Ten out of 10 - Metro US

Ten out of 10

As I walk into Ten Spa, on the tenth floor of Winni­peg’s landmark Fort Garry Hotel, what pops into my mind is that it’s surprisingly elegant.

I’d heard only good things, but hadn’t expected it to be so upscale. As far as spas go, it’s less what one might expect in Winnipeg and more like New York meets Vegas.

In the lounge, white leather settees (some grouped together and surrounded by gauzy white sheers for semi privacy), rich dark woods and a wall of multi-toned brown and beige mosaic tiles set a sophisticated environment.

While awaiting services — the full gamut of massages, bodywork and esthetics offered in 11 treatments rooms plus a mani/pedi area overlooking the cityscape and the historic Forks Market — guests snack on dried fruit, cookies, muffins and dates.

A spa menu of more substantial offerings is available, and champagne and dessert can be pre-ordered.

Modern and stylish, the spa is indeed a beautiful space, but it’s the large and lovely mosaic-tiled co-ed hammam and the hot-air bathing ritual that really gives Ten its point of distinction.

Massage therapist, Mario Digirolamo, escorts me to the heated hammam tea room to acclimatize. Here, in this tiny, comfy space, guests warm themselves while nibbling on Turkish sweets and sipping traditional mint-flavoured Moroccan tea. This is also where the spa robe is exchanged for a traditional pestemal — think checkered table cloth that you wrap around your torso — before entering the hammam.

Wearing the pestemal, you shower and give yourself a sea salt scrub before lying down on a raised and heated marble platform for the wash with a traditional handmade olive oil-based soap.

That’s followed by a brisk brushing with a gommage, which is a rough glove, then another scrub with soap. Overhead, tiny (read tasteful) twinkling lights give the feeling that you’re staring up at the night sky from someplace that has one very humid climate. Soft strains of Middle Eastern music add to the experience.

Every few minutes a spew of steam keeps the hammam at a sweltering 45 C. If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the hammam. Seriously.

Suddenly, a cool wave washes over me — literally — as Maria gently dumps a tas (traditional Turkish container) full of water over my soaped-up skin. Even if you don’t like to be doused gently with cool water, it’s so hot in here you’ll welcome it.

Then, there’s a scheduled “time out” to rehydrate and you can take the break back in the tea room or in the hammam itself with a bottle of iced water or a cool shower.

Next, in one of the hammam’s private rooms, there’s another scrub down with olive oil soap followed by a massage. One of the massage “tools” is a fine cotton pillow filled with air and olive oil suds. Image how it might feel to be massaged with a cloud — very unusual. A few therapist-guided stretches completes the hammam part of the treatment.

Then there’s a 20-minute “relax” in the Quiet Room, which is elegantly cozy with pearl grey walls, candlelight and more white leather furnishings which are roomy enough to allow quests to stretch out and nap. Those who have just emerged from the hammam are served an ayran (a mix of yogurt, sea salt and spring water) to help replenish the electrolytes lost along with toxins in the heat of the hammam.

Feeling good — and squeaky clean — I leave Ten Spa to explore the rest of this pleasantly surprising city.

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– Anne Dimon is a spa and wellness travel writer and editor of www.traveltowellness.com

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