My friend Helen arranged to surprise our friend Jeannie with a day at the spa as a belated birthday present.
This wasn’t just any spa, as I found out. Nuh-uh. We’re talking about the Haldimand Hills Spa Village, a.k.a. Ste. Anne’s. Also known as, What I Hope Heaven Is Like When I Die.
The day started early. Three of us — Helen, our other friend Veronica, and myself — met at Jeannie and her boyfriend’s condo to pick her up. At this point, she was still under the impression we were going to Sandbanks Provincial Park (which is what Helen told her).
We thought she may have gotten suspicious, but she had absolutely no clue whatsoever. Not when we turned onto the gravel road and we passed the “Welcome to Ste. Anne’s Spa” sign. Not even when we parked and walked up through the beautifully landscaped courtyard into the main reception area.
When our orientation guide sat us down to explain how things worked, she said with a dazed look on her face, “Um … so you mean there’s no beach?” Completely priceless.
Before Saturday, I’d never ever been to a spa in my entire life. If you caught me on the right day, I’d probably even wrinkle my nose and call the whole thing a frou-frou waste of money.
Now you’re preaching to the converted. Yes, it’s still an extreme luxury, but even if I never go to a spa ever again, it was worth every penny (and all the Aveda products that I’ll never get access to again).
It was ridiculous. We all got these robes to lounge around in all day, and a towel. While Veronica was whisked away for a Thai massage, the three of us remaining started off in a hot tub, then a lap pool (you can generate little waves with the slap of a button). Then we moved into an insanely intense steam room, which blasted eucalyptus into the room, like, every two minutes.
I had a yoga class with, may I say, a HOT instructor. (Jeannie said later that she and Helen had the same instructor for an afternoon class, and he touched her foot as part of a demonstration of one of the poses they practiced. Well, dang.) Even though I only cantaloupe bits for breakfast on the drive up, I luckily I didn’t poot and make an ass of myself, so I was happy for that much.
This was followed by a five-minute neck-and-shoulder massage, my first one ever. SO good, I had to make sure I didn’t drool onto the face rest.
We then regrouped for lunchtime, which was great. I got a small homemade pizza. But not just any pizza. It had an almond-flour crust, and even though I apparently could only choose from getting smoked salmon or chicken on it, I managed to get a half-and-half.
The afternoon was the highlight of my day. I got my first ever full-body Swedish massage. Oh. My. God. It was heavenly. AND they have these outdoor gazebos (which are actually like enclosed huts), so imagine getting a massage and hearing nothing but the breeze blowing through the trees … it was perfect.
We met again for afternoon tea, which we enjoyed under a patio umbrella in the sun. I tried not to stuff myself silly so soon after having lunch, but it was a challenge.
Then Veronica and I hightailed it back into the building for our 45-minute facials. Like a massage, but from the shoulders up. I think also actually put cucumber slices over your eyes. I’ve always thought this was something they made up for TV shows or movies.
The four of us met up again, and spend part of our remaining time there in a huge hammock under one of the open gazebos. Pure perfection, I say.
There were two things I couldn’t help noticing:
1) For whatever reason, I was peeing like a racehorse. Usually I pride myself on holding my bladder like a camel stores water. But that day, I felt like I had THE smallest bladder on the property. And I wasn’t the only one complaining about having to use the facilities for the umpteeth time, either. My theory is that there was something in the water. I have nothing to substantiate that, but I haven’t been like that since.
2) I’m pretty sure I saw former Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson there. I’m known to be wrong, but I saw this tiny, older Chinese woman in a bathing suit earlier in the day, and while trying not to stare at her to make sure, I had that moment of face-recognition in my mind. You know the one – when you look at someone and if you recognize them, you have a name instantly flash in your mind.
I was thinking, “Nah”, until a little while later, I heard her say something to someone else, and I noticed her voice was definitely a deep alto. And later, when I was chilling with Veronica on one of the long chairs on the lawn, I noticed the same lady about four chairs down, under a huge tree, reading a book. She was kinda turned away from us, but I was pretty sure it was her. Given how expensive the place is — and people book whole weekends there! — it would definitely be the type of place she’d go to.
Beyond all that, I’m so glad I went. Maybe it’ll help me deal with returning to reality. With a thud.