Make a ripple in the Hotel Bel-Air pool. You might run into Lauren Bacall or Steven Spielberg.
Top prestigious spas: Hollywood high five
Story by Olivia Stren
I peruse the spa menu at the Hotel Bel-Air (HBA) Spa by La Prairie while swaddled in a robe as fluffy and voluminous as the white-fox-fur stole Marilyn Monroe wore to the premiere of How to Marry a Millionaire. It’s apropos, as the spa’s site was once home to Monroe’s cottage. Treatments on offer include the Platinum Rare Facial, which involves serums and creams infused with (yes) platinum, the Skin Caviar Lifting Facial (yes, really) and the Diamond Perfection body treatment, which involves being lavished in amethyst, diamond and meteorite dust. Having to choose one of these is surely the most bourgeois decision of my life.
If I’m feeling like the meltdown-ready champagne-nursed starlet, I’m in fine company. Grace Kelly checked in to the HBA with her brand-new Oscar for The Country Girl after the 1954 Academy Awards. Oscar-winning 1962 romantic comedy That Touch of Mink, starring Cary Grant and Doris Day, was filmed here. Monroe lived here at three different times in her life. And this is also where Nancy Reagan and Betsy Bloomingdale used to meet for chopped-salad luncheons on Wednesdays. Today, arrive at the 67-year-old property, where swans still glide on a pond as green as molten emeralds and where sunshine seems to fizz and sparkle like Veuve Clicquot, and you’ll feel as if you’ve been escorted into Hollywood’s mink-swathed heyday.
Profoundly tanned women, as slender as the hotel’s resident palms, sip rosé in the lobby, Steven Spielberg is celebrating in the outdoor Wolfgang Puck restaurant and Lauren Bacall, a hotel habitué, is enjoying an early dinner by the oval pool. (Former owner Joseph Drown transformed what was once an equestrian riding ring into a pool so that Bacall could do her morning laps.)
But back to the spa, which, like the recently revamped hotel, was fashioned by interior designer Alexandra Champalimaud for a feel that is both discreet and refined. The petite spa is hidden amid petal-confettied grounds so fragrant that London perfumer Jo Malone confected a scent (Orange Blossom) after a particularly bewitching promenade.
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I decide on the caviar facial, designed to illuminate, plump and contour. Known for its Skin Caviar Collection, La Prairie introduced caviar to the market in 1987, when the company’s scientists discovered that caviar extract is rich in hydrating minerals and amino acids and works to accelerate the skin’s natural production of collagen.
After being gently cleansed, exfoliated and moisturized, I’m lavished with La Prairie potions, including its Cellular Power Infusion, charged with energizing peptides, Swiss snow algae (an algae that flourishes in the Alps’ glacial conditions, its extracts activating skin-cell longevity) and phyto stem cell extracts (stem cells from Swiss red grapes that help protect epidermal stem cells). My therapist then sweeps a kind of electric wrinkle-deleting wand (more officially dubbed “NuFACE microcurrent technology”) across my face to coax the production of collagen and improve elasticity. She then treats me to an ancient Japanese Kobido facial massage to flush toxins and brighten skin. Kobido dates back to the 15th century and purports to improve blood flow through featherlight manual taps.
Ninety minutes later, I float out of the spa, my skin as taut as a Swiss grape and as preposterously soft as the peony petals drifting across the garden pathways. Under Tiffany-blue skies, I wander past gardens of pink floss trees and Irish redwoods. The latter, I learn, only thrive in this environment. Who can blame them?
Check out the prestigious One & Only Ocean Club on the next page…
The lush, inviting spa setting at the One & Only Ocean Club in the Bahamas is best described as "pinch me" pretty.
Top prestigious spas: Life’s a beach
Story by Vanessa Craft
Sometimes a girl’s gotta get out of the city. And sometimes the only fix for city stress is lolling on a private
white-sand beach in the Bahamas. With a perfectly manicured green lawn dotted with palm trees as a backdrop. While under the care of 24-hour butler service. Who unpack your luggage for you.
That’s the message of unadulterated luxury I assume the One & Only Ocean Club is sending—how else to explain the quiet, confident approach to relaxation they serve up at this former private estate? (See: The milk and cookies they leave for my seven-year-old every evening in our room. For me, champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries.)
It may not be my usual girlie getaway (no hangovers!), but this level of subdued sophistication is exactly what I need to get my cortisol levels back to functional. I’m here for the spa—a haven of old-world style. Treatments are carried out in one of eight Balinese-style villas that are decked out with private open-air gardens, waterfall showers, hydrotherapy baths and teak massage tables.
In need of a detox but not in the mood for doing any of the hard work that comes with it, I book the Elemis Aroma Spa Seaweed Massage, which includes a toe-curling head massage while my body is wrapped, cocoon-like, in a warm mask of mineral-rich seaweed. If you can stay awake for it (I didn’t), a stimulating massage follows, using a combination of Japanese shiatsu, Thai, Hawaiian lomi lomi, Balinese and Swedish styles. Next is the Elemis Tri-Enzyme Resurfacing Facial, a resurfacing and smoothing treatment that targets uneven skin tone and fine lines and leaves you looking like you’re on a permanent vacation.
Afterwards I collapse, in a state of euphoria, into a nearby hammock. My endorphin rush is so high, my daughter could ask me to buy her a unicorn and I would no doubt acquiesce. Luckily for my bank balance, she’s in her own personal paradise—inhaling fish tacos and making intricate beaded key chains at the other end of the resort, under the care of the Kids’ Club. When I arrive at 5 p.m. to pick her up, she doesn’t want to go; she’s nearly in tears that she has to leave. As we amble along the winding path that leads back to our room, I can’t help but admit I feel the same way.
Read on for more prestigious spas to visit…
Lofty attitudes require equally lofty views. As such, the Spa at the Four Seasons Toronto is located on the ninth floor, with a serene outdoor terrace overlooking the tony streets of Yorkville. Image courtesy of Christian Horan.
Top prestigious spas: Class of its own
Story by Vanessa Craft
The mood at the Spa at the Four Seasons Toronto is set permanently to “calm” via impeccable, discreet service and muted contemporary decor. At 2,787 square metres, with 17 large treatment suites, this is the biggest urban spa in the global hotel group, and though it feels like you could pad endlessly around the softly lit lounges, nothing feels cavernous or cold thanks to designer Yabu Pushelberg’s famously chic touch. With a sun-drenched indoor pool (music is piped in underwater), massage tables covered in faux-mink throws and an elegant mix of textures, including pale woods and unpolished granite, this is a holistic-minded fantasyland.
In keeping with the “easy does it” attitude that pervades the spa, the Au Naturel Organic Facial uses the USDA-certified organic skincare line Anje and includes a cooling cucumber mask that instantly soothes dehydrated or irritated skin. Ready to be dazzled? The Holistic Sapphire Gemstone Facial uses a range of different minerals and gemstones to rejuvenate the face. Lymphatic drainage and calming massage techniques are combined with creams containing precious minerals such as rose quartz, sapphire platinum, copper, rubies and pearls to restore balance and vitality to the skin.
The sumptuous dressing room and lounge make you feel like you’re attending a socialite’s slumber party. (Considering the well-heeled guests that stay at the tony hotel, it’s highly likely.) In fact, with the state of bliss you’ll be in, it’s probably best to just check in and have all your mail redirected to your new address.
Relax and enjoy the view in St. Martin.
Top prestigious spas: Foot patrol
Story by Olivia Stren
I’m lying on the floor of a seaside cabana at the Radisson Blu Resort, Marina & Spa, St. Martin, and I’m enjoying a feet massage—which is to say, I’m being massaged by a pair of feet. Outside, egregiously good-looking French families in Breton stripes and breeze-crinkled linens are scampering about the bay’s blond sands, and…I’m being walked on. This 90-minute Chavutti Massage finds its 2,000-year-old origins in Kalaripayattu—ancient Indian martial arts. (The technique was designed to increase suppleness and relieve martial artists of combat-related swelling.) If traditional deep-tissue treatments work on pressure points, Chavutti focuses on elongating movements and works on the lymphatic and circulatory systems to detoxify and oxygenate the blood, stretch the muscles and increase flexibility. It certainly appears to require flexibility from the practitioner. Mine is (mercifully) tiny and agile and spends the entire time balancing herself, holding on to a rope suspended above, in a series of contortions that could make a Cirque du Soleil performer appear wooden. Although being sole-to-well-oiled-sole with a woman I’d never met was vaguely disconcerting, I did emerge from the treatment feeling limber and well ironed. The upside to feeling like a doormat.
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