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Proper pampering

Elmwood spa: Best spa to be spoiled at

THE ELMWOOD SPA. "We strive to delight."

There are three things you can be certain of in life: death, taxes, and that some spas just don’t get it right.

There’s the staff gossiping loudly outside a massage room, breaking your Zen. There’s the aesthetician who takes her life stress out on your face, performing blackhead extractions that leave welts. And who can forget the snot at the front desk who thinks he’s god rather than merely running appointment software?

The Elmwood isn’t that spa. The Elmwood takes its status as one of Toronto’s premiere wellness destinations very seriously. I’ve had everything from massages to facials there, all hard-to-beat luxe experiences done the way they should be: client first.

“We have been leaders in the industry for over 25 years,” says Elmwood’s Kathryn Merei of the spa and it’s seal of approval from Xtra readers.  “We just celebrated our 27th birthday and we have much to be proud of.”

A five-storey complex in the landmark building at 18 Elm St (built by Edward James Lennox, who was the architect of Casa Loma and Old City Hall), the facility has recently undergone a multimillion-dollar transformation. This means four floors of spa-ahhh: two restaurants (don’t even get out of your white robe, just sit and chill and dine, darling), a juice bar, swimming pool and steam rooms. Oh and 34 treatment rooms, including space for couples’ therapy (get it?), some with in-room showers and romantic fireplaces.

Turn off your cell and go sotto voce. Robes, footwear, basic toiletries and lockers are provided, and you can bring a bathing suit to swim or steam in.  If you’re shy, paper panties are provided for all hang-up your clothes treatments.

Should you have a preference of male or female therapists (sorry ladies, but no hands knead my muscles better than a man’s), they’ll accommodate that, rather than stick you with whoever’s got an opening.

If you’re looking to de-stress with someone special, Elmwood tries its best to match your schedules. I’ve done spa treats with pals before, entering together but then never seeing each other until hours later – pointless.

Speaking of which, treatments at Elmwood Spa, among the best anywhere, have been specially packaged with couples in mind.  The Elmwood Escape is dinner for two at the award-winning Bangkok Garden, and water therapies, along with a 50-minute couples Swedish massage. The Elmwood Experience is a 50-minute couples aromatherapy massage, two deluxe pedicures, lunch for two at the terrace restaurant, water therapies and complimentary gifts to take home with you.

Facials at the Elmwood are customized, they take a good look at your skin and ask about your lifestyle, telling you what they’re doing to your face and why, rather than just slap the same brand of gloop on everyone who comes in the door. In fact, the facials I’ve had there are the only ones I’ve had where the skin really does look like I’ve just stepped out of a salon.

As for feeling comfortable there as a ‘mo, fear not, assures Merei.  “We believe in creating an experience and not just delivering a service. We strive to delight, pamper and care for all our guests, every time.”

Get there early to enjoy the complimentary water therapies: full swimming pool, whirlpool and steam rooms. And for those in the village who don’t want to leave the village, there’s Elmwood’s baby sister, the Zen-inspired elmspa, located at 557 Church St.