Story by Chris Ryall
GRAFTON, ONTARIO — Stress can be insidious. It has made an uncomfortable home in my skin and bones. Replacing my body wasn’t an option so I chose the next best solution — visiting a spa. Not just any spa, but the award-winning Ste. Anne’s Spa located in Grafton, a drive of less than 90 minutes east of Toronto.
Ste. Anne’s embraces the country harvest that surrounds it. Cattle and sheep graze nearby, there are numerous gardens scattered about the 500 acres that Ste. Anne’s owns. Some gardens are used for tranquility and beauty while others contain fresh herbs, vegetables and fruits that will adorn the dinnerware at its restaurant.
Since my last visit over four years ago, Ste. Anne’s continues to expand, renovate and offer more services to both day and overnight guests. Along scenic country roads less than a kilometre away from the main inn, cottages have sprung up. Some are ideal for small corporate groups while other cottages are perfect for couples, girlfriend or guy getaways or family reunions. Ste. Anne’s offers 28 rooms in total – all spread out in a variety of cottages, the main inn and a new wing off the main inn (or the Castle as they call it). The rooms in the inn and cottages feature an eclectic mix of architectural styles and furnishings from Victorian, country living or contemporary.
Spa Sprawl in Ontario
You may have heard of urban sprawl but Jim Corcoran, owner of Ste. Anne’s, seems to be creating spa sprawl with all the additions. A bakery near the main inn recently opened and will give you a sweet taste of what’s to come. You can also get down and dirty and try your cowboy skills at the equestrian centre, where a number of different programs are offered.
All guests, whether they stay overnight or just visit during the day, are given a warm and unpretentious welcome by knowledgeable reception staff. They will answer any questions and make you feel at home whether it’s your first visit or your 10th. You can be as active as you want or just chill in the hot tubs, saunas, steam rooms or relaxation lounges.
Festive Body Treatments at Ste. Anne’s
Decisions, decisions. The spa features more than 40 treatments, some of which can include everything from a variety of massages, wraps, scrubs, facials and reflexology. What’s a spa addict to do? Well, since I couldn’t choose just one I chose three — a seasonal treatment, a foot treatment and an aesthetic treatment.
First up was Ste. Anne’s Festive Flare Stone Wrap (90 minutes, $190), a seasonal treatment for December and January. An ideal treatment to eliminate toxins. Shawna was my festive and skilled therapist for this treatment. I was hoping for a rendition of “Jingle Bell Rock” but it was not to be. Singing aside, she demonstrated her real talent in applying the rocks just right, a light massage and wrapping me up. Word of warning — don’t stifle a cough. I tried and when I had to cough the rocks went flying off my face.
Many people ignore their feet yet they take such a pounding. So it was tootsie time and I was ready for my Extremity Reflexology (60 minutes, $120) treatment. Alisha was responsible for nursing those toes back to good health. After a quick relaxing foot soak I laid down on the table face up while she manipulated my feet and toes. Immediately she sensed I had congestion in my right lung and a foot cramp.
Feet — check. Body — check. Now it was time to get this stress-induced and worn-looking face appearing spanking new. Next treatment: the Signature Facial (60 minutes, $125). Brad Pitt or Matthew McConaughey I am not. This facial, though therapeutic, won’t transform me into a Hollywood sex symbol. But if I receive an admiring look from the Walmart cashier after this session, I’ll take it!
Ashley asked me about my skin type and then customized the facial. A steady flow of mineral masks, serum, hydrating lotions and masks, cleansing cream, toner, gommage and day cream were applied to my face. Cleansed, hydrated and toned I was a new man — or at least a new face.
Getting Into a Yoga Escape
My body doesn’t move like it used to — being middle aged does that to you. I was no match for Jackie the yoga instructor. I signed up for the Gentle Yoga class. I made sure Jackie knew what gentle meant. After the first position Jackie knew she was dealing with a complete novice with limited flexibility. She patiently observed my feeble attempts. My body didn’t feel like it was gentle but at least in her soft, sympathetic voice she made it sound that way. Jackie also ran the meditation class. Now this I could handle. I even snored a bit and probably disrupted the meditative thoughts of others in the class.
Leave your duds at home. For all the meals at Ste. Anne’s your attire is your robe and slippers. This is the kind of dining wear I like. The eclectic menu offers healthy choices but doesn’t go anywhere near detox on you. Meat lovers and vegetarians will be satisfied. Ste. Anne’s is unique in another way. You can bring your own alcohol as they don’t have a liquor licence. Bring your favourite bottle of wine — the server will open the bottle but you pour it. There are no corkage fees.
With a retail store in the main inn, guests can purchase Ste. Anne’s chemical-free, locally produced line of skin-care products. You can even take home the spa’s tasty honey that is produced on property.
For an all-encompassing spa experience Ste. Anne’s delivers the goods. It offers a serene countryside setting, relaxed atmosphere, healthy menu, comprehensive spa menu and extensive programming. The ideal tonic to re-energize and revitalize.
MORE ABOUT ST. ANNE’S SPA
Location: 1009 Massey Road, Grafton, ON (see map below)
Nightly Rates: Guests can book an overnight stay that ranges from $299-$515 per person. The all-inclusive package includes a four-course dinner, breakfast, three-course lunch, afternoon tea, and $120 to use towad the spa or wellness program. Other rates and packages are available for singles, couples and corporate and leisure groups.. Visit the website for details.