As a bath person, I thought I had found my true calling in 2004 when I wrote several spa reviews for the Globe and Mail’s now-defunct “World of Wellbeing” column. After all, several of the Ontario resort spas I visited — notably Niagara-on-the-Lake’s 100 Fountain Spa and the Millcroft Spa in Acton — built many decadent treatments around bathing. The latter’s Japanese Ofuro, for instance, lasted nearly two hours and combined an exfoliating body polish with a relaxing, oil-infused soak and full body massage. If I had a billion dollars, I’d have one every day.
The Ofuro was also notable for providing my second-most-awkward spa experience. I opted for a couples treatment with my wife, Angela, but for some reason the Millcroft therapists were under the impression we were co-workers. So, when it came time to disrobe, we were shown to separate locker rooms to don bathing suits. When we explained that we had left our suits in our guest room, it was suggested that we retrieve them. When we asked if this was strictly necessary, the attendants exchanged glances and haltingly explained the nudity involved. When we said “sounds good,” they must have made mental notes about the coziness of the Globe newsroom. Sensing some confusion, we disclosed our marital status. Oh how we laughed.
Thing is, this wasn’t even close to my most awkward spa moment.
Shortly after checking into Port Severn’s lovely Christie’s Mill Inn, I made my way to the 7,000-square-foot Avalon spa for my "Mystical Water Ride." The brand-new treatment started off swimmingly: After stripping down and being vigorously scrubbed and slathered in warm seaweed — behind curtains that somehow maintained my modesty — I was wrapped in towels, placed on a gurney and left to marinate for about half an hour.
Next, the gurney was wheeled under the seven high-powered jets of a Vichy shower. The two female attendants unwrapped me with the greatest discretion and care, and momentarily left the room so I could cover my naughty bits with an adequate-seeming face towel. The idea was that the shower would exfoliate my skin and remove the seaweed.
But it also removed the face towel.
In my near-comatose state, I was initially oblivious to the kerfuffle this caused. I did notice that the flow of water had ceased, and out of the corner of my eye I saw one of the attendants scamper across the room to retrieve my terrycloth fig leaf. It was delicately repositioned, the shower was restarted, and the towel was again blasted to the far side of the room.
It turned into a strange kind of repetitive dance: Rearrange towel, turn on water, towel goes flying, retrieve towel. It didn’t bother me much: I’m not especially modest, and the water was warm enough to avoid the Seinfeldian shrinkage all men fear. The attendants, however, seemed mortified, even after I mumbled that I didn’t really care about the towel as long as the powerful shower jets weren't aimed at the area it was covering.
After about 15 towel retrievals the shower was over and I was quickly, and perhaps too securely, wrapped in several larger towels. I felt smooth, clean, tingly and generally wonderful. The bedraggled spa attendants, however, looked like they had been blasted with water cannons.
Shortly thereafter, I noticed that Avalon had stopped offering the "Mystical Water Ride." So I have to wonder: Was I the first, and last, Mystical Water Rider?
WHERE TO STAY
If you're jetting into the GTA and plan to visit any or all of the superb spa resorts mentioned here, the SpringHill Suites Toronto Vaughan is minutes from Pearson airport, half an hour from the Millcroft, and almost exactly halfway between Avalon and the 100 Fountain Spa.