Insider's Guide to Spas
A wintry soak at Spa Eastman

Destination Spas

Spa Eastman

Bernard Burt

Shimmering moonlight interrupted my sleep, illuminating an enchanted Canadian winter landscape at Spa Eastman. Etched in ice, pine trees surround the frozen pond, extend to snow-covered Mont Orford. Snooze on.

Located near Montreal, Quebec’s charm capital, Spa Eastman has pioneered healthy living for 40 years. Founded and still managed by Jocelyna Dubuc, it is one of the best and most affordable destination spas in North America.

Set on 326 acres, the resort is close to ski slopes of the Eastern Townships, as well as villages for antiquing and a monastery where vespers will inspire you. Since my first visit in 1968, this rustic retreat has become a full-service spa and wellness center.

Now they offer the Neurospa for deeply relaxing sleep. The answer to an insomniac’s dreams, a half-hour in this pod calms the senses ($45). Slip into its subtle vibrations synchronized with music, and forget winter.

Snow piled outside, cozy fireplaces inside, plus hearty meals and conversation in French or English over wine or tea tisane, add to Spa Eastman comfort. The Nordic Baths brought a new dimension to winter escapes: co-ed saunas, indoor swimming pool, and outdoor hot soaks.

Spa Eastman’s no-nonsense, down-home comfort can be enhanced by spa treatments, nail and hair care, and hydrotherapy.

Find balance in your life by talking to a naturopath. Dr. Ilona Dowgiallo leads a credentialed team who analyze sleep patterns and natural rhythms. For a five-day stay, they prescribe Bach flower essences, exercise, and rest.

Snoozing under a pristine white duvet, I slept like a log. Stay in the main pavilion, a three-story wooden lodge where the all-inclusive rate for a superior room with fireplace and whirlpool bath is $350 single, or a “Romantic” room at $497 per couple. Friends can enjoy a four-room cottage called Bois Corde´ that has a sauna and community room, $212 to $246 per person. (Rate includes tax, meal, gratuity. Prices shown in $US approximate Canadian exchange rate.)

The 44 rooms range from modest to luxury; several pavilions are a short walk from the main building and pond, and some of the older units need to be updated. Smoking is prohibited in the main pavilion, ignored elsewhere.

The bountiful buffet at Spa Eastman offers a selection of food that can be enjoyed, whether you are gluten-sensitive, vegan, or simply want to lose weight. On the lunch and dinner menu are fish, chicken, lamb, and rabbit. And most of all, a wide selection of vegetables, eaten raw. Six different olive oils, plus organic honey and seeds like chia, are on display.

Gluten-free, the buffet offers great variety. Once the staff gets acquainted with your dietary requirements, sampling daily specials is encouraged. Dinner is served from a menu; organic wine and coffee are extra.

The Diet Tonique created by Jacqueline Lagace, an immunologist at the University of Montreal, helps regulate homeostasis—the functional balance of the body. Arthritis/arthrosis, Type 2 diabetes, and inflammation of the small intestines are commonly caused by eating food made with gluten. Dairy products also are implicated.

Organic gardens surround the spa’s main building. Every morning I watched chef Jean-Marc Enderlin, a Belgian trained nutritherapist, at work in the garden, selecting vegetables and berries for the day’s menu.

Local farmers deliver organic eggs for breakfast. Gluten-free bread is baked daily, and soups are based on a puree of seasonal vegetables. Kefir (a yogurt substitute) is made in house, free from additives and dairy products. Notably absent: milk (one exception is 2% milk for coffee). Spring water from wells on the property is used for drinking and cooking as well as bathing.

Spa Eastman’s no-nonsense, down-home comfort can be enhanced by spa treatments, nail and hair care, and hydrotherapy. Float away stress with an in-water massage called Watsu, choreographed by your therapist in a special pool.

Located in the Eastern Townships, less than a two-hour drive from Montreal, Spa Eastman is across the border from Vermont, on the old stagecoach route, Chemin des Diligences. Air Canada has flights to Montreal from major Northeastern cities; Porter Airline offers connecting service.  Customs clearance at Montreal Trudeau airport; passport required.

Bernard Burt

Bernard Burt

Health challenges led spa historian Bernard Burt to Canyon Ranch in Arizona, inspiring his 1986 book "Fodor's Healthy Escapes" for Random House. The co-author of "100 Best Spas of the World" (Globe Pequot), his byline has appeared in National Geographic Traveler, American Health, Spa Management Journal, and on Based in Washington, DC, Burt is chairman emeritus of the Washington Spa Alliance and founding director of the International Spa Association.