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Ste. Annes Spa

Ste. Anne's Spa: A Dirty Weekend in Ontario
by Heidi Staseson

Mud, glorious mud. Lying in a deep tub, submerged in ooey goodness from head to foot, I try to splash about but I can't. No part of me is touching the bottom -- I'm definitely floating -- yet simultaneously I'm as heavy as can be; I can't flit and flutter. But I can lift one hand out from the mucky muck and gaze at the brown goop oozing gently between my fingertips, all the while basking in the warmth that envelops my entire being.

Ste. Anne's- SummerThat's what spa'ing over a weekend at Ste. Anne's is all about: becoming submerged in nurturance and warmth. The Golden Moor Mud Bath is just one magnificent part of the whole journey -- albeit my favorite -- and, just as many spa guests travel far and wide to experience Ste. Anne's talked-about treatments, the mud itself has covered a lot of rich ground.

Its earthy properties span the country: the mud is brought in from Casselman, Ontario, and the clay from Saskatchewan. The blend is so rich in minerals that Katie, the professional who bathed me, so to speak, describes it as "the most detoxifying treatment that we offer here. It's great for people with arthritis or any joint pain."

Mud Treatment"When you get in the tub, it's the hottest on the bottom. There are heated coils underneath the tub and water [flowing] out the sides which is 120 degrees. So you can't actually stand in the tub; rather, you're suspended in it," she explains.

Indeed, this is more fun than being a kid in the rubber ball room at Ikea -- and probably more hygienic too. This is the cleanest mud I've ever bathed in. The intense heat emanating from the water jetting through is so hot it "kills any bacteria that may be at the bottom or on the sides." And Katie says that in between client treatments, staff pour water of 180 degrees on top of the mud that, when it seeps through the mud, virtually zaps away anything nasty on the top. She adds that the mud is also replenished nightly. "It comes in big barrels and we fill it every day, so it's constantly being changed."

Spa TechWhen I'm done my 12-minute mudfest (if you're in there any longer your body will overheat), I rinse off as fast as I can in the shower nearby, forgetting my tape recorder is on the ledge beside me and has now had its own treatment -- but I'm too relaxed to care.

Now it's time for the hydra massage in the room next door. I lie on a table, flat out with my front facing down and my backside directly under an amazing Vichy shower. As the warm water gently rains over my torso, Katie applies a grape seed massage oil and works her magic on my skin for another 10 minutes. I'm getting misty-eyed over the sheer memory.

Ste. Anne's Water FountainBut if mud isn't your cuppa tea (and there is plenty of that too -- the most delectable blends brewing every afternoon in the dining room), then you will have a plethora of treatment picks to make your visit worthwhile. Hint: Try the Caribbean Therapy to see what wonders amaris, lime and ylang-ylang do for the skin.

Ste. Anne's is located in Grafton, Ontario, near Cobourg, and spans 600 acres of rich countryside and rolling hills. No matter the season, it is a getaway to pure paradise.

StatueAlthough the architecture may be all castle-like, with courtyards, turrets and winding hallways bejeweled with ancient family portraits, the spirit of this place is far from pretentious. What other mansion would allow you to don nothing but a robe and spa hair at dinner?

In fact, Ste. Anne's owner Jim Corcoran encourages all manner of slothfulness. "To me, that's all part of the full relaxation that comes from a destination spa experience -- being able to forget about having to dress for dinner and forget about having to put makeup on," he says.

"It's part of our being a respite to women, to say 'Hey, once you cross that line into the courtyard, don't worry about how you look!' And our guests take full advantage of that."

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