Cabin fever got you down?
It's time to detox.
Just an hour's flight on Air Canada from Reagan National Airport to Montreal, the car from Spa Eastman whisked me through a snowstorm to the Eastern Townships. Set in a winter wonderland, the lodge welcomed me with a glowing fireplace and concoction of seaweed.
Naturopath and homeopathic doctor Ilona Dowgiallo put me on a regimen of Bach flower therapy, plus bodywork by her husband Michel, who has been at Eastman for 20 years. Her lecture “The Art of Fighting Fatigue” is a highlight of the week.
Hydrotherapy is central to many treatments at the Eastman resort. It is the home of Canada’s first and only Watsu pool with certified therapists choreographing waterborn massage. Water in the hotel and pools comes from springs on the 329-acre property.
So it was only natural to develop Eastman-les-Bains in celebration of the spa’s 35th anniversary, says Jocelyna Dubuc, founder, president, and director of the health village she calls "relais sante." Based on her European travels, the facility incorporates Finnish and infrared saunas, iced aromatherapy shower, Turkish hammam, and Kneipp water walk and arm bath, plus existing swimming pool and new outdoor hot tub.
Thermalism is a tool for maintaining and regaining health, Dubuc believes.
Citing subsidy of thermal treatments by the French health care system, she says Eastman-les-Bains highlights the positive impact that thermotherapy has on health and quality of life.
Rather than a quick dip, the hydrotherapy complex invites you to have a healthy sweat. Shower, drink plenty of water, and try a different sauna.The benefits of an infrared (infrarouge) sauna are explained by Jocelyna as we relax on pristine wooden benches. Heat penetrates deeply and slowly. Then an icy shower in the “Igloo” enhanced by aromatherapy restores circulation. A soak in the outdoor hot tub is the perfect ending.
Guests frolicked in a winter wonderland, rolling in the snow as Scandinavians do. But this being Canada, swimsuits are required.
Back to the future
Surrounded by panoramic vistas of distant mountains and farms, Spa Eastman has grown but retains a rustic chic at affordable prices. When I first visited in the 80s, the camaraderie was infectious. We hiked in the snow, enjoyed hearty vegetarian meals in a former barn, and tried therapies in the old farm house. They’re still in use, with a total of 49 guest rooms. Groups take over a building, or come for special weeks devoted to raw food, family programs, or total immersion in health and wellness.
Opened in 1999, a three-story wooden lodge houses 20 treatment rooms, restaurant, gym, and the baths complex, plus spacious guest rooms on the top floor. Recent additions include three water-themed suites with state-of-the-art showers, fireplace, and spectacular view. An anniversary 3-night package starts at $960 per person, double, through March 30.
On a snowy evening last month, couples dined in their spa robes, sipped wine while savoring farm-fresh meals. Dinner choices include lamb, bison, venison, and chicken, as well as Atlantic salmon, tuna, and scallops from the Bay of Fundy. Vegetarian options included Tibetan dumplings or a crepe stuffed with mushrooms and tofu. Buffet lunch features hot soup made through a heat process that retains vegetable fiber, salad fixings grown on site, and a selection of oils. The dining room staff take orders for breakfast eggs or oatmeal (not both), homemade breads, yogurt. According to chef Kevin Belisle, food combinations are calculated to prevent acidity.
Living Food weeks were an instant success. Gastronomic adventures in raw food are scheduled in July, September and October, lasting 8 days/7 nights. But the daily salad bar lets you sample seasonal greens, fruit, nuts, shoots, fruits, plus green smoothies and wheat grass juice. Everything is organic, much of the food and meats sourced locally.
Even the hair salon is organic. The Spa du Cheveu features aromatherapy for the scalp. Chantal Brodeur uses essential oils created by her husband ‘s Quebec firm to restore hair texture and vibrancy. The result of a shampoo and scalp massage was impressive.
Indoor and outdoor swimming pools are used for exercise and recreation. Whirlpool tubs are in many guest rooms, supplied with Canadian mineral bath salts. The absence of telephones and TV hardly matters.
Spa Eastman, 895, chemin des Diligences, Eastman, Quebec, Canada J0E 1PO
Telephone: 1-800-665-5272, 450-297-3370