An oasis in the heart of Toronto
See Jane work. See Jane frown. All work and no play makes Jane (and her left brain cohorts) a dull girl. But turning her frown upside down is simple with a visit to Shangri-La's Miraj Hammam Spa By Caudalie Paris in Toronto. Miraji means ascent into paradise and tucked in the heart of Toronto's number-crunching financial district, it really does feel like finding salvation from stress and frowning.
GoGirlfriend recently visited and while we visit spas as part of our job description, this one delighted us in their authenticity and attention to detail. Like all the staff at the Shangri-La in Toronto, respectful, courteous and helpful are the guiding principles here. Full disclosure: this spa caters to an upscale crowd (including celebrities) so save your pennies if our post inspires a visit.
A spa built on ancient rituals
The spa and workout center (flanked by a pool complete with cabanas) live on the 5th floor of the Shangri-La hotel. Far enough away from traffic noise, a soothing ambience envelopes you as walk through the reception area to the lounge. The dramatic Moorish furnishings are an intriguing fusion of influences from Paris, Marrakech and Istanbul: lattice window panes, a tiled fountain embedded in the wall, iron lanterns and bright silk embroidered pillows.
Please allow us to be your tour guide of the Miraj Hamman Spa.
Slip into your spa slippers, lean back against those beautiful pillows and fill out your medical forms while listening to the trickle of water from a Moroccan-tiled fountain. From here we'll move to the change rooms, sparsely decorated with rich wood, velvet curtains and striking artwork. While they lack a soaking tub or sauna, you'll find a generous selection of Caudalie Paris products to sample in the shower. Once you've shed your street clothes and belongings in the locker, choose between a luxurious chenille robe or a lighter cotton one. We recommend the chenille.
But it's not time for your treatment yet - some additional relaxing is required first in another relaxation grotto that will make you as if you've been beamed directly to Marrakesh. Choose one of the oversized booths (clearly designed for groups of two or three) and relax against the smorgasbord of jewel-toned silk pillows. Throughout the dimly lit room, you'll see elaborately engraved wood pillars separating the booths, Moroccan-style ottomans, an intricately designed table with magazines (ignore those) and another fountain all sitting atop an ancient looking Berber rug. Now just breathe...
Your treatment awaits - the Hammam & Gommage
If you've never visited a hammam before, the experience is spectacularly unique. Essentially, it's a ritualistic bath that replicates the ancient philosophy of the traditional Turkish baths. Traditionally those baths were steam-filled grottos for segregated social gatherings for ritualized cleansing and purifying techniques. At the Miraj, your hamman experience can be solo, shared with a partner or girlfriend or a group of up to 10 - hello bachelorette party.
The centuries old Middle Eastern Hammam and Gommage treatment literally washes away the effects of stress by enveloping you in both low and high intensity steam and then sloughing away the newly released toxins. Before entering the Hammam, you'll be asked to remove your robe and don a sarong - but leave your spa sandals on as the room you're about to enter is slippery. Your guide will take your hand and guide you through a larger room to a smaller one.
Walking through the steam can be troublesome if you're claustrophobic so hold tight to the hand in front of you and be mindful of not slipping. You'll be directed to a small, tiled room with a candle burning in one corner and the input valve for the steam in the other. The sarong should be thoroughly soaked by the time you arrive (yes, it's that humid here) so we advise taking it off and sitting on it instead.
The Hammam (steam portion of the treatment) is designed to open pores to release toxins stored in the skin. Alternating between high and low intensity steam mist chambers cleanses and stimulates your senses. Lean against the wall behind your or lie down while you wait for the steam to do its work.
When you've sweated more than you've sweated in your life, your therapist will return to walk you to the Gommage (full body exfoliation) portion of the treatment. Put your modesty aside and lie yourself down on the slab of Jerusalem gold marble and allow her to scrub you with infused black Moroccan soap. When she rinses you off, you'll be able to see all the dead skin you've left behind before being escorted back to where you left your robe.
Now that your skin feels buttery soft and your senses are tingling, let's relax in that glorious lounge again, sipping Moroccan tea and nibbling on baklava. You've earned the treat - enjoy.
The Hammam & Gommage treatment is great for couples or girlfriends who want to chat while enjoying a spa treatment. And it's perfect for bridal parties looking for a unique experience. Allow yourself ample time before the treatment to enjoy a swim in the pool and after to continue the relaxation in the lounge. If you're considering visiting, visit Shangri-La's Miraj Hammam Spa by Caudalie Paris for pricing details.
Want more info? Visit the Shangri-La Toronto online, read their great reviews on TripAdvisor or read GoGirlfriend's review. You can also follow the spa on social media (we love that the spa has it's own accounts!) on Twitter or Facebook.
To comply with the long list of regulating bodies, possibly even Geneva Conventions and in the interest of transparency, our stay at the Shangri-La was hosted by the Shangri-La Toronto. Commentary and perspectives are those of GoGirlfriend's happily exfoliated Chief Girlfriend.