Tucked away in the green hilly countryside of Canada’s Eastern Townships, lies a wellness retreat in a class by itself. The philosophy at Spa Eastman goes something like this: healing occurs when you nurture yourself amid nature’s splendor while savoring gastronomic cuisine and fine wine. Sound strange? Naturally I had my doubts having been to countless retreats where I awoke at sunrise, followed by a strict regimen of vegetarian food sometimes without even my beloved coffee. When I heard that Spa Eastman served up delights such as roast duck and bison paired with the best Bordeaux and Malbecs, it seemed like spa heresy. In actuality, Spa Eastman’s Health and Wellness Destination Spa is considered Quebec’s premiere spa and among the best in North America. Needless to say – I was intrigued.
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The sprawling resort is just across the border from Vermont and 68 miles southeast of Montreal is set on 326 acres of lush landscape with a swimming pond, pine and oak trees, manicured gardens, forest, birds and views of Mount Orford. It’s quite the pastoral setting. Did I mention the butterflies fluttering over colorful flowers that decorate the retreat? Hiking trails, pool with loungers, 2 large outdoor hot tubs offering glorious vistas, hammocks, recliners in secluded woodsy spots and a nightly fire pit provide guests with a sublime immersion in nature. Sitting on a chair in front of the pond, listening to the lullaby of the water and birdsong, I could feel my whole body relax.
Jocelyna Dubuc, founder of Spa Eastman, discovered the curative power of food early on when a change in her diet healed a chronic ailment. During a visit to India in the 70’s where she studied yoga and meditation, Ms. Dubuc conceptualized her dream to create a wellness retreat. A trim, attractive brunette with a warm smile, her deep brown eyes light up whenever she speaks about her passion – food.
She researched the effects of dairy-free, gluten free, organic and low temperature cooking on overall health. The positive benefits led to Spa Eastman’s famed ‘Tonic Cuisine’: nutritious food that regulates the functional balance of the body essential to good health. The cuisine is flavorful, colorful, designed to improve digestion, promote vitality and please the palate. At every meal guests enjoy a scrumptious salad bar with the freshest ingredients, many grown right on the property, with every variety of dressing and nuts on display plus luscious soups such as pumpkin and sweet potato.
Main course selections include tasty dishes such as sesame crusted tuna in coconut curry sauce, bison with cranberries and pecans, veal osso buco braised with gremolata accompanied by beets with shallots and trout with piperade Basquaise and wild rice. ( Vegetarian options are available.) Not to mention mouth watering desserts such as cocoa tiramisu, chocolate cake with raspberry sauce and fine organic wine. Buckwheat crepes with molasses and almond flavored soy cream, poached eggs with vegetarian Hollandaise sauce and avocado toast with cashew cheese are some of the breakfast yummies. The ‘Tonic Cuisine’ forms the foundation of the wellness programs here. Admittedly, I felt better, lighter, slept like a baby and had more energy.
The therapeutic treatments performed by master therapists complement the tonic cuisine and they are exceptional. It’s apparent that Jocelyna and her staff have chosen the top practitioners in their field. During my consultation with Naturopath Ilona Dowgiallo, this brilliant diagnostician identified the cause of a longtime digestive issue and set me on a path of healing with a regimen I practice at home. Ilona is also trained in Chinese medicine and holds a doctorate in physics. She was devoted to the fight against cancer through nuclear medicine and radiobiology until she changed her focus to how nutrition impacts our health. My session with her was literally life changing.
The extensive menu of treatments range from Lomi-atsu, a combination of the Hawaiian Lomi Lomi and Shiatsu where the practitioner knew more about me than my best friend – just by touching my body, reflexology, volcanic stone to Neo-Reichian using psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich’s principles of psycho corporal therapy – how psychological conflicts affect the body so muscular tension and deep seated emotions can be released, and more.
Additionally guests can see osteopaths, fitness, weight loss and stress management professionals, practice yoga, join exercise classes, take guided anti stress walks, swim or simply take the time to relax and commune with nature. There’s plenty of first rate pampering as well such as their signature Inspirata massage with nature infused oils, Between Heaven and Earth massage, Kobido Japanese facial and Lemongrass Mimosa body scrub.
Accommodations done in country chic décor include cozy rustic wood framed cottages as well as rooms in the main lodge which also houses the restaurant, lounge areas, treatment rooms, indoor heated pool and thermotherapy zone that includes Finnish and infrared sauna, Kneipp circuit for the arms and legs, polar baths and an igloo shower. My stylish room in the main building with fireplace, whirlpool bath, scenic balcony and supremely comfortable bed made an idyllic haven. During the day guests lounge about in spa bathrobes and slippers, change for dinner, then don bathing suits for hot soaks in the outdoor tubs under the starry night sky.
Whether you come for a tune up, to rejuvenate, detox, a total health immersion, romantic hideaway, girlfriend getaway or maybe for some much deserved quiet time reconnecting with yourself – this serene healing oasis may just change your life.