Looking for a healthy healing destination spa in Quebec? Spa Eastman is one of a kind. Here’s my review.
“Take a mental snapshot of how you feel inside before we start,” says Genevieve, my guide for the Anti-Stress Walk at Spa Eastman, a popular destination spa near Montreal.
How do I feel? I feel like crap. My life is crashing down around me. I’m recovering from a bout of food poisoning; I’m squabbling with my boyfriend, freelance writing markets are drying up and I’m still grieving over the loss of my father. Trust me, it’s not a snapshot I’ll frame.
Walking blind at Spa Eastman
On that cheery note, our walk starts out at a slow stroll, where we’re supposed to imagine elves with ropes leading us forward. I’m not sure of the purpose but the imagery makes me snort. The walk becomes into a blind walk, with one partner leading and the other following at their mercy. I’m teamed up with Genevieve, who leads me down the road on the expansive Spa Eastman grounds as I putter along with my eyes shut.
It seems a shame to keep my eyes closed. The grounds of Spa Eastman take in 326 acres. They’re lush and sheathed in mist, with miles of trails and a scenic location in the Eastern Townships, one of the most popular outdoor destinations in Quebec.
At Spa Eastman, part of the beauty is letting go
A tear leaks out of one eye and drips down my cheek. Genevieve is too polite to mention it, but I’m still embarrassed and wish she were the one walking blind, not me. We end at Spa Eastman’s small lake, where a fountain streams upwards, the steel tinge of the water matching the colour in the sky. It’s gorgeous, but I still feel rotten.
Time to Relax
After the walk, I lounge around the pools with Mark. I was hoping this two-night stay at Spa Eastman, an affordable wellness resort that has won awards as one of the world’s best spas for quality and value, would bring us together, but wrapped up as we are by our own strangling tensions and issues, we’re not growing closer, we’re just as grey as the mist.
Letting it be
Mind you, it’s hard to be completely depressed when you’re relaxing in an outdoor jacuzzi with a lake view, a soundtrack of songbirds around you and woodsy-fresh air. I try not to think. I just enjoy the hot jets of water on my back, before lying in a deck chair on a huge slab of layered rock. If it wasn’t for the fly bite on my elbow, it would be perfect.
The Nordic Circuit
Mark and I spend the rest of the morning going back and forth from saunas to pools, with a few heart stopping immersions in the coldest plunge pool known to man. Even the ice mist room can’t compare. But, in the spa world, the cycle of cold and hot, known as a Nordic Circuit, is recognized as being good for the immune system, and something about that impossibly painful cold plunge blasts a little of the stress out of me. But only a little.
Let the treatments begin
After a healthy buffet lunch that includes plenty of fresh greens, grains and tofu (though it isn’t, surprisingly, 100% vegetarian), I spend 30 minutes trying out Spa Eastman’s NeuroSpa Power Nap Station, where the combination of vibrations, music and comfy chair bed are supposed to be good for the nervous system.
From there I go straight to my Kobido Facial Massage. Based on an ancient Japanese technique, it’s billed as “a harmonious mix of massage, acupressure and drainage by way of bamboo. Its goal is to offer peace and relaxation. It also helps the blood flow and energy of the face as well as the entire body.”
This is not a treatment I want. I don’t see the point of a facial that isn’t full of product. No serums, masks, or even exfoliation? What’s the point? I’m doing it because iIt was recommended by Jocelyna Dubuc, the founder of Spa Eastman. She’s an unstoppable force and insists it will be good for me.
Standing in the treatment room, facing Helene, my therapist, I start to panic and try to back out. “I have acne!” I say, clutching at my white fluffy robe. “I break out at the slightest touch. I don’t think a facial massage will be good for me.”
“It will be okay,” she said, looking at my skin closely. “I’ll be very careful.”
No way out
Grumpily I climb on the treatment bed. The lights are low, soothing music is playing and we begin. “I can’t breathe!” I say, as she puts hot towels on my face. I start to sit up then suddenly sink back down. What is wrong with me? I’ve become the spa client from hell. I feel terrible about the way I’m acting and sorry for poor patient Helene, who is only trying to help. I’m ready to cry again.
And then. And then. Looking back, I still don’t understand what happened. What a weird treatment, I’m thinking as I lie in the darkened room. I don’t even know what’s being done, Helene’s touch is so light. My lymph system is being activated apparently by of all things, I see as I open one eye, bamboo chopsticks running over my face.
Seriously? I close my eyes again. Suddenly I don’t care how it’s being done or what is possible and what is not. For the first time in a long time I feel a deep calm. Is it Helene’s motherly touch? Are my lymphs so easily manipulated? I doze, but I don’t doze – I know what’s going on, but I don’t. At one point I see the sun has come out. A second later I remember I’m inside in a room with no windows and have no way of knowing what the elusive sun is up to. And then I think that maybe things are going to be okay. New doors are opening, even if I don’t want them to, but fresh starts are a good thing.
Opening the eyes
“What does that treatment do?” I ask Helene groggily, when she has finished. I’m too lazy even to sit up. I feel all cozy, like I’m five years old and getting a the wonderful bedtime story of The Battle of Lymph Drainage and Stress in the Magical Kingdom of Spa Eastman.
“It’s activating your, um, armies,” she says, with her warm smile, going on to explain that the lymph system boosts the immune system. Evidently, the treatment also offers the peace and relaxation it promises. Who could have guessed?
As I pad off to find Mark, who has been getting a reflexology treatment, I think about what Helene said about ‘activating my armies.’ Maybe my armies have been sleeping, and that’s why I’ve been feeling like a wreck.
The gift of time and relaxation
When I find Mark in the sauna after his reflexology treatment he is feeling the same. And just like that we’re a couple again. It can’t be just the one treatment, I think, as we float around in the pool. Everything must add up: the fresh non-toxic cuisine, the pools, the treatments and even that blasted cold plunge pool – single baby steps towards letting stress go.
Maybe it’s the gift of giving yourself some time to repair.
I look at Mark and smile. “If only we had one more day here.”
He nods. “If only we had a few.”
Travel facts for Spa Eastman
Spa Eastman offers a five night all-inclusive package. Health and Wellness Immersion Packages start at $1470 pp. Trust me, you’ll want more than a day – though day spa packages are also available.
For more information on visiting Quebec check out Tourisme Quebec’s website.
Spa Eastman is located in the Eastern Townships. 895, chemin des Diligences, Eastman, Quebec. Tel: 1 800 665-5272. Check their website.
Read more about Quebec: Carol and Mark’s Road Trip to Magog in the Eastern Townships
Read more about Canada: For more about travel to Canada visit my Things to do in Canada article. Happy planning!