*By Natalie Taylor*
A friend recently asked me where to go for a “do-nothing vacation.” I didn’t have a recommendation at the time, but it did get me wondering: where is a cool spot for a girls’ getaway? a low-key bachelorette party? an intimate couples’ weekend escape? a place to unplug and detox? After a recent trip to the Eastern Townships (located an hour’s drive outside of Montreal), I now have the answer: Spa Eastman…
Surrounded by forests and 15 km of trails, Spa Eastman is the perfect destination for whatever you need. I instantly felt relaxed when I walked inside the ivy-covered resort and cozy details like the fireplace in the lobby made me feel right at home.
At the heart of Spa Eastman is its commitment to health and wellness. Not only is it a spa anchored by a hydrotherapy program, but the resort also gives you a chance to get out into nature. There is a full calendar of daily activities to choose from so you really won’t be bored here! Everything from guided nature walks and fitness walks led by a kinesiologist to yoga sessions and workshops focused on breathing, essentrics and stress management (all taught by their experts).
But first: we must talk about the hydrotherapy since it’s at the cornerstone of this spa and my favourite activity. The process is clearly outlined on the walls and educates customers on how to properly use the baths…
1. Heat Up. Take 15-30 minutes in either the hot baths outside or the infrared/Finnish sauna or hammam inside. The outside baths were my favourite and really helped with the stress in my lower back. Not to mention the well-landscaped surroundings and view of the pond and deck nearby. The baths are pretty empty at night and hanging out under the stars or the moonlight is a good option for a bedtime ritual (though I do recommend giving yourself a good hour before they close at 10 pm). It’s the ultimate R&R.
2. Cool Down. 1-2 minutes in the cold baths. Spa Eastman offers the Kneipp circuit, a German technique. One part of the circuit is for your legs to help circulatory problems, relaxation and improve sleep; the other is for the arms to increase overall circulation. Another option is the Igloo Shower, which releases a mist of essential oils like peppermint and eucalyptus.
3. Rest. 15-20 minutes. There are plenty of lounge chairs in a separate room and by the pool to read, sleep or chat.
4. Hydrate. The spa offers lemon water in the pool area to re-energize.
And what is a trip to the spa without a massage? One of our compatriots said she received the best massage she’s ever had at Spa Eastman! A regular massage is around $100 and added to the baths or you can get a day package for $135. A great value in my opinion — especially if you can claim your massage through insurance (they have RMT therapists). There’s also a whole range specialty massages from Watsu (done in a shallow pool) to a Lemongrass Mimosa Body Scrub Massage!
The restaurant is also aligned with the wellness theme and does a good job at having a “spa-themed menu” without being boring. For those with dietary restrictions, the whole menu is also gluten and dairy free. The hybrid buffet/cafeteria style and menu service adds to the relaxed atmosphere here. I was really impressed with the options at the buffet: a daily soup, all of your salad fixings with pea sprouts or different types of quinoa and various seeds with health benefits (flax, chia, etc.) For dinner, we tried the most popular dish with diners: the Albacore tuna. Semi-cooked, it’s rolled in sesame, placed on top of a cream of cashew and coconut sauce, and flavoured with Galangal (similar to ginger with more citrus flavour), Curcuma (tumeric) and citrus leaves in a vegetable spaghetti. The Thai flavours of the sauce really complemented the fish; a great dish if you want something healthy without compromising taste. The chefs’ recommendation was the Lamb Gigot; perfumed with black olives, fennel seeds and rosemary served with cream of celery-root, bell pepper and paprika; potatoes and oyster mushrooms. We were told that the meat is never overcooked for health benefits. Almost everyone at our table got the lamb; cooked medium-rare, it was the ideal comfort food for our night.
As for the guest rooms: they are minimalist yet have all the amenities you need. To promote living in the moment, there are no TVs (nor are you allowed to use Wi-Fi in the common areas) and a vigorous jet tub if you missed the baths. I loved the fireplace, which could be turned on with the flip of a switch. It added instant ambiance to the room. Thank you Spa Eastman for making such amenities for your guests easy to use! The rooms also open up to a balcony, which overlooks the pond and surrounding area. Lounge chairs are out there to relax as well.
Spa Eastman, in my opinion, could be one of Quebec’s best kept secrets. That said, it’s now into its 40th anniversary and has a long list of accolades (which includes being named “Best Spa in Canada”), so I may be late to the spa party! I haven’t really experienced an “all-inclusive” spa in Canada — a package complete with activities and meals — so I think that’s what makes Spa Eastman really unique. I’ll definitely be back, if only to chill out in the outdoor hot tub all day! Fitting, since they also have packages for lunch and the baths if you can only visit for less than 24 hours. It’s an ideal escape from Montreal and a pleasant surprise in Quebec, the one place that keeps surprising me over and over again.
A huge thanks to Spa Eastman and Tourisme Cantons-de-l’Est for hosting us on this press trip. As always, opinions and reviews are our own.