May 13, 2019
In need of a little self-care sojourn? Look no further than Quebec’s Eastern Townships.
Photo Credit: Mathieu Dupuis
As crazy as it sounds, making a plan to de-stress can be very stressful.
Honestly, there are so many questions to answer: Where to go? For how long? And what activities will give you the most bang – er, quiet – for your buck?
Good news: We can help lighten your load. First off, congrats on making the decision to indulge in a little TLC — it’s money well spent. Research backs this up. According to a study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, spending just one week at a wellness resort has myriad benefits, including helping you lower blood pressure, reduce weight and ward off depression. The best part is that it appears to be the gift that keeps on giving. When those same study participants were contacted six weeks after their trip, they were still enjoying the health benefits accrued on holiday.
Being a dedicated journalist, I thought it would be best to test the theory out personally – I mean, someone’s gotta have your back, dear readers – so I took it upon myself to head to Quebec’s Eastern Townships for a week of spas, hikes, healthy eating and mindfulness.
When it comes to options, Quebec is a great place to start, especially the Eastern Townships. Situated about two hours east of Montreal, this region is a natural paradise, dotted with lakes, valleys, mountains and forests. Like Quebeckers themselves, the hospitality industry takes pleasure and pampering very seriously. It’s been hosting visitors for more than 200 years, so it knows a thing or two about making folks feel at home. The fact that it boasts four all-season national parks is no small thing. Skiers, snowshoers and sledders flock to this winter wonderland, only to be replaced by bikers, hikers and campers in warmer weather.
The area has no shortage of inns, restaurants, shops and spas in the quaint villages that sprinkle the region. Here are some editor-approved ways to make the most of your week of wellness.
First stop: Hôtel William Gray
You really need to ease yourself into a healthy getaway. I mean, you could jump right in, but you won’t be doing yourself any favours. Give your body at least 24 hours to transition from a work to wellness state of mind – that way, you’ll easily absorb the bliss that’s waiting for you.
Where to stay
Come for the gorgeous rooms, and stay for the luxury spa. The recently renovated Hôtel William Gray, a boutique hotel in the heart of Old Montreal, captures the city’s vibe of moving seamlessly between old and new, luxury and simplicity, style and substance. You notice this most in the hotel’s public spaces – a gorgeous living room area decked out with couches, tables and a fireplace, as well as the restaurant with a living wall that the chef plucks fresh greens from for dinner. But for the wellness traveller, it’s the luxe spa you’ll remember most. Here, you’ll find a soothing all-white salt room, thermal hydrotherapy circuit and state-of-the-art massage beds, including a heated, granular quartz-based one that your body literally sinks into. Heaven!
Where to play
The best way to get off the merry-go-round of life is to step onto the Ferris wheel of Old Montreal. The largest observational wheel in Canada, this 60-metre-high ride is total escapism. Forget the rickety wheels of county fair days; this beauty includes temperature-controlled gondolas with music (you can even plug in your own) and offers spectacular city views that will give you a new perspective on life – literally.
Where to eat
It’s impossible to pick just one restaurant in a city known for its magnificent cuisine, but since we’re talking wellness, my mind organically wanders to LOV. And don’t think for a minute that you’re depriving yourself of the province’s traditional dishes. Vegan poutine, anyone? Cheese curd is replaced with vegan cheese, and brown gravy gets a miso makeover. Also worth trying: the restaurant’s signature tacos, and the Big LOV Burger, a stacked sandwich smothered in a special Big Lov sauce.
Second stop: Le St-Martin Bromont
Now that you’re chill, it’s time to hit the road for pastoral views of the Eastern Townships. First up, Bromont.
Where to stay
Check into Le St-Martin Bromont Hôtel & Suites and you’ll be ideally situated to take advantage of all that the area has to offer. The hotel makes it easy with numerous stay-and-play deals, including ski, spa and culinary packages. You’re also in easy walking distance of great shopping – just sayin’.
Where to play
What’s your pleasure: spa, hike or maybe both? Hiking at Mont-Orford National Park, about 30 minutes from town, is a four-season wonder. Covering an area of nearly 60 square kilometres, this park is a microcosm of the township itself, replete with lakes, forests and mountains to explore. Hiking, biking, skiing and snowshoeing are seasonally available, and an outfitters shop at the park’s entrance makes it easy for you to gear up from head to toe. In search of a more adventurous vacation? Here are six reasons to visit Lac Beauport, Quebec.
If the spa scene is more your idea of wellness, check out Balnea Spa. Its thermal circuit is second to none and includes a Turkish bath, Finnish saunas, several outdoor whirlpool tubs, a sweat lodge and a forest basin. The fact that it’s set on a stunning 400-acre private reserve with a private lake at its heart just ups the wow factor. You can easily spend an entire day here without repeating anything – unless, of course, you want to.
Where to eat
You don’t have to go far to find a healthy meal, as Balnea has its own restaurant, Lumami. The ever-changing menu highlights seasonal offerings for every palate. You can even dine in your spa robe if you’re not quite ready to disrupt your harmony.
Third stop: Spa Eastman
Where to stay
Feeling rested, you’re ready for a 360-degree wellness indulgence – hello, Spa Eastman. Founded in the late 1970s by Jocelyna Dubuc, this sprawling retreat, tucked into the foothills of Mont-Orford, is a sanctuary for those seeking a little P&P – that’s peace and pampering. Dubuc’s vision from the get-go was to create an environment where you could reset, relax and recharge, depending on your needs. The pace is purposely slow. “You need to make time for time,” says Dubuc. Bottom line: You shouldn’t rush wellness like it’s an item on your to-do list, she says. To benefit from it, you need to immerse yourself in it. Read more on why Quebec spas, like Spa Eastman, are the perfect place to rejuvenate.
Where to play
If chilling is your idea of play, you’ll find many ways to do just that, starting with the on-site spa services. Check out the signature massage, delivered with nature-infused hot oils, from head to toe. Your therapist works with you to choose the most appropriate essential oils, but they all get you to the same place: bliss.
If you’ve come looking for physical activities (yoga, hiking, swimming) or mental stimulation (think wellness seminars), you won’t be disappointed. A daily activity schedule lets you plan your time (morning to night), with almost all sessions available in both English and French.
Where to eat
The on-site restaurant focuses on farm-fresh cuisine and delivers it in several ways: hot and cold buffet options, as well as a full menu at every sitting. There’s a focus on vegan and vegetarian, but meat eaters won’t be disappointed, as all diets are represented. Between meals, a cheery café serves beverages and baked goods. After all, a week of wellness requires ongoing sustenance.
Now that you’ve got the lowdown on our fave Quebec spas, hit up Hollywood’s celeb-approved wellness hotspots.
Source : Beth Thompson