Well, my trip to Canada is coming to a close. Flying back to New York this morning.
Got so busy with the Leading Spas of Canada Conference that I wasn’t able to carve out blogging time. I wanted to share a few more things about our trip, including our stay at Ste. Anne’s Spa, which will be memorable for me for the setting and the warm hospitality. There is something about coming from New York City to a place where people are sweet, kind, who love helping you and can’t do enough for you and where no one – absolutely no one – has “an attitude”.
I signed up for a chocolate massage – something I had avoided doing in the past because I envisioned chocolate being slathered on my body and a temptation to “lick the spoon,” so to speak. Happily, I found out it wasn’t going to be a big mess because it was simply the massage oil having a chocolate essence. And then, to my delight, a chocolate truffle was given to me at the end of the session. Ryan, my therapist, was the first therapist ever to point out the cording in my right hand, and he suggested that I do regular stretches to avoid problems later on. You have to go through a much more extensive training program in order to become a massage therapist in Canada. It showed.
Ste. Anne’s Spa has a large and loyal clientele and they really make an effort to stay connected to their guests, which helps explain why they won the Favorite Spa in Canada in our Readers’ Choice Awards last year. Owner Jim Corcoran, and his partner David, are also a big part of the Ste. Anne’s spa experience, mixing hospitality with fun. There were lots of people (and I saw lots of couples) happily pattering around in white robes. Always a good sign.
After a scrumptious breakfast on the sun drenched dining porch of the Hillcrest mansion (with a view of Lake Ontario from every window) we headed to our next spa – Elemental Embrace. Stacey gave me some background about the property explaining to me that they are very much into ayruveda and that we would be meeting with Muquit who owns the establishment with his mom.
To my surprise we pull up to a very attractive property, enter the front door and are greeted by the handsome son who made us feel very welcome. After a tour of the property and some introductory conversation Muquit had arranged for each of us to experience one of their special treatments. I was down for the Ayurvedic treatment where two therapists do a synchronized oil massage. But Muquit had taken the time to explain to us the history of the treatment, the value of it, and in particular about the oil they use. It was the first time I understood that it isn’t just about the oil, it is about the herbs in the oil and the heating of the herbs which release the medicine in them which can penetrate your body. This was not your resort-style Ayurvedic treatment. The smell was different, the table used was an authentic wooden table from India, the steam cabinet in which I sat post treatment was from India, etc. This Ayurvedic treatment felt more authentic than anything ayruvedic I have experienced anywhere in the world. (And no, I haven’t been to India.)
It really made me realize how important it is to visit a spa to really understand its heartbeat. You can read about it in brochures or on the website, but there is nothing like experiencing a treatment, eating a meal and hearing about the vision of the property from the owner.
Lunch was unusual and unusually good. First, ginger and lime to get the digestive fluids flowing. Next dessert. Yes, dessert is served before the rest of the meal on the theory that it is better to get these food into the digestive process at the beginning of a meal. Next was a wonderful large shrimp cocktail, that was followed by a beautifully presented soup and finally a stuffed trout. The finale was one sweet date and some fennel and sesame seeds – all eaten together.
Adding to this rather surprising and extraordinary experience was the fact that Muquit was so interesting. A young guy, working with his mom in the family business, having been born in Kenya, he relates strongly with his Indian heritage and is a true believer in Ayurveda.
He’s quite impressive – as is the property. Such a specific niche…but for people who are really into Ayurveda I can’t think of a better place.