I believe getting there is half the fun. So my road to sanctuary began with a fall scenic drive from Montreal through Quebec’s pastoral Eastern Townships where I sampled fresh apples from nearby orchards and award-winning 100% Vidal ice wine from the picture-postcard lovely l’Orpailleur winery just outside of the village of Dunham.
At the winery I enjoyed a luncheon of fresh and delicate mixed greens salad, Duck Cuisseau with Cranberry and Orpailleur red wine sauce, and heart-stopping views of rows upon rows of ripening grapes reaching into the distance. The area is part of the Eastern Townships Wine Route near the US border. There are bike trails, too. Fall is an ideal time to visit. Produce is at its peak and bursting with flavour. My final destination seemed a mere hop, skip and a jump from the sophisticated metropolis known as Montreal.
Lavender Fields in Quebec’s Eastern Townships during summer months
It was my first time driving in Quebec. I speak next to no French. I had absolutely no trouble at all reading the road signs; except for once when I missed a highway turn off. I took the next exit and ended up a short while later at a quaint-looking roadside vegetable stand. “Bonjour!” I said, receiving a friendly smile in return. After getting directions in very good English I was back on the road to adventure, the weather still delightfully warm with blue skies overhead. I wanted to listen to anything by a 70s Canadian rock group out of Winnipeg, Manitoba known as BTO, my hair flowing wildly out the window, car top down and spirits high-except I wasn’t in a convertible. What I did do is watch for the next road sign that would signal my highway exit and lead me to my spa elixir.
Spa Eastman is set apart from most personal escapes due to an elixir of natural beauty of landscape, refined accommodation with a rustic ambiance-both at the main lodge and seven pavilions-awareness of natural nutrition, personal renewal, sustainable tourism, local produce, organic cuisine, and attention to personalized service by French/English-Language speaking staff. If you ever longed to improve your French language skills or just to get a firsthand feel for the French language, Spa Eastman allows for superb French Pampering experience on all fronts.
I adored hearing my massage therapist speaking in French inviting me to my treatment room. The spa treatment rooms are on the lower level of the main lodge with a health and wellness centre. As well, on the main level is a full treatment hair salon. Spa Eastman is growing yet again with a four million renewal renovation and expansion of the Eastman Pavilion, Superior Rooms, Therapeutic baths, and the thirty-three treatment rooms. Added will be a separate area devoted to hydrotherapy treatments.
Guests of Spa Eastman are a cross-section of age groups with an outlook to relaxation and fun times. Some say we are what we eat and what we think. You won’t have any difficulty enjoying healthy cuisine and thinking happy thoughts at Spa Eastman named in 2007 among the top-10 best spas in the world and awarded “Best Affordable Spa” by Spa Finder Readers’ Choice Award. Men seem to love the pampering, too; especially the mud treatments.
The central lodge is spacious with lots of natural light flowing through floor-to-ceiling windows. At every turn indoors and out there are increasingly restful views. There are several casual lounge areas on the main level of the central lodge offering reading material and one lounge with a huge wood burning fireplace that makes for an ideal social gathering spot. A large theatre shows feature films. Conference rooms conduct health and well-being lectures. There is a small elevator to take luggage to the upper floor. Many of the guest rooms have a fireplace (electric) and walk-out terrace. Views to mountains are lovely. For so large a place I was amazed at how intimate Spa Eastman feels. It’s easy to find a cozy spot to relax outside of your room in the main lodge or somewhere on the property. Three guided walks per day are included with your stay. On one such occasion, my small group of women were asked to keep our eyes closed as we led each other along forested paths. We were asked by the group leader to drink in deeply what we sensed with our entire being and to tell everyone what we felt. Later, eyes open, we compared notes. What we felt and what we saw didn’t meet even at the halfway point. It was an eye-opening experience to say the least. There is absolutely no pressure to join group activity. The day’s activity is listed for all to see on the main level. It’s a comforting feeling to have so many choices from which to choose a day’s activity.
Jocelyna Dubuc, Spa Eastman founder, president, and general director, took a big gamble in 1977 opening Canada’s first destination spa on 315 treed and manicured acres. Over the course of thirty-two years Spa Eastman has won numerous awards for its wine list, cuisine, facilities, programmes, and spa treatments and for its sustainable tourism mind-set. Most recently Spa Eastman was included in a Canadian Health & Lifestyle Magazine article on healthy spas and honoured in 2008 with the prestigious Phenix (Environment Grand Prix) award for Sustainable Development. Spa Eastman diverts over 23 metric tons of waste from landfills in their waste management programme which represents an 81% recycling rate. February 2009 saw the spa awarded the Grand Prix for Sustainable Tourism from Quebec’s Minister of Tourism, Mrs. Nicole Menard. Mr. Gerard marinovich, Spa-Eastman’s Vice President, welcomes the Minister’s confidence in Spa Eastman’s commitment to sustainable health.
Jocelyna Dubuc along with Spa Eastman chef, Pierre Cornelis, and Spa Eastman pastry chef, Stephane Triballi, wrote Le Spa Eastman A Votre Table cookery book that won Gold in 2006 at Cuisine Canada’s Canadian Culinary Book Awards in Winnipeg held annually in the fall and sponsored by the University of Guelph. Spa Eastman cuisine is based upon a healthy and good-for-you ideology. Expect a gastronomic experience of the first order with a menu devoted to weight control if desired.
Most of the menu selections are based on the Spa’s own organic herb and vegetable gardens and berry patches and grape vines and use of local in season fresh produce. It’s not unusual to see delectable deserts and main courses adorned with edible flowers from the organic gardens. From brioches aux pommes to soupe de canard…eating well here is just part of the entire attention paid to the finer aspects of Spa Eastman’s wellness and pampering experience from the heart.
Spa treatments such as Pressotherapy to take inches off legs and body are internationally recognized and sought after by guests. Couleur Caramel makeup offers ECOCERT certified products derived from organic agriculture that meet Spa Eastman’s sustainable development programme initiatives. Kinesiologists and fitness experts design a programme to benefit the entire body. I saw naturopath Ilona Dowgiallo for a complete health assessment and to discuss the benefits of eating according to my blood type. Ilona was kind, thoughtful and had me telling her some of my secrets…all to my benefit.
But it was the Duet Maple Sugar body polish and massage by two therapist’s that set me free after a day’s hiking across a small section of the 315-acres. Quebec is known the world over for its maple syrup products. Four hands stroking and kneading my body was an experience unlike anything I’ve had in the past and most enjoyable. I liked, too, the idea of deciding whether to take part in one of the daily activities such as snowshoeing, Swiss Ball Training, tai chi, aqua aerobics, yoga, Pilates, swimming (heated outdoor/indoor pools), fitness class, have my hair or face makeup done in the spa’s salon, or have a Miracle Mineral potion applied that I’m told is excellent for arthritis and muscular pain. Or to do nothing at all. There is such an extensive list of spa treatments, activities, lectures and guest programmers at Spa Eastman that return visits offer the ability to totally indulge in a new experience.
Spa Eastman buildings and landscape are designed in such a way as to offer fairytale-like ambiance: towering trees, formal flower gardens, sweet-smelling bushes and secret places to sit awhile and absorb with all of the body senses the majesty of the place. If you enjoy painting in oil or watercolours or simply capturing nature in sketch, then this place is ideal for the artist. Photographer, too. Gently twisting walking trails connect one pavilion to the next and to the main lodge and indoor swimming pool. Lots of trees allow for privacy. There is a sense of peace and tranquility and utter safety in Spa Eastman’s world. There are lots of wide-open spaces with lovely green grass, and chaise lounge chairs by the natural spring fed pond and outdoor pool. You’ll want to take a picture by the grape vine trellis adjacent the outdoor pool. Lazy country roads surrounding the property allow for vigorous power walks or runs or leisurely strolls to examine nature. The town of Eastman was once known for copper and lumber production, hence the area’s dense forest; it is about a fifteen minute drive from the spa. So, if you’re searching for personal renewal, a girlfriend’s getaway, mother-daughter sojourn, or a wedding destination (remember there’s a hair salon)…Spa Eastman makes for an ideal elixir.