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Spa Life in the Laurentians
Spa Life in the Laurentians - Quebec, Canada
by Anne Dimon

The Laurentians region of Quebec becomes a wellness mecca,
luring spa goers from far to it's rolling hills and mountains

If the province of Quebec decides to designate just one region as a "wellness" destination then certainly The Laurentians would a healthy contender. Dotted with clear lakes and networked with spring fed rivers and streams, the mountainous area is a gold mine of spa facilities neatly tucked into verdant hills. The "wellness" label can, in fact, be traced back to much earlier days when the Quebec government looked at the mountainous region as one of the healthiest in the province and decided that it would be the ideal setting for its first national park - Parc du Mont-Tremblant, the largest provincial protected area.

On the shores on Lake Mont-Tremblant sits one of the area's oldest and largest lakefront properties, Hotel Club Tremblant. Its spa, aptly called Spa-Sur-La-Lac (Spa on the Lake), is where I began this spa-hopping holiday.

Hotel Club Tremblant

Perched on a hillside overlooking the lake, the mountains etched with ski trails and the postcard-pretty town of Mont-Tremblant, the intimate spa offers a full menu of services. From its wide expanse of veranda, spa goers come to soak in the view and the serenity. "The main attraction is the view," says Patrick Dault Marketing manager, "summer and winter." Dault adds that from October to April deer can often be seen grazing the lawns and, in winter, the hills are alive with skiers.

Waiting for services, spa guests help themselves to juice and herbal teas, fresh fruit and delicious banana bread. Treatment rooms - nine in total - have names like Chamomile, Ginseng and Lotus. The Apricot room is booked for my Spa-Sur-La-Lac Body Polish. The 90-minute treatment ($105) begins with a body exfoliation with salt from the Dead Sea, washed off with a Vichy Shower. I soon realized why the Vichy Shower - an overhead bar with a series of shower jets - has never been one of my favorite treatments. Water temperatures can be somewhat temperamental. My therapist Marie-Pierre makes every effort to keep the water at a comfortable temperature but the system is just not cooperating. Then again maybe it's just me. To make up for the capricious nature of today's Vichy Shower, she offers me a hydro-therapy bath. It does the calming trick. The treatment ends with the application of a soothing body lotion.

The rambling 100-year-old, Swiss-style chalet with its one, two and three bedroom self-contained condos has become very popular over the last few years for girl getaways combining spa and outdoor recreation.

Dault says that along with great skiing, the year-round resort area also offers sailing, canoeing, golfing and guided hikes personalized to one's level of fitness. Club Tremblant also has its own ski school.

Stonehaven Country Inn and Spa

In the nearby town of Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, the year-old Stonehaven Country Inn and Spa is a haven with a history. The 400-acre lakefront estate was once the home of a Catholic congregation and prior to that a sanitarium for patients recuperating from respiratory illnesses. The glassed-in rooftop lounge, once used by convalescents, is now the spa's serene relaxation area where draped gauze curtains add a whisper of privacy, and an outdoor deck overlooks a collection of salt and spring water pools, whirlpools and a Finnish sauna. Steps away there's a natural spring pond for ice cold dips, and a unique hammam (steam bath) built into a hillside topped with a blanket of ferns and wild grasses.

Guests come here not only for the spa and thermal baths, but for the food. Along with a wide selection of French inspired dishes, Chef Marc Vinet gives a nod to wellness with organic and light selections. Innovative combinations of foods and flavors are artfully presented and way-too-tasty for anyone counting calories.

Many of Stonehaven's spa treatments are also enhanced with wellness extras. In the 90-minute Revitalizing Facial ($155), for instance, my therapist Patricia applies an active mud along the length of the vertebrae to detoxify and re-mineralize the body, while she goes about applying Anne Sémonin products from France to exfoliate, rehydrate and moisturize the face. All in all, the new owners of Stonehaven have done its history proud by recreating a true wellness retreat.

Ofuro Spa

One of the most unique spas in the area is the Ofuro Spa. Focusing on the art of the Japanese bath (the Japanese word Ofuro means "bath" or "the meeting of the waters") visitors to this day spa can go back and forth between hot and cold water treatments - from steam rooms to whirlpools and a refreshing mountain river - all day long for just $35 per person. A collection of pagodas grouped on this rocky mountain setting house rooms set up for a variety of massages, body treatments and esthetics. It's the perfect solution is you're staying at a nearby hotel or inn without a spa facility.

Three-days of spa-hopping offers only a glimpse of the world of wellness tucked into folds of The Laurentians. I'm thinking a visit could very well become an annual tonic.

Anne Dimon is a travel and spa journalist and founder/editor of www.traveltowellness.com

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