Relax (take it easy): Hotel Felix + Apsara
Whether you’re breezing in from out of town and want to stay close to the action, or looking to unwind without leaving the city, the combo of Hotel Felix and Apsara massage is just what the doctor ordered.
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When I step into the Hotel Felix on the corner of Ste-Catherine and de la Visitation, the first thing that strikes me is how surprisingly peaceful it is. With the Aires Libres in full swing, and Claude Cormier’s pink balls stretched over the strip, the Village is busier than ever, but inside Jaroen Saenkot’s quaint bed & breakfast-style hotel, quiet reigns.
A co-owner of the hotel since 2008, and manager since last year, the discreet hotelier came to the business with experience in spa and massage management, having started the Apsara salon in 2006. But more on that later.
“We have a mostly gay customer base because of the location,” Saenkot says, seated on plush couch in the wooden-decorated salon of the hotel’s main floor. The owner/operator’s personal touches of Thai décor throughout the hotel give it at once a homey and refined feel, which is part of the point.
“As a 2-star hotel, we’re a hybrid of the hotel and B&B,” Saenkot tells us. While a continental breakfast is included in an overnight stay, guests benefit from BBQ and kitchenette access, and can enjoy affordable massage therapy offered in the cabana on the back patio. Also, unlike many similar-sized establishments, all 14 rooms in the hotel have private bath, flat-screen TV, DVD player, and the added bonus of 24-hour check-in. Visitors (and locals) working or doing business in the Village can avail themselves of a 15% discount when they make their reservation, as another incentive. As we enter high season, you have to make sure to book well in advance, since the hotel’s prime Beaudry métro location makes it a popular destination for seasonal travelers.
Meanwhile, back at the salon…
It had been a stressful week, and I knew that I would packing and carrying boxes in an impending move, so I decided to take my host’s advice and try a 30-minute massage at his Apsara salon, just a block away. Booked for a back massage with a handsome young man named Bryan, I figured it would be the best way to unwind between meetings, and I was right.
Impeccably clean and tastefully lit, Apsara was (until now), one of the better-kept secrets of the strip, as the only all-male massage parlour in the Village. Bryan was adept at getting at the clusters of knots under my shoulder-blades, and had a natural ease that made you feel like you deserved this little slice of self-care. Although my masseur was shirtless, and the technique not overly technical, it was thoroughly relaxing and professional. As promised on the website, it was an experience I did not want to see end: luckily, my next appointment was, like everything from Apsara and Hotel Felix, only a bustling, gay block away.
1274 Ste-Catherine Est, Montréal
1333 Ste-Catherine Est, Suite 301, Montréal