It had been a gruelling, stress-filled month, so the invitation to enjoy a weekend at Toronto’s Shangri-La hotel and condo — to experience what life would be like as the owner of one of its multi-million-dollar residences — could not have come at a better time.
In the novel Lost Horizon, Shangri-La is an earthly paradise, a place promising refuge from the stress and strains of modern civilization. Indeed, a wave of relief washes over me as I hand off my car to the Shangri-La valet Friday evening and, accompanied by my fiancée, Penelope, head inside to embark on a weekend of rejuvenation.
The 66-storey Shangri-La has 222 hotel rooms and 393 condo units. Located at the northwest corner of University Ave. and Adelaide St. W., the sleek glass tower — which opened last summer — was designed by Vancouver-based James KM Cheng Architects in conjunction with Toronto’s Hariri Pontarini Architects.
Condos range from a 815-square-foot, one-bedroom suite (priced at $953,500) to a 3,349-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-storey penthouse that sells for $9.32 million.
We step into the residential elevator — the fastest in North America, we’re told by a Shangri-La representative — and are whisked up to the 51st floor where our suite awaits.
Dubbed “The Giorgetti,” the $2.68 million, 1,959-square-foot residence has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a library, walk-in closet and floor-to-ceiling windows that yield unobstructed north- and west-facing views of the city.
The model suite features herringbone wood flooring, motorized window shades, and, as per its name, is outfitted with an array of Giorgetti furnishings, “the second most expensive furniture in the world,” the Shangri-La rep points out.
The kitchen is equipped with Boffi wood cabinetry, granite countertops and Miele and Sub-Zero appliances. The master ensuite bathroom has Boffi cabinetry, an LCD TV built into the mirror, a marble countertop, a cast iron tub, and a glass-enclosed Kohler shower with rain-shower and body spray functions. (We’re advised to watch an instructional DVD before stepping in.)
Condo residents can access all the Shangri-La hotel amenities, including the fitness centre, indoor pool and spa, as well as housekeeping, maintenance, room service, valet, concierge and car service. Our mission is to sample all that’s on offer.
So after dropping our bags in the suite, we dutifully slip on fluffy white bathrobes and head to the blue-lit pool for a swim, followed by a dip in the Jacuzzi.
Then it’s back upstairs to order room service: I opt for a beef burger with aged white cheddar, tomato fondue and smoked mayonnaise; Penelope has the three-cheese macaroni with Dungeness crab to start. It’s comfort food at its finest. We end our evening sipping wine and soaking up the million-dollar views before retiring to the plush king-sized bed.
SWEAT AND SERENITY
There’s no time to laze around Saturday morning; the itinerary is action-packed.
First up is breakfast at Bosk, the Shangri-La’s signature restaurant, where we peruse the weekend paper while munching on eggs, house-made granola and fruit salad, washing it down with cups of French-press coffee.
The serenity of the moment evaporates when we check the time and realize our appointment with the Shangri-La’s in-house trainer is imminent.
Minutes later we arrive at the 2,500-square-foot health club for a fitness assessment. Our spirited coach kicks things off with interval training on spin bikes to gauge our endurance, followed by extended planks to test core strength, and lunges with a water-filled ball to work on balance and control. The final trial involves a series of off-kilter push-ups, sapping whatever strength remains.
As we lay on the floor recovering, our assessor delivers her verdict: “You’re both very fit,” she informs us, much to our exhausted delight. We have but a moment to bask in the glory of the moment; the health club attendant alerts us that we’re expected next door at the spa.
Swapping sweaty gym gear for silky sarongs, we indulge in a traditional Middle Eastern hammam and gommage treatment. The experience consists of a session in the steam room (hammam) followed by a full-body exfoliation with eucalyptus-infused Moroccan soap (gommage) that leaves our minds de-stressed, senses stimulated and skin silky smooth.
Afterward we recline in a pillow-filled cabana while spa attendants refresh us with mint tea, baklava and green grapes.
RAMEN TO THE RESCUE
To build back strength and kill the pain that still lingers from the arduous fitness test, we set off for Momofuku, the popular noodle bar located at the base of the hotel, where we scarf down ramen noodles and sip cold beer.
After lunch Penelope gets her hair done at the Shangri-La salon, “Blo,” while I tour several of the other residences and hotel suites. I’m told Warner Bros. reserved a whole floor of the hotel during last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, giving stars like George Clooney and Matt Damon a sneak preview before the Shangri-La officially opened to the public.
Saturday night kicks off with cocktails in the hotel lobby lounge. Settling in at a table in front of the two-sided fireplace, we sip drinks while being treated to an eclectic performance of jazz, blues and pop standards courtesy of singer-guitarist Christine Ghawi.
Suitably lubricated, we make our way to Bosk for dinner. I order the slow-cooked lamb shoulder with smoked potato and braised artichoke; my dinner companions sample the seared scallops, poached lobster tail and Alaskan sablefish, among other delights.
My stuffed stomach marks the end of a busy but fulfilling day of Shangri-La living. I’m exhausted, however, and find myself in bed well before the clock strikes midnight. Rejuvenation can really wear a guy out.
BACK TO THE REAL WORLD
Early Sunday morning, the city as viewed from the 51st floor of the Giorgetti suite appears serene, with only a sprinkling of cars on the streets below.
To shake the cobwebs from our heads, we don our fluffy robes and head for an encore dip in the pool. Following a room service breakfast, we pack our bags.
Downstairs the valet returns me my car, and as Penelope and I slip into our seats, we’re left feeling recharged and restored. Life as temporary denizens of Shangri-La was an otherworldly experience to be sure, but it had to end some time.
And so as the car turns onto Adelaide, we bid adieu to our earthly paradise and ride back to reality. READ ORIGINAL ARTICLE FROM TORONTO STAR