When I arrived at The Caledonian Hotel , it was snowing, a setting that characterised many of my spa visits for the start of 2013, and frankly one that I will not be sorry to see the back of, but, that said, fewer places can look more picturesque than Edinburgh in the snow, and The Caledonian is at the very heart of the picture.
Above what was once a Victorian railway, the building dates back to 1903, but has recently become a part of the Waldorf Astoria collection, and as such exudes an old-school air of grandeur from the moment you step through the revolving doors to be greeted by the rosy-cheeked doorman and jovial concierge. Heading up the main staircase under the glow of an enormous chandelier you really do feel like Cinderella on her way to the ball. The rooms themselves are indicative of the hotel’s former use; it is a little bit of a maze, with very, very high ceilings and huge windows all set about with dark wood furnishings.
The spa is in direct contrast to the rest of the hotel when it comes to design. The only Guerlain spa currently in the UK, everything is white, and everywhere you look there are mirrors and glass cases holding the brand’s collection of perfumes. It is contemporary in the extreme, but manages to harp back to the dressing rooms of 1950s movie sirens; I am pretty sure that this is where Marilyn Monroe put on her make-up before stepping onto the set of Some Like It Hot. Treatment rooms are decked out with a wardrobe for your clothes, and a jewellery box so you don’t misplace your earrings etc. The real beauty of the Guerlain spa however, is that treatments are preceded by a Fragrance Ritual (more on that tomorrow), and are completed with guests being offered a ‘Touch of Colour’ – which means they sit you down at the dressing table and a therapist does your make-up for you. The French have always been unambiguously chic, and this simply reinstates that point, only this time, you are leaving as a member of the club.
In a room that was presumably once outdoors and subsequently has a glass ceiling almost as high as the sky itself, is the lounge, where guests can have light snacks, meals, drinks, and teas throughout the day. The Pompadour restaurant, where all meals including breakfast are served is adjacent to the lounge, and continues the ‘indoor/outdoor’ theme, with exposed brickwork and a vibe indicative of Monmartre. Part of the Galvin brothers culinary empire, the food is a thematic fusion of French cuisine and gourmet delights.
On Princes Street, one of Edinburgh’s principle shopping locations, the hotel is afforded views of Edinburgh Castle and easy access to the bars, restaurants, and sites that the city is famous for, making it an ideal bolthole from which to explore. For anyone flying into Edinburgh, a taxi will cost around £20 door-to-door.
The Caledonian is very much a tale of two halves, with the spa and the hotel displaying a very different style and atmosphere, but throughout there is an air of traditional elegance, making it perfect for visiting couples and friends. While staying at the hotel it is an ideal opportunity to explore this beautiful city as well – my advice is to spend the morning out-and-about, and the afternoon and evening in the spa for a full day of entertainment.
– Definitely have a spa treatment complete with a Fragrance Journey and a Touch of Colour, this is what makes the Guerlain spa unique.
– Plan to have your treatment in the late afternoon so you can get dressed up for dinner having had your ‘Touch of Colour’ professionally applied make-up – you will feel like a movie star!
– Have tea in the lounge, it’s a beautiful area to contemplate life, the world, and the universe, with all the light from outside and none of the weather.
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