Story and photos by Barbara Angelakis
additional photos by Manos Angelakis
895, chemin des Diligences
Eastman, Quebec, Canada JoE1PO
There are destination spas and there are destination spas... some are pleasure palaces with luxurious decadence to entice; some are cosmetic medical centers masked as spas; others focus on physical activities and wellness; while others are spiritual in nature encouraging soul communion with the cosmos. Spa Eastman is in a world all its own and yet at the same time, incorporates all of the above.
The 326-acre retreat is located on the old stagecoach road that once linked Montreal, Boston and New York to the Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada.
Eastern Townships is a precinct in the province of Quebec, an hour plus drive from Montréal, and shares borders with Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.
It all began in 1977 when visionary Jocelyna Dubuc opened a rural health retreat to teach people how to build a healthy lifestyle and/or enhance the one they had already begun. The combination of being in nature; eliminating toxic foods; and de-stressing with natural spring water and professional bodywork caught on, and Spa Eastman was born. Dubuc did not know that she was creating a destination spa but her instincts were spot-on and she began by building a series of no-nonsense wood-framed cottages in the woods that would provide the peaceful and nourishing setting her guests needed to detox and rebalance. Each cabin has a gathering room and a small number of bedrooms that can be rented by the room, or the entire space can be occupied for a family gathering, wedding party, etc. None of the cabins have Wi-Fi, TV or radio but they do have cozy fireplaces, comfy beds, porches to commune with nature, and amenities blended according to Dubuc’s philosophy in her private label Spa Eastman Experience products.
As the demand grew, a 3-story Main House was built to blend in with the natural woodlands environment offering the guest the option of communing with nature or being in a more structured accommodation to suit their individual preference for solitude or socializing. This main pavilion houses luxurious accommodations (many with propane fireplaces and/or outdoor terraces); Eastman-Les-Bains Spa with 35 treatment rooms and indoor pool; reception lounge with a central wood-burning fireplace; and restaurant. Wi-Fi and air conditioning are included but again no TV. All guests are invited to go to the Main House for meals.
The beautifully landscaped gardens reveal 2 large separate hot tubs - with varying degrees of heat - that overlook a natural spring pond. The spa offers traditional as well as the newest in thermotherapy facilities. There are both Finnish and infrared saunas; Turkish hammam; aromatherapy “igloo” shower; or cold pools for those choosing a body-part immersion instead of the full body icy shower. You can “take the waters” at whatever level is comfortable and still get a therapeutic benefit. Information is available to council you through the Thermotherapy experience.
For the serious person seeking a “cure” the healing begins with a personal consultation with Ilona Dowgiallo. Ilona has committed her entire career to the healing arts, studying medicine, biology and naturopathy and has developed a unique method of analyzing the body to determine what it needs to get back on a healthy course. Once a comprehensive health assessment is made for the individual, the Spa Eastman team of professionals (including a kinesiologist if required) goes to work to coach the individual towards a healthier lifestyle. The Pursuit of Health program is a home follow-up service to help maintain the “new you” and is available for the asking before you leave the spa.
The spa treatments offered are traditional from Swedish body massage to the latest in spa technology, such as the NeuroSpa Power Nap Station, a 30-minute relaxation machine that neutralizes stress and anxiety and has many other health benefits. I recently had had a bout of food poisoning and wanted to re-balance so I had the Lymphatic Drainage massage... not so much a massage, more like a series of soft pinches covering your body in a systematic way with the result of removing toxins still lodged in my system.
Activities are offered daily that include guided walks in the 15 kilometers of walking and hiking woodland trails. Of course one is also encouraged to go it alone to get the full benefit of the natural environment. I chose to participate in the Marche anti-stress,a guided march through the woods. We began at a moderate pace and as we walked, our guide Edson Flores, spoke of breathing deeply to the count of 4 in and exhaling to the count of 6 out. It was easy to do in the clear clean fresh mountain air. Edson used her arm to count off the seconds and after 5 minutes of clearing out our lungs she paired the group off 2 by 2. The walk continued with one person closing their eyes while holding on to their partner as Edson guided us through a walking meditation. It was an amazing experience to put complete trust in a total stranger confident they would lead one safely through the woods. I could hear my footsteps and feel the earth beneath my feet; sense the rustling of the leaves still departing the trees that had been their home for the past several months; hear the wind softly singing a melody. At one point the walk stopped and after a few moments of breathing in place we opened our eyes to a scene of utter tranquility. The walk continued by switching partners. At the end partners hugged out of sheer joy for the experience.
Another joyful experience was serendipitous, I happened to be there the night of the Super Moon of November 14. Guests were invited to gather in a circle around the outdoor fire pit while Guylaine Cliché, author of Words of Peace in Native Land, a book of Mohawk Culture, Values and Traditions, celebrated the moon event with a Native American ceremony. The book is available from Juniper Publishing.
Back at the spa, I selected the Japanese inspired Kobido, a 60, 90 or 120 minute treatment using acupressure and bamboos to firm and rejuvenate the face (60) or face and body (90) (120). I tried to focus on the treatment but somewhere along the line I just gave over to it and found myself floating in a deep, peaceful reservoir in my mind. When it was over I could have levitated to the rest area to re-ground. By the time lunch was served I was famished and headed straight for the restaurant to enjoy the day’s offerings of soup and salad. A hot menu is always available but I could not get enough of the salad bar with the chef’s creative and innovative offerings. Food is a serious undertaking at Spa Eastman where you have 3 meals a day of the highest quality gluten and diary free delicious creative dishes to please the eye and delight the stomach.
Blending in with nature is only the tip of the iceberg that is Eastman. It is a sanctuary dedicated to well-being and good health... a place to kick-start a life changing experience or maintain an existing one.
© December 2016 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.