An inexpensive 'spa' treatment that swept me off my feet! There I sat, my feet abruptly plunged into a plastic bucket of luke-warm water – lined with a green garbage bag – while two women carried on an animated conversation in Cantonese interspersed with the occasional giggle. It wasn't the start of a typical massage treatment. But little did I expect it to be one of the best massage-reflexology experiences of my life. Several years ago I started a Labour Day weekend tradition of combining something outdoorsy with some kind of indulgent, feel-good spa treatment. I wrapped up the summer of 2013 with a quick trip to Vancouver where I arranged my favourite best city-break combo: a taste of the outdoors (cycling Vancouver's Sea Wall is a must) followed by a afternoon at the Chi Spa at Vancouver Shangri-la. This most recent Labour Day, I decided to stay put at home in Toronto, where I opted for a stayvacation that mirrored my Vancouver experience. I planned a day hike on the Bruce Trail but I wanted to follow it up with some kind of muscle-relieving, feel-good massage treatment – at budget prices. First stop: Toronto's Chinatown. That's where I found a nondescript, basic (ie., no fancy extras), clean, friendly, pocket-friendly establishment called the Evergreen Beauty & Wellness Center on Dundas Street near Spadina. If you're hoping for piped-in flute music, bamboo curtains, whispered instructions, pristine bath robes, plush slippers and fancy tea called something like "Serenity," this isn't the place for you. But if you're looking for an amazing one-hour reflexology treatment for a mere $25 followed by a complete full-on, one-hour body massage (for an additional $40), this is where you want to go. You can call the telephone on their Facebook page or you can just show up. No reservations are required. I was asked to pay cash. And when I arrived at 10:30 in the morning, there was no one around who could speak English. But it was no problem at all. This is what happens when you're travelling in another country so just go for it. I'm always pleasantly surprised how well people can communicate using that magical combination of a friendly attitude, a welcoming smile, printed massage menu and basic hand gestures.
(Photo courtesy of Evergreen Beauty & Wellness Centre)Reflexology is more than a foot massage. Pressure is applied to specific parts of the foot which correspond to other parts of your body. My attendant, Monika, managed to erase my lower-back pain by focusing just on one side of my foot. That's medicinal magic in my book. Of course, after a full day of hard hiking the Bruce Trail up in the Blue Mountains, my feet were hurting and my hamstrings were super tight. Monika's magical hands chased away that discomfort. And the plus side of a massage treatment in Chinatown, you're in the best part of Toronto to enjoy incredible (and authentic) Chinese food – also at budget prices. Happy feet. Happy tummy.