It’s no wonder that visitors rave about Quebec City. It’s upbeat, safe, historic, culturally rich, easy to navigate, friendly, and has so many eateries, drinkeries and festivals that it seems to be in party mode all year long.
I just spent a week in Quebec, parlez-vousing French, compiling a hit parade list of my favorite things to see, do, and experience, and running around like a poulet with its tête cut off. By the end of the third day, it was deﬁnitely bodywork time.
“Can you recommend a good spa?” I asked the perky, well-informed woman behind the reception counter at the Hotel Château Laurier, where I was staying.
“We have just opened the Spa Bioterra right here in the hotel,” she answered. “It is a very special urban spa. There are treatments from all over the world.”
The spa goddesses were shining on me, because the spa’s focus is on mind-body wholeness and wellness, they feature natural products, and, best of all, they are partnered with the Académie de Massage Scientiﬁque and its research department to study issues and healing applications of touch and massage. I was already in holistic heaven.
“So…you have cutting edge treatments? Which one do you recommend?” I asked the spa receptionist.
“Try the Bora Bora,” she answered with a mysterious Mona Lisa smile.
It is time for dull disclosure. I have been pampered, rubbed, scrubbed, wrapped, pummeled and pounded in hundreds of spas around the world. Most of the treatments are soothing, sometimes the relaxation effect is transient, other times it lasts for a day or two, but my head almost always gets in the way. As soon as I lie down on the table, my monkey mind is in full swing. I remember everything I haven’t done, need to do, lists I should be making, grade school friends I haven’t contacted in decades, and I suddenly can’t recall the ﬁrst line of a poem by Yeats.
With my brain switched on, I entered the elegant, soft-hued treatment room, lay down on my stomach, and cradled my face in the opening in the massage table. To my surprise, when I looked down, instead of seeing the patterns on a carpet, there was a small television screen. A moment later, the gentle therapist placed large, well-cushioned headphones over my ears. Then she draped a lovely, lightweight white cloth over my head, so I was in a cocoon.
“Bon voyage,” she whispered to me.
And it was, indeed, a voyage. Below me was Bora Bora—the aquamarine lagoon, the impeccable, cloudless sky, rainbow-hued ﬁsh and manta rays, endless stretches of white pristine beach, thatched huts perched over the water. The camera swooped down from the castle-like Mount Otemanu to the lush, tropical valleys and zoomed in on blossoming hibiscus. Young couples gazed into each others’ love-glazed eyes. In my ears was soothing music that carried me away, out of the massage room, above the city, across the ocean to French Polynesia. I was on the island of romance, tranquility, beauty and peace. And my body yielded completely to the long, deep stokes of an expert Lomi Lomi massage.
“Please turn over now,” the therapist intoned.
I turned over on my back, and she gently placed a warm compress over my eyes while I continued listening to the dulcet tones in my headset. As she worked her Lomi Lomi magic on the front of my body, releasing the tension in my muscles, I was smiling, still in Bora Bora, swimming, sunning, with all my quotidian cares far, far away.
When the treatment was over, I was agape. I had never had one thought. My monkey mind had been sleeping. From the moment I looked at the video screen and heard the music, I was there, present, in Bora Bora and in my body. I was totally, blissfully relaxed. I had taken a vacation from thinking, which made my body fully accessible to the beneﬁts of the massage.
As I sat in the relaxation room, watching an installation of water bubbles that changed color, I realized that what I had experienced was, indeed, cutting edge. The Bora Bora treatment involved the senses of vision and sound. The sensory stimulation overrode the noise of an active, thinking mind. In a sense, there was a whiteout in my brain, and it was replaced by soothing music and images of serenity and beauty.
When I left the spa, I waxed enthusiastic to the receptionist with the Mona Lisa smile.
“How was it?” she asked. “Formidable,” I answered in French.
At that moment, my therapist walked by. “It was wonderful for me, too,” she conﬁded. “Because you were so relaxed, you were able to receive the full beneﬁts of the treatment, and I could focus entirely on the massage.”
“My head had a real vacation too,” I informed her.
Mona Lisa listened, nodded and smiled.