorgeous Ila treatments which I love. No matter, I spent time in the spa’s yoga studio doing some Pilates and then padded out in the minus six chill to the outdoor hot tubs, slipped off my robe and hopped into the bubbling warmth. There is something magical about your sore muscles getting massaged by bubbles as you lie back under a blue sky and look at the snow on the mountains. I was lost in nature worship again!

Starving after all that beaming at the mountains I wanted to check out the Southside Diner at the end of the road. I’m so glad I did. During the 2010 Winter Olympics, this was the only place that didn’t hike its prices and the queue for Sunday brunch told me just how good the food was. I sat at the bar and lost a battle against the biggest and fluffiest pancake I’d ever seen. I loved watching the staff plate the food – it would not have been out of place at a Michelin-starred restaurant – but this was diner food made with love and care. I’ll be back next time I visit for sure. I want to try the cornflakes-and-Baileys…

Drinky Brunch at the Southside Diner

I’d read about a spa in town that used the 100-mile principle in its treatments. I’m a huge fan of this idea – using only ingredients from a 100-mile radius to keep the carbon footprint low and truly support local, sustainable living. Eco Chic is tucked away in the village, it’s small but spotlessly clean and had a real sanctuary-like atmosphere. The treatment rooms were compact but attractively-decorated. My therapist Michelle has won herself a place in my Top Five Massages of All-Time. I was meant to be having a full-body treatment with hot stones. The linens and oil used were locally-sourced and the stones were from the nearby Sunshine Coast. About 20 minutes into the massage, Michelle stopped and started quizzing me about my sore shoulders and horribly stiff leg. She decided that what my body needed was intense trigger point therapy instead and that’s what she gave me, focussing on my back. I stayed face-down for the whole treatment and yes, it was painful at times but oh wow, that loose muscular-release stayed with me for days. I left the spa and had to go and sit in a cafe for an hour or so before I could drive, I was so relaxed. Go and see her when you visit! An amazing intuitive therapist.

I’ll be back to Whistler soon to check out some of its famous restaurants and, SCREAM!, to try a skiing lesson. I’m nervous but I can’t wait to try it out. Any tips for first-timers… let me know.

I stayed as a guest of Tourism Whistler and was hosted by the Eco Chic spa. My views are 100% my own.

Keep Exploring Canada  and find out more about Whistler

 


21
Nov 12

Licensed to thrill at Vancouver’s Shangri-La hotel

It’s Vancouver’s tallest building and I’ve seen it shimmering at me for months…

I’ve had my eye on the Shangri-La hotel  ever since I moved to Vancouver. Towering above the other buildings in the city, it’s been a glittering landmark and one that I’ve been increasingly eager to check out. Turns out waiting two months to visit was two months too long. Where has the Chi spa been all my life? Why aren’t I there right now? If I ask nicely, do you suppose they will let me move in? 

Deliciously decadent private spa treatment room at CHI

Ahem.

Checking in was a breeze, I’d arrived early to visit Chi (OH MY GOD, THE SPA!) and the concierge had spotted me loitering in the lobby with my case. He immediately took it from me to save me the effort of wheeling it to the lift and promised to have it sent to my room. Case-less I zipped on up to the fifth floor… The lift doors open and you’re faced with a cascading wall of water over shimmering rock. A sense of calm is established immediately. I’d booked for the Element Vitality massage, a treatment which combined a variety of massage styles, Swedish, shiatsu and reflexology – blending the best of East and West – as the rest of the hotel does. I visit a lot of spas and I can say, hand on heart, that I don’t think I have ever seen treatment rooms like these before. Each room is its own fully-equipped spa, complete with huge soaker tub, steam room, fireplace, changing area, showers and relaxation area. Very impressive. I wish I could pretend that I am cooler than I am, but as I am not, I’ll confess that I WHOOPED when I saw it.

The first part of the treatment was a ten-minute steam. I love any massage that starts this way; your muscles warm up and the therapy is is much more beneficial. I steamed in my private cabin & then took a warm shower, wrapped myself in a robe and padded out to my therapist who’d prepared a herbal tea for me to enjoy while I chose which ‘element’ scented oil I preferred for my massage. I chose ‘water’ which she told me meant fluidity, travel and independence – exactly right for me. The combination of the different styles was superb, I felt positively boneless when I reluctantly left the couch an hour later. Just a great treatment. In fact, I felt so relaxed I couldn’t face dressing, so packed up my boots and all in spa gift bags, and wafted up to my room on the eleventh floor with a Mona Lisa-like smile on my face.

There! Look through the window – can you see? City, mountains and sea…

I had an impression of smooth crisp fine linens, a decadent bathroom with a gloriously waterfall-like shower and soaker tub, with a whole shelf of doo-dads and what-nots in the bathroom – combs and toothbrushes and all, but then I saw the bed and fell soundly asleep. Always the sign of a stellar massage. The need for unconsciousness immediately afterwards.

I woke to all that I moved to Vancouver for; that wonderful view of city, mountains & water. I sat on the edge of the huge bed and hugged myself with delight. I’d woken feeling refreshed and ready for action – and that meant dinner at MARKET by Jean Georges  and afterwards a party to celebrate the release of the new Bond movie, Skyfall in the Xi Shi Lounge.

And so – to MARKET, honestly? Not the most exciting of rooms, maybe it’s the lighting? Dim, but not intimate, something felt off, and truthfully, the menu didn’t have me leaping with anticipation either. Its focus is on “reinventing classic dishes by infusing eclecticism”. Hmm, a burger with black truffle and Brie, soy-glazed short ribs with apple-Jalepeno puree and a lot of mushrooms seem to feature (not great for me with my raging mushroom allergy).  I guess if I hadn’t been going to a slinky-dress party afterwards, I’d have dug in, embraced a loose waistband and had the beef tenderloin. But a slinky dress night it was, so I hit up a trio from the Raw Bar and planned to sample my date’s rack of lamb.

So, what do you think? Me? Not loving the room. The food is divine though.

How lovely when your expectations are shattered; the food was perfect. Just wonderful. The tuna tartare with avocado, spicy radish and ginger dressing was one of the best things I’ve eaten. The flavours sung. So incredibly fresh and that perfect balance between spice and heat. The rice cracker-encrusted tuna was marvelous too and the oysters so good I’m afraid I had seconds. The lamb? Heaven. Perfectly pink and given an edge with a chili-crumb crust. I may have had more than my fair share. But I’m not changing my mind about the room, until I try lunch there in daylight, and see whether that makes a difference.

On to the party – I’d heard nothing but great things about bartender Jay Jones, who shakes it up at the Xi Shi Lounge – which would be because he’s rather superb at what he does. My new off-list love is a Last Word, a cheeky Prohibition-era blend of gin, green chartreuse, maraschino and fresh pressed lime juice. Jay whipped up one of the best I’ve had and, bless him, didn’t insist I stick to the evening’s Bond-a-licious creations, although, yes – I had to try the Vesper, of course… The night span past in a whirl of Bond themes, casino fun, glammed-up willowy women and towering Canadians in sharp suits. Hurrah!

Morning arrived with a sore head and (thank goodness) an in-room breakfast, complete with old-school warming cupboard so my much-needed eggs and bacon didn’t get cold. As I write this at home, I can see the Shangri-La through the rain clouds. If I squint I can just about see where the spa might be… how I wish I were there right now.

I stayed as a guest of the Shangri La, but my views are 100% my own. And I still wish I could go and live in that spa.


26
Oct 12

Vancouver Fairmont Pacific Rim: a little bit of a love letter…

I know this reads like a cheerleader-y whoop of a write-up, but you know what? Sometimes things are just good… and this is one of ‘em. I’m already pretty much on record as a fan of the Fairmont group in general and their Willow Stream Spas in particular. It’s true, I don’t really like chains as a rule, but I’ll make an exception for these guys because I kind of love the feeling that each of the Fairmonts I’ve visited has; the Monte Carlo Fairmont made me gurgle with glee as it had a mustard menu to go along with their buttery-soft steaks, as well as a rooftop pool that you can see France, Italy and, of course, Monaco from, as you lazily swim laps under the sun. The Savoy in London is part of the group and if you know of a more elegant luxury hotel in the world to enjoy a White Lady cocktail (which was invented in the bar there) then tell me – because I simply don’t believe it exists.

But to the Pacific Rim  in Vancouver; perched on the water’s edge, it’s a huge modern property, with a stunning open lobby with a piano bar and cocktail lounge which makes for a buzzy atmosphere as you walk in. Cheery reception staff make check-in a joy. I said something about wondering whether the rain would stop later and as I walked into my room, the phone rang; it was the gal on the desk, calling with the weather for later that day.  Do you see why I love them?

Alas, I didn’t get one of the bath-with-a-view rooms which overlook the harbour, with the pretty floatplanes taking off like duckies into the air, but as my room had a huge soaker-style tub and a bed that I never wanted to leave, turns out I had nothing to pout about after all.

Next time, this bath shall be mine

Of course, the only thing likely to drag me out of bed in a Fairmont is the chance of a trip to the spa… I love the spacious feeling that the Willow Streams have; the soft touches from the fruit and muffins in the relaxation rooms to the soft blankets available to wrap yourself up in after a soothing treatment so you can just zone out. This Willow Stream also boasts Vancouver’s most fabulous hot tub; right on the roof, towering over the city, where you can watch the sunset turn the buildings the most glorious gold.

No time to soak it up today, it was all about discovering the rejuvenating effects of marine algae with a signature ‘Power of the Sea’ massage. I was wrapped in a soothing mineral-rich cream and while that soaked into my skin, my therapist gave me a brilliant acupressure facial and eye-rollingly good scalp massage. All too soon I showered off the wrap and was then treated to a body massage with more Thalgo product. Now, I’d usually say after a good spa body treatment you could expect softer skin for maximum a couple of days. This really impressed me; a week later, my skin still felt petal-soft. I’m interested to see what effect a Thalgo full facial might have as, wow, serious results!

Snuggle up under a blanket and bliss out

Later I got to check out a tasting menu at Oro, the elegantly funky fine dining restaurant on the second floor. It’s all about the taste of the Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest cuisine here, focussing on what’s local, seasonal and just plain good. We started with a sparkling Blue Mountain rosé from the Okanagan Valley, a whoosh of strawberries and citrus which was so good, it made me decide there and then to get to the Okanagan fast! We were treated to a variety of small plates from the Oru menu, my two favourites were the  Qualicum Island scallops with a brilliant faux-lardon made from smoked salmon, and the Fraser Valley pork belly which came with a new ingredient for me: lotus root purée – a wonderful taste that I want to try again. Show-stopper of the night though, was an Alaskan salt cod which was served with a ‘tea’, brewed table-side in old-fashioned gas-fired contraption, made of fragrant tomatoes and herbs. Poured over the delicate fish it was wonderful; dense with layers of herby, zingy, pure tomato flavour. I’d never tried anything even close to this before. LOVE.

Seriously. I want to eat this all day long.

I wish I could find some negatives to even out this rave of a review, but there’s nothing. The cocktails are great, the staff are friendly and hey – even the bathrooms are nice! What can I say? Go there. Eat there. Spa there. Stay there…

I stayed as a guest of The Fairmont Pacific Rim, however, my views are 100% my own – I just really love this brand!

Keep Exploring Canada

 

Featuring WPMU Bloglist Widget by YD WordPress Developer