Sanctuary in Old Quebec City: Le Spa du Manoir at the Hotel Manoir Victoria
Does it tell you anything to describe a spa as a feminine experience? From the tawny walls, the wall sconces in soft Bell Epoque and the small turns of cranberry colored sitting areas, the flowing curtains, the alternate new age hums or zen silence, I think of Le SPA du Manoir at the Hotel Manoir Victoria in Quebec City as a female sanctuary.
The Hotel Manoir Victoria is nestled within the walls of Old Quebec. City
Nestled in Quebec City, that French corner of Eastern Canada that is compact, old world, safe, clean and yes, delicious, is the Hotel Manoir Victoria. A four-star property readying itself for a few soft upgrades, it is home to the pretty five-star Le S PA du Manoir in the basement where most spas find themselves no matter how high tech or lavish they may be. A few years ago Travel to Wellness chose this spa the best within the ancient walls of Old Quebec City.
The cocoon effect offers privacy, a refuge from the general bustle of a hotel, which at midweek was humming with early weekenders, small meetings, and lunch goers at the adjoining award-winning Chez boulay-bistro boréal, which was just one part of the property’s $8 million upgrade investment. More is on the way to transform guest rooms into spaces that reflect the design in the lobby and an eye-catching bar. In this part of town, you are likely to wake to the gentle clip-clopping of hansom cabs passing below your window.
Le SPA du Manoir (which according to reports, is built on the former site of an 19th century Turkish bath), whose products feature Pevonia Botanicas, is directed by Nathalie Longpré. She began her professional life as a physical therapist. Her enterprising spirit created a service beyond medical massage – she began to offer massages en suite at hotels. To its credit, the Hotel Manoir Victoria was the very first property to take a chance on what may have been a passing fad.
For five years Longpré and her staff of 15 traveled among the hotels. A bond was formed between her and the Manoir. So when the hotel was ready to take a big leap and create an in-house spa, Longpré was ready. That was 10 years ago. Since then the spa has become a prime feature of the property.
This is not a sleek, chilly American spa with high-tech cool, bells and whistles of clusters of rooms and tons of things to keep you entertained. Rather, the relaxation room is at the heart of a cluster of treatment rooms – six in all –including one large enough to accommodate couples or friends to be massaged in tandem.
Visible through a glass wall is a swimming pool that snakes alongside the sauna. Le SPA du Manoir is all about care, long strokes along your spine, aromas of eucalyptus, lavender, grapefruit. The locker room is simple, immaculate with generous-sized fruitwood veneered lockers and the strains of Japanese reed instruments in the background. Tile floors and low lighting in the corridors extend the ephemeral.
The swimming pool at Le SPA du Manoir.
“We don’t recommend people to drive after a massage,” staffer Francine advised me, “you are too relaxed, it could be dangerous.” Her French accent embellishes her message.
Sophie Nadeau, the 24 native of a small town named des Jolie (despite the name, she said it was boring, home but boring) started her own spa but she soon realized, her relatives and friends were happy getting and asking for free massages but saw the massages as luxuries they could not accommodate. “It was hard to convince people, this is not Europe,” she was understanding, “to be honest many needed their money to eat, they could not understand the value of the massage.” She moved to the big city where people were coming around to recognizing the benefits of a professional massage.
Clearly she is in the right business no matter where it is. She has the impulse to anticipate a need, size up what you require: a small towel in the crook of your neck, moving that little hump in the massage table to just the right spot behind your knees, or under your feet once you turn face down. None of these had to be indicated. They are small gestures, but relate thought and care, yes that word again. The treatment rooms are simple, quiet, lit by a wall sconce and a candle.
The salt scrub, followed by a mango and passion fruit yogurt body wrap, winding down with a full body Swedish massage used to apply a balm is one of the most luscious experiences your body will thank you for! (45 minutes for $65CA or $62US)
If one word were to describe the treatment I had, the tropical Salt Mousse followed by Mango and Passion Fruit Yogurt body wrap, and ending with balm, I would have to say luscious. And while I had been planning to swim each morning in that delectable pool alongside the spa, I dare not rid myself of the carefully applied oils by plunging myself into a chlorine laden pool No, I’ll get my exercise here by climbing its hills, walking the portside of the city and reliving the long strokes of Sophie’s expert hands.
The author describes her treatment at the spa as “luscious.”
The facial used lumafirm® Repair Cream Lift & Glow a product from Pevonia that lightens, evens out hues such as reddish or sunspots. Lumafirm was created by a biochemist is free of alcohol, sodium lauryl sulfates, paraben or perfume but lists anti-free radicals, the latest generation of repairing peptides, and lightening actives. (Lumafirm lift and glow costs $140CA or about $335US and takes 60 minutes)
It can be used by persons undergoing chemo treatments as their skin is often super sensitive to various substances. This was important to Longpré when she was considering various products. Several other journalists also chose the facial and a few purchased it as the results were that good that fast!
The newest feature at the spa is the NeuroBed that synchronizes conventional music with the body’s own rythms. As muscles tend to contract in reaction to anxiety and stress, this bed nestled in a soft-palette room ostensibly engenders a new relationship between the central nervous system and the body’s ability to turn off its receptors to stress. Does it work? My colleagues who tried it said it was relaxing but could not vouche for all the claims such as the promotion of regular breathing and heart rate. Chances are, like other treatments even massages, some results feel immediate, but are best taken regularly for the most beneficial cumulative effects.
For those traveling with teens, consider the SPA TEEN Blemish Skin Facial, an acne solution at 60 minutes for $85CA or $86US; or for kids from 5 to 12, a series of firsts: Facial Care, 20 minutes, $35CA, $33US), or the Princess package, for facial, massage and manicure at $90CA, $86US, 90 minutes or the Adventurer Package, massage and pedicure, 60 minutes at $65CA or $62US.
During the past three years, Director Nathalie Longpré also took her expertise to the Hotel Frontenac that will soon offer a full service spa menu with a completion date of Dec. 2013. Le SPA du Manoir at the Hotel Victoria is rated as a five-star feature, a well-deserved ranking.