Walking into Brisa Spa in Vancouver, BC is a little like arriving to Brazil itself. Portuguese chatter bounces around the compact room, a slight smell of lemongrass hangs in the air, and everyone in the salon is stunning.
This is the reality of Brazilian beauty — a country that's birthed countless stars like Emanuela de Paula, Lais Ribeiro, Alessandra Ambrosio, and Adriana Lima. It's a nation of olive-toned skin, beautifully-round butts, taught tummies, and large lips. It's a look that people the world over strive to achieve, and somehow Brazilians just wear so effortlessly, only drawing attention to their best features with a slight slick of mascara, or a light lick of lip gloss. It's only fitting then, that I visit a Brazilian spa to get a peek into the natural beauty secrets of this beautiful crowd. After all, fall is quickly approaching, and that means a new beauty routine is in order.
Arriving to Brisa Spa on a sunny Saturday afternoon, I enjoy the walk from nearby Granville Island to the small shop that stands before me. Entering through the glass door, I'm immediately greeted by the spa's Owner and Director, Vinicius (Vinny) Caldana, who meets me with a smile as he checks me in for my mani/pedi appointment. I attempt to apologize for being ten minutes late, but he waves away my words with a reassuring smile, calmly escorting me into the main room to meet my waiting aesthetician, Kelly.
After choosing a couple of colors for my hands and feet, I'm settled into my small table and begin to chat with Kelly. She tells me about her move to Canada from Brazil, her family that's still there, and how a Brazilian manicure differs from a Canadian one. While I've already noticed many differences between the friendly hospitality of this spa and the others in the city that I've tried, she's referring to the manicure process itself, and asks if it's okay to cut the cuticles around my nails before she proceeds.
As Kelly focuses on her work, I take a moment to soak up my surroundings. The earth-toned walls are in calming colours like green, sand, and brown, and the intimate space is small, but not uncomfortable. Two manicure tables line the walls in the main room, across from two leather pedicure chairs with accompanying foot baths. The few surrounding doors lead to a bathroom, an infrared sauna, and a couple of newly-renovated treatment rooms for massages, waxing, body treatments, and facials. As I take in the few other people in the spa, I realize I'm the only non-Brazilian in the room, and I'm delightfully entertained as another customer turns to me and happily points out the song that's playing over the sound system — a soothing tune by a Brazilian artist that she says was once one of her favorites.
As if on cue to share more of their culture, Vinny returns to my table to offer me a glass of water, tea or coffee. I opt for a delicious mint refresher tea while my nails are drying, and am surprised as he brings out a few blueberry cookies to go with it. Snacking happily on my treats and feeling more relaxed than ever, I transition from the manicure table to a pedicure chair, settling into its soft seat with ease.
As Vinny returns to clear my dishes and I thank him for his hospitality, he takes a moment to tell me about a few other traditional Brazilian treats: a coffee beverage and Brazilian cheese balls, known as Pão de Queijo. There's no way I can turn down such a delicious offer, so I happily oblige as he brings me the new treats on another, fresh plate. The coffee, he warns, is quite strong, but the cheese balls are puffy, warm, and delicious, and the coffee washes them down quite well. Chatting with Kelly once again, she teaches me the pronunciation of Pão de Queijo, and I mentally congratulate myself on my first few Portuguese words.
Once all twenty nails have fully dried, I'm escorted into one of the dimly-lit treatment rooms, where I prepare to enjoy a 'Brazilian Slimming Massage'. This treatment, I'm told, helps to promote detoxification and lymphatic drainage, and gives the body a more toned appearance. This time Brisa Spa's Manager, Livia, introduces me to my massage therapist, Camila, who shows me the different machines in the room that will be used as part of my treatment. We chat for a moment about what I'm comfortable with and where my stress tends to lie, and within just a few minutes the massage is underway.
Beginning on my back, Camila starts with a few firm presses on my chest and abdomen before rubbing at my waist, as if to pull the muscles inwards and make my waistline smaller. It's unlike anything I'd experienced before, but felt oddly satisfying, as if my body actually was the hourglass shape she was gently carving it out to be. She does the same for each of my legs, lightly pulling at the muscles as the lymphatic draining portion of the massage comes to a close. Flipping to my stomach, Camila uses one of the tools along the backs of my thighs, moving in upwards motions that feel as if they're counteracting the build-up of cellulite in the area. Again, the sensation is oddly satisfying, as if its smoothing out my skin and tightening my muscles all at once.
Last but not least, my glutes are exposed and two parts of a machine are attached to each cheek — large 'cups' that gently suction and release, pulling at the cheeks in such a way that I can only think 'so this is the secret to that famous Brazilian butt.' Camila is simultaneously massaging my neck and shoulder area — where I told her I tend to hold my stress — and before I know it, the gentle humming of the machine and the rest of the room slip away, as I fall into a brief, albeit relaxing, sleep.
I awake to Camila quietly calling my name, and I thank her for her services. As I dress myself, I can't help but admire my body in the mirror — my muscles indeed look smoother, and my butt slightly larger. While Livia had mentioned earlier I likely wouldn't see results after just one session, I was still quite pleased with not only how I looked, but how I felt, and made a promise to myself that I would return once again.
Leaving the spa, I thank Vinny and Livia, who have each gone above and beyond in making me feel at home at Brisa Spa. As I exit the doors and return to the open air of Vancouver, I can't help but feel slightly spoiled, as if I'd taken an impromptu trip to Brazil and returned just a little bit more beautiful, like the Brazilians themselves, both inside and out.
Disclaimer: VIVA was a guest of Brisa Spa, however opinions and comments made by the writer remain unbiased and independent.
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