Quebec’s Nordic spas still offer a taste of winter
Winter has fled from much of Canada, but in the colder regions of Quebec, you still have time to celebrate its last, wonderful moments at the hidden gem hotels and Nordic spas in the beautiful stretch of countryside that lies between Quebec City and Montreal.
There, tucked into some of the most pristine backcountry in Canada, are lodges, inns and spas that are designed to help you savour those last icy days of the season.
At La Source bains nordiques in Rawdon, guests can spend an entire day soothing their minds and spirits by moving between fragrant, hot saunas, steam rooms and bubbling hot tubs and into pools of glacially frigid water or banks of crisp white snow.
Is it a shock to the system to make that temperature transition? Oh yes it is, but unless you suffer from high blood pressure or other heart-related health issues, it’s a wonderful way to relax that will leave you feeling clean and tingling all over.
Just one caveat – don’t plan to while away the day chatting with your friends as you soak in the hot tubs. As is the case at most Nordic spas in Quebec, silence is not only golden – it’s required. Conversation should cease the moment you enter the change room. If you chatter, you will be gently reminded to be quiet.
Another great Nordic-style retreat is Spa Natur’Eau in Mandeville, where you can divide your day between the hot and cold baths, steam rooms and saunas and the treatment rooms where talented therapists will treat you to everything from facials to aroma therapy massages. If you can’t unwind there, you’ll never unwind anywhere!
In order to work up an appetite for all the wonderful food on offer and to strain your muscles a wee bit so you can better enjoy your spa treatments, you’ll want to take advantage of the many outdoor activities available. While hiking and cross-country skiing are great ways to work up an appetite and burn off some calories (and most resorts provide the necessary gear and guides) the activity most likely to set your heart racing is dog sledding and there’s no better place to try it than at the Auberge Lac-à-l’Eau-Claire in St-Alexis-des-Monts.
It’s up to you to determine your level of activity. If you like, you can simply be a passenger, wrapped in robes but how much better is it to try your skill as a musher? Your guide will explain the working of the sled -and most importantly, its braking system – then you’ll be in charge of your own team of eager, jumping, bouncing, yelping sled dogs. Hang on tight and keep your feet on the rails as you’ve been instructed (remember, sled dogs eat a diet that’s high in fat and protein to keep them working hard. Their digestive systems are almost as quick as their legs – and yes, they can run and poop at the same time. The Great White North isn’t always completely white!) While you might find the initial moment or two a bit daunting as you realize the power of the pups pulling you, but as long as you keep a firm hand and establish control, you’ll be fine. In no time at all, you’ll be mushing along with the best of them.
Note: All that activity will entitle you to a big feast of the Auberge Lac-à-l’Eau-Claire’s specialty of the house – trout. Prepared in a variety of delicious ways, it’s a delicacy not to be missed.
If dog-sledding sounds a bit beyond your comfort zone, try snow shoeing, great cardiovascular exercise that entirely justifies the wolfing down of large meals afterward. Although there are many places where you can enjoy the sport, one of my favorites is on the beautiful grounds of Manoir du Lac William in St-Ferdinand. You’ll find not only untouched woodlands filled with wandering deer but also trout ponds with cold, sleepy fish awaiting the coming of spring.
Looking for something a bit more romantic? Visit the welcoming Auberge Le Baluchon in Saint-Paulin where you’ll enjoy not only comfortably appointed rooms, but also horse-drawn wagon rides through the resort’s vast property. You’ll snuggle in fur robes as you enjoy the scenery and the best part is that the horses will do the work!
Perhaps my favourite thing about the Quebecois attitude towards health and wellness is that it rarely involves denying yourself anything delicious. While there may well be a huge variety of spa treatments on offer, all designed to increase your overall well-being, as well as enough outdoor activities to keep you fit and feeling your best, you won’t be served a plate of bean sprouts and tofu when mealtime rolls around. Soothing your spirit with excellent fois gras or perhaps an exquisitely prepared venison steak and a great glass of red wine is equally important to your good health! Be sure to visit the Auberge La Montagne Coupée Resort & Country Inn in Saint-Jean-de-Matha. The food is absolutely to die for!
Sometimes, the secret to living well is as simple as finding ways to celebrate rather than complain about our circumstances. Across Canada, winter is simply a fact of life, but in that very special region between Montreal and Quebec, it’s what makes life worth living.
La Source bains nordiques – 450-834-772 or www.lasourcespa.com
Auberge La Montagne Coupée – 450-886-3891 or www.montagnecoupée.com
Spa Natur’Eau – 450-835-4312 or www.spa-natureau.com
Auberge Lac-à-l’Eau-Claire – 819-265-3185 or www.lacaleauclaire.com
Auberge le Baluchon – 819-268-2555 or www.baluchon.com
Manoir du Lac William – 418-428-9188 or www.manoirdulac.com
Looking to book a Quebec holiday? Check out the tripatlas.com/new Trip Builder where you can request a quote local travel agents who are waiting to offer you custom prices on your trip.
Liz Fleming is an award-winning Canadian travel journalist who specializes in adventure, health and wellness and learning travel. For more from Liz, go to: Liz Fleming’s Travel Tales