The Spa Travellers Welcome You

The Spa Travellers invite their readers to take a break from a hectic world, sit down for a moment with a cup of tea, and let us inspire you as we discuss spa experiences from near and far, discover natural beauty products, and sample exotic teas. We welcome you to join our journey!

Guest Writer

Guest Writer
Dana McGlynn



If you grew up in Canada, you will remember tea as something that was only purchased in a flimsy cardboard box and inside was ground black tea encased in tea bags. Maybe you are like me and remember collecting figurines from the Red Rose tea box as a child.

After moving to Toronto years later and discovering Dim Sum at various China Towns throughout the City, I noticed the Chinese always served pots of loose leaf tea with their dumplings.  I developed a new love for tea.  As I am now studying tea in a partnership with the Tea Association of Canada and George Brown College, I wish to share some inspirations learned.

Even though coffee is still the overall preferred hot beverage in Ontario, for much of the eastern hemisphere a more intense understanding and selection of the ancient drink of tea exists. Fashions in tea have changed over the different eras but until fairly recently, choice and awareness of a fine cup of tea was not readily available or understood in this country.

In China, 1.2 million hectares of land are devoted to tea growth which is about one half of the tea growing area in the world and is arguably the best place in the world for fine tea.  After China, India and Africa are the largest global producers of tea.

Tea is a labour intensive crop. About two thirds is grown for domestic use and one third is grown for export. Generally speaking, much of the very best remains in China with a limited amount of the best being exported.

Tea is grown only in a zone limited in the north by the 43rd parallel to the equator and in the south by the 27th parallel. It cannot be too dry or too hot or too cold. Most tea is grown in the southeastern part of China. The mountainous regions are ideal and tea grown in the mountains generally fetches a higher price.

China's regions are divided by its river systems. Tea production is divided into four river zones. Historically, teas were controlled by the Ming Dynasty. A tribute tea was a dynasty gift of the very finest teas to people in power. These were generally the first plucks and given mainly to people of the court. This tea was not permitted to touch the ground and was also double wrapped in silk when presented. The last tribute tea was presented to the emperor of China in 1910, after that the dynasties ended.

Famous teas come from leased patches from tea gardens in China. Government agencies and large corporation's have control of the tea from these groves and are as coveted as a pair of Leaf Tickets in Toronto on a Saturday night. This may start to shed some light on the importance of tea to the people of China and the areas which border this country. In fact, tea was highly regarded in Russia which is just north of China.  Tea was delivered to Russia by camels up until 1900 when the Trans Siberian Railway opened. They expected the best.

To become more knowledgeable about tea, I would suggest the following books:

The Ancient Tea Horse Road by Jeff Fuchs - Travel with the last of the Himalayan Muleteers.  There is a picture and article of this local author at the Tea Emporium on Bayview south of Eglinton  in Toronto - read the book and have an understanding of the history of the tea trade and his travels in China.    The book sells for $35.00 in all of their shops.

The Story of Tea - A Cultural History and Drinking Guide - by Mary Lou Heiss and Robert J. Heiss.  A book written by two married tea merchants who have traveled extensively in China in search of teas to export to America.  A very comprehensive book of tea and how it is made.  The book can be purchased at Indigo Books.

I hope I have piqued your interest about tea and in my next article, I will tell you about some of the types of teas that exist, some of my favourites and some suggestions about where you might find them for purchase.

Until next time we sip...

Post and Las Vegas Photo by Tracey

Posted by Anna Sunday, November 29, 2009 0 comments

I reviewed the following three new seasonal products from the Body Shop and would consider them all for gift giving.

Merry Cranberry - Body Scrub - 200 ml

When you first pour out this product, you will think that you must have raided your grandmother's jam cupboard while sleep walking as it has the appearance of her favourite preserves.

There are no directions on how to use the product so resist the urge to spread on toast and try pouring onto a wet loofah mitt before spreading on your body.  First of all, this product is fun.  This is a "berry" fruity and sweet smelling body exfoliate enriched with cranberry seeds and crushed walnut shells.   You'll notice it lightly lathers up on your skin and you can guarantee leaving the bath squeaky clean and feeling like a kid

 Black Velvet Apricot Body Wash - 250 ml

The second product is the Black Velvet Body Wash.  This is described as a sumptuous, soap free cleansing, enriched with black velvet apricot extract and community trade honey.  I would describe it as slightly more sophisticated in nature but an exhilarating experience none the less.   This has a poignant scent of apricots but not as sweet as the product above. And, last but not least..

 Nutmeg and Vanilla Body Butter  200 ml

The third is the Nutmeg and Vanilla Body Butter in a tub. It also has a sweet smell and is suitable for Christmas giving.  The cocoa and shea butters are from Ghana, sesame oil is from Nicaragua, organically grown soya oil and organic Babassu oil from Brazil and Brazil nut oil from Peru.  The smell reminds you of the faint scent of home baked cookies.  You may also wish to look at other Body Shop selections.  I suggest you check out their new winter trend make-up line with very pretty packaging.

All of the products are produced with the efforts of community trade.  If you are uncertain what community trade or free trade is all about, this is a highly respected undertaking through the efforts of the manufacturers of the product. It is a democratic system enabling plantation workers in developing countries to financially better themselves, their families and their communities.  How it works is that the buyer pays an agreed premium for the product and a percentage of this money is allocated back to the worker's unions who as a joint body, determines how money is spent to support the community as a whole.

As consumers, it is important to look into what is behind the products we purchase and to speak with our dollar. I believe most people would like to see the world become a better place.  Those who want to do something about the world tomorrow need to spend their money consciously and educate themselves on companies who are trying to make a difference like the "The Body Shop".  I for one wish to commend you on your efforts.

Post and Photo Credits by Tracey

Posted by Anna Wednesday, November 25, 2009 0 comments

Brushes by The Body Shop
It is very gratifying to see that the world of make-up is becoming more and more holistic.  Niche lines are springing up offering products that are made from organic ingredients that are fairly traded and made with ingredients that give back to the people producing them.  Organic make-up is now available in all ranges from drugstore brands to exclusive lines.  Unfortunately, one thing that amazes me with some lines is how they can put a great amount of detail into the quality of ingredients in their products and then offer a line of brushes to apply these same products made with animal hair.  I recently had my make-up done at the Bay in Toronto, at an event sponsored by one of my favourite make-up lines. As the make-up artist was very expertly applying the products, he happily told me that their brushes were cruelty free and that they were made from "clipped pony hair".  One of the most popular make-up tutorial gurus on You Tube recently did a review of extremely high-quality brushes from Japan made from squirrel hair that were purportedly cruelty free. Squirrels?  The sad truth is that most make-up brushes made from animal hair are not cruelty free.  More than often the animals are killed for their hair and if they are shorn for their hair, this is not always done in a humane manner. 

Fortunately there are a number of companies that now offer make-up brushes made of synthetic fibres that are stylish to look at, well made and durable, easy to use, and affordably priced. The main fibre used for brushes is Taklon, which is a man-made fibre that is soft, durable and most importantly much more hygienic than brushes made from hair.  This last fact is a major consideration for people with skin that tends to break out. 

The Body Shop was ahead of its time in being one of the first companies that offered their customers products made from pure ingredients and from fairly traded sources.  They have a wonderful range of professional looking make-up brushes, that are incredibly soft on the skin, and easy to use. Their line includes two adorable Kabuki brushes that are easy and fun to use for applying mineral make-up and bronzer, a flat brush that makes applying liquid make-up a breeze, eye shadow brushes for applying, smudging and lining the eyes, an eyeliner brush, a lipliner brush, a retractable blusher brush, as well as a very portable mini brush kit.  The Body Shop brush line has a very stylish, professional look and is moderately priced, so you can purchase the entire line at a low cost.  

A few other company lines also offering Taklon brushes are Afterglow Cosmetics, a line of natural, mineral-based make-up.  Although slightly higher priced, their brushes are very stylish, available in every application style including a baby kabuki with bag, and an organic lavender brush cleaning  solution.  You can find them online at their website.

Eco Tools offer an extremely budget priced line of brushes.  Again, the brushes are soft and made with sustainable bamboo handles.  They come in all styles including a retractable kabuki.  They are introducing a line of hemp make-up and travel bags, including a great little brush set with bag, by Alicia Silverstone.  In Canada, Eco Tools are available at Wal-Mart and in the U.S. at Walgreen's Pharmacies.                      

Too Faced Cosmetics are a line from California.  They have a great range of brushes they say are made from "Teddy Bear Hair", including an extremely handy, retractable kabuki, perfect for tucking in your make-up bag.  Too Faced are a youthful, fun line available at Sephora.  To emphasize their cruelty-free stance, the company mascot and muse is "London", the company owners' adorable little chihuahua.

Urban Decay, also available at Sephora, pride themselves on being a cruelty free line of cosmetics. They have a range of Good Karma brushes  including the "Wonder Brush", an all purpose brush, and the "Big Buddha Brush", a kabuki brush.

Last but not least is a wonderful new line from England called Illamasqua.  Although not yet available in Canada, the line is creating a lot of buzz on You Tube tutorials and make-up blogs.  Illamasqua describe themselves as creating make-up for the "Alter Ego", encouraging people to truly be themselves.  The line creator is an amazing artist turned make-up artist, Alex Box, who is featured in tutorials on the Illamasqua website.  Their line of brushes are extremely professional and at a slightly higher pricepoint.  Illamasqua is available in North America from Sephora in NYC and on-line.  Their brushes are only available directly from the Illamasqua website. 

For more information on the make-up brushes mentioned in this post, see the company websites.  If you are in doubt about the ethical nature of any make-up product, the PETA website is a great source.

I would love to have your feedback on your favourite brushes and why you like them.   


Posted by Anna Sunday, November 22, 2009 6 comments

Jan Benham's School of Holistic Studies, The Beaches, Toronto
I attended at a recent open house at the Beach at Jan's one of a kind clinic in Toronto.

Jan is unique in that she studied and practiced her craft in England before moving to Toronto in 1986. The business is now recognized as the longest running aromatherapy school of its kind in the country.

I bought a wonderful cleanser in her shoppe.  I also purchased a hair shampoo bar at her recent sale. Not only can you buy the products but you can take courses on how to make them and buy some of the base oils in order to make your own after the course.

Jan's clinic offers the services of an Aroma Massage, Reflexology, Thai Yoga Massage (My Personal Pick), Qi Drop Therapy, Qi Stone Therapy, Shiatsu and Abdominal Slimming treatments. She also offers many aesthetic services and carries 100% natural and holistic skin and hair care products including her own line of mineral makeup to boot.

Come say hello to the teacher, Jan Benham, at her Holiday Party in the beach and learn more on Thursday, November 26th, 2009 from 6 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Please R.S.V.P. at 416-698-5850 - Celebrating 25 years of educating and healing!

We encourage all readers to search out an aromatherapist in their local community.  If you would like to read more about Jan Benham including information on her publications, you can go to to get more information.

Post and Photo Credit by Tracey

Posted by Anna Monday, November 9, 2009 0 comments

Majorelle Gardens, Marrakesh, Morocco

This past summer your spa traveller, Anna, had the opportunity to experience an authentic Moroccan Hammam.  Of the many things I did on my vacation in Morocco - riding a camel, sleeping under the stars in the Sahara Desert, shopping in the souks - the visit to the Hammam was most definitely near the top of the list for overall magical experience.  Definitely a lot more relaxing than hanging on for dear life to a camel!! 

The Moroccan Hammam, or Hamman, is a cross between a sauna, a relaxing massage and the most vigorous body scrub you will ever have in your life.  Hammams range anywhere from humble public baths, which are a regular ritual with the Moroccans, to the utmost in luxury pampering equal to any spa you will find worldwide - with prices to match - and any variation in between.  The basis of the hammam ritual consists of a steam in a heated room, being doused with large jugs of hot and cold water, a soaping using Moroccan black soap, followed by an incredibly effective exfoliation scrub with a loofah type mitt, more hot and cold dousings, and a massage or other add-on of your choice, depending on the luxury level of the particular hammam.

Hammams have been part of the Moroccan beauty ritual for hundreds of years.  Historically, grand households had a hammam where the family could relax and bathe.  The hammam would also be offered to visitors to the house as a gesture of hospitality.  Nowadays, many luxury hotels and smaller riads have their own hammam where their guests can enjoy the full hammam experience as part of their stay.

My own hammam experience began one beautiful sunny morning.  I had noticed an ad for a hammam posted in my hotel lobby.  I made an inquiry to the hotel concierge, an appointment was made and soon after that my friend and I were speeding through many winding streets with our own personal driver, sent from the hammam to pick us up. Upon arrival, we were met by a group of smiling attendants.  We were shown to a small room and changed from our street clothing into robes and were then ushered into an extremely hot, dark room, with a heater in the middle, benches along the wall, and several large copper vessals filled with water.  We shed our robes and the attendant began by pouring several large pots of warm water over us.  The first step after the soaking was a luxurious soaping with the black soap, which our attendant explained was usually made from a mixture of Argan oil, essential oils, and olive skins, which gave the soap its black appearance. She very quickly and skillfully massaged the soap all over my body and all aches, stiffness, and any soreness from prolonged camel riding vanished as the warm oil sank into my skin.  After the soaping, she poured another large pot of water over me to rinse away the soap and then she set about scrubbing with the loofah mitt with a firmness and vigour that I never  could have done myself.  Up arms and down legs, across my back, she scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed some more.  Layers of old skin were no match for her powerful loofah mitt and very quickly a new layer of skin appeared, glowing with health.  After every square inch of my body was scrubbed, she then poured another large copper pot of water over me and finished with a bracingly cold rinse.  The hammam was finished and I emerged reborn with a healthy new skin, totally invigorated, my circulation tingling from the scrub and the cold water splash.

Next came a blissfully relaxing massage, which I had chosen as an add on treatment, where I drifted off to sleep and dreamed of crossing the Sahara on a camel.  When the time was up, the attendant gently shook me back to reality. 

The hamman also had a small gift shop stocked with various beauty products.  I purchased some black soap and was given the scrub mitt to take with me.  The total price for this morning of pampering came to the equivalent of $30.00 Cdn.  I emerged back onto the street a new woman, ready for serious shopping in the souk and maybe even another camel ride. 

Using the argan based soap and scrub mitt has now become part of my bathing ritual.  I don't think any scrub or salt can quite equal the effectiveness of the black soap and scrubbing mitt.  Although I don't think I will ever equal the skill of my hammam attendant, regular use has kept my skin silky smooth.  I will post more on Moroccan black soap and the scrub mitts in a later post.


Posted by Anna Thursday, November 5, 2009 1 comments

The Spa Travellers recently visited Le Scandinave Spa at the Blue Mountain Resort in Collingwood. The spa is an outdoor spa set in a scenic woodland setting. We chose a "Girls Spa Package" special offered by Le Scandinave in conjunction with the resort.

Our Blue Mountain Resort had its own modern and luxurious two level suite (for a group of 4) with full kitchen facilities and B-B-Q outside! The spa was a 10 minute drive down the mountain from our Mosaic hotel. We parked in one of three ample parking lots. From there we walked through a trellis and over a secluded bridge which led to the spa entrance. Our package included access to the spa for the day.

Upon signing in, we received a voucher for a wholesome lunch. The windowed dining area overlooked the outdoor spa pools of which there were thermal and Nordic waterfalls as well as hot baths (at least three) and cold plunges.

As you step downstairs and enter the public pools outside, silence of all guests is encouraged and reminders are posted. This is not a place to whoop it up but a place designed to make you feel as you have left civilization and where true relaxation is encouraged. The outdoor spa also contains a covered eucalyptus steam room, a tiered enclosed sauna and huge picture solarium sitting rooms. The sauna is stoked with seasoned firewood and there are also pyramid fire cages outside which are also attended by staff. You are made to feel as if you just stepped out the door of your very own luxury cottage as many Muskoka chairs are placed generously throughout the outdoor and indoor lounges. After our soak, we made our way to the massage room for a one hour massage which was also included in our package. In total, all of the above worked out to be $160.00 each for the four of us.

We left feeling melted and relaxed by our pampering and were reluctant to get in the car for the drive back to T.O.

The Spa is open to both men and women and could make for a romantic getaway. Bring your own robe and bathing suit. Towels and organic body care products, however, are provided along with your own locker. You can enjoy "taking the waters" at a cost of $44.00 per person any day of the week and is highly recommended after a day of skiing which we were told was the spa's high season.

152 Grey Road 21
Toll Free: 1-877-988-8484

Posted and Photo Credit by Tracey

Posted by Anna Sunday, November 1, 2009 0 comments
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