Michele Peterson Freelance Travel Writer
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Ten Spa

Lying on a table, my entire body covered in oil and wrapped in a triangle of shiny foil, I couldn’t help feeling like a fresh pyrogy. And, it was somehow not surprising. After all, I was in Winnipeg, where the ubiquitous crescent-shaped dumplings are a favourite among the city’s large Ukrainian community and appear on menus everywhere from church bazaars to fine restaurants.

What was surprising was that I was actually at Ten, Winnipeg’s newest luxury spa and Canada’s first co-ed treatment hamam, a Turkish bathing facility. Named for its location on the 10th floor of the venerable Fort Garry Hotel, an elegant landmark best known for its chateau style architecture and role as a railway hotel during the early 1900’s, the spa has blended several international therapies to create an entirely new experience that is cosmopolitan with a Winnipeg twist. 

At the heart of the spa’s philosophy is the hamam. Rooted in ancient Byzantine and Roman traditions, hamams have evolved over the centuries to become known as Turkish baths focused on ritual cleansing and relaxation.

“Our spa is a modern reinterpretation of this ancient bathing ritual,” explained Ida Albo, the hotel’s co-owner. “Historically, a hamam has always been more than just a place for a weekly bath. It served a social purpose and was a hub for community celebrations and social gatherings.”  Ten Spa uses traditional scrubbing rituals followed by soft steam sprayed on heated marble slabs for relaxation. The treatment can be enjoyed communally, in private parties or individually.         
  
During my visit, a bridal party of eight women were lounging in white Turkish cotton bathrobes waiting to participate in a mud treatment.           “Much like ancient warriors, they’ll be painting their bodies with specially selected colours of mud and clay,” said Albo. “It’s very interactive.”  
Waiting for my own treatment to begin, I began exploring. Richly tiled with luxurious textures and curved surfaces, the 730 sq. m facility consists of four guest zones that wouldn’t look out of place as a martini bar in the swankiest neighbourhood. It even boasts a fully licensed lounge.  Although the primary theme is Middle Eastern, many elements in the spa’s design were drawn from other influences.

“We were inspired by treatments from around the world,” explained Albo. Her team spent three years researching facilities in Istanbul, Paris, London and New York.  And they didn’t restrict their research to spas alone. They drew inspiration from swimming pools, restaurants and interior home design elements. The result is smooth marble, blue tile and arched doorways. Behind the sleek curves is the latest technology such as experiential cold fog showers and microdermabrasion equipment that uses infrared lasers and ultrasound to restore the skin.

I was tempted to peek into the “love nests” a pair of circular nesting chaises hidden behind a veil of white gauze. But based on the whispering tones of two women’s voices, one pod was already occupied and it seemed a shame to go solo when the mood called for harem. Instead, I brushed aside a beaded curtain and entered a quiet zone. White leather chaise lounges and fun faux fur pillows awaited. With my platter of fresh figs, nuts and mint tea, I could almost imagine myself a member of pampered royalty. Yet despite its exotic pedigree, Ten Spa has a no pretensions, no attitude philosophy – much like Winnipeg itself. 

“When we considered the design, we were thinking about real people and real conditions,” said Elena Zinchenko, the Spa Director. “Winnipegers experience extreme heat, extreme cold and very dry conditions so our philosophy is that we must go beyond pampering. Treatments must be real work-outs and deliver tangible benefits.” When developing the spa menu, even the therapists got involved. Some headed to Munich and LA to experience treatments for themselves. The final creation is a menu that is a luxurious spin on old-school European traditions. Even folk remedies appear in treatments such as the Korean Honey Cucumber Rubdown.

Soon it was time for my treatment. Although I had been intrigued by the concept of the hamam, I had chosen Ten’s Fully Loaded Facial. But stripped naked and lathered with essential oils custom mixed for my skin condition, I was a bit puzzled.

“We treat the entire body,” explained Branka my spa attendant, placing cucumbers on my eyes and rubbing bergamot moisturizer on my feet. In the next hour and a half, I had an intense facial exfoliation with a dermatological grade peel, a collagen eye treatment, an algae treatment and a vitamin-infused blast of medical grade oxygen.
         
Then, she cranked up the heat until steam rose from the foil draped around my neck. When she finally unwrapped the foil envelope to reveal the end result, I was thrilled. Not only was I rested and rejuvenated, but the softened and fragrant skin that emerged was the youthful texture of a steamed pyrogy.   

The only thing missing was a dollop of sour cream and some fried onions.

If You Go:

Ten Spa: www.tenspa.ca
Destination Winnipeg: For information on accommodation, transportation and events contact www.destinationwinnipeg.ca.

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Michele Peterson Freelance Travel Writer
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