18 SEP 2018: Lying on a massage table, covered by a white sheet, I contemplate the people, the conversations and the activities that took place inside these walls and beyond. I wouldn’t normally think about walls but these impressive etched stone walls date back to 1785 and are today a part of the Hôtel William Gray located in Old Montreal. I’m in a treatment room at the hotel’s spa. Normally a history lesson isn’t part of a spa treatment but with one of Montreal’s newest and chic luxury boutique hotels it’s fascinating to see how history and architecture blends seamlessly with modern society and design.

The Hotel William Gray has added a sparkling glass tower on top of the two original historical buildings – the Maison Edward William Gray and the Maison Cherrie. Built back in 1785 it was the residence and workplace of Edward William Gray who was the sheriff of Montreal as well as a merchant and used one of the buildings as a warehouse to sell various goods. Fast track more than two centuries later the exterior has remained virtually unchanged. Rather than selling goods the Hotel William Gray is in the business of selling rooms.

Despite only being open since the summer of 2016, the hotel and its rooftop restaurant and bar has established an enviable reputation and garnered positive reviews from guests and top travel publications like Conde Naste. Its location is right in the heart of Old Montreal just a short walk to Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal and the Vieux Port and a bounty of restaurants and boutiques.

Underground Wellness

The Spa William Gray, which opened a year later in 2017, is located on the hotel’s lower level. It’s rare for a spa to be situated below the lobby floor – usually it’s on a higher floor. When I first stepped off the elevator and walked to the spa reception the lower than usual ceiling height was disconcerting. It was temporary though as I walked through the rest of the facility’s lounge, therapy and treatment rooms and it was not an issue.

There are ten treatment rooms with two couples’ suites. Despite its small size at 5,600 square feet, the spa packs quite the wellness punch for its size. There are all the traditional spa services like various massages, facials and mani-pedis, but it also offers many innovative treatments. Their extensive spa menu would appeal to any spa virgin or seasoned veteran.

One of the spa’s key attributes is their Thermal Experience, a hot/cold thermal circuit with a Himalayan salt room, Finnish sauna, steam room, two experiential showers, cold room, herbal sauna and a seasonal outdoor pool. I highly recommend doing the circuit as it’s an ideal way to really get your mind and body prepared and relaxed for any treatments.

The décor with the centuries old stone walls, gray tones, stylish lighting and furnishings just oozes cool, elegance and sophistication. It’s important to note though this atmosphere is not in a snobbish way. No one would ever accuse me of being cool and sophisticated. I felt perfectly at home there in their peaceful and comfy relaxation lounge.

The spa is the brainchild of spa director Roxanne Hamel who spent months developing the spa concept and design to create the right spa environment to make spa goers feel a combination of positive energy, rejuvenated and a sense of renewal after a visit here. She has been successful in reflecting in the spa the boutique hotel’s modern sophistication with homage to its historic location.

Spa, Sand and Sound

Fannie, my spa therapist leads me into the specially designed room for my 100-minute William Gray Signature Treatment. This is where Spa William Gray excels and distinguishes itself. The crown jewel in this room is the innovative German manufactured Gharieni heated massage bed filled with warm quartz sand and silky soft white linens over it. When I saw the sand infused bed it took me back to a Tokyo onsen where I had a sand treatment. I was buried except my face peering out under a pile of warm sand in an ugly tin building. A big difference at this spa. No being buried just having my body lie on top over the sheets, but the warm sand could still provide the therapeutic benefits. I was able to look up to a more aesthetically pleasing Fannie than a building’s wood beam in Tokyo!

I’ve always thought a 60-minute body treatment is too quick so was pleased that this signature treatment lasted 100 minutes. The Gharieni table is adjustable and can move up and down to the proper height for the therapist to do her magic. The warm sand helps detoxify and reduce your muscle tension – something I always bring to the massage table. Using a combination of massage techniques Fannie kneads, massages, and uses acupressure to rid my body of those annoying knots and blockages. This process is further enhanced using quartz-filled warm-to- the-touch poultices as well as aromatic oils. Let the body warming and relaxing begin!

Fannie also used a golden coloured Kansa wand on my hands and feet – rolling it repeatedly to release further tension. It’s another unique feature that the spa utilizes which you rarely see used at spas.

My face also needed some attention and nurturing. In Montreal with all these dashing and good-looking men and women I need all the help I can get! Fannie applied a face mask with a combination of creams, oils, conditioners and tonics to give me that youthful fresh glow – well she did her best with what was given to her.

Following 100-minutes of body bliss I hop off the table ready for my 30-minute Sound Wave treatment in a room across the hallway. I lie on a table and the therapist gently puts soft headphones on me. She then leaves the room. Sounds and vibrations begin - a different sound being transmitted into each ear. The acoustic stimulation is supposed to reduce stress, improve your sleep and ease the mind. It was interesting, and the sounds began to integrate as one further in the treatment. It can be calming, meditative or some people may just use it as a power nap. There’s no wow moment. It’s more a let’s chill moment.

Spa William Gray let’s you do just that – chill, reflect, and rejuvenate in an environment where the stone walls breathe history and relaxation.

For more info: https://spawilliamgray.com/


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Chris Ryall

An industry insider with strong, outspoken opinions that readers enjoy, whether they agree, or take issue with his point of view.

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