Living Well in la belle Provence
Lounging under the stars in the percolating effervescence of a huge, heated thermal pool, we are protected from the elements by walls of natural rocks and boulders at Spa Eastman. There is wind and frost in the air, and a few hardy snowflakes blow about in the rising steam. At the crest of the embankment, a massive bonfire warms us and sends woodsy fragrance our way. Magnificent. If only for this, it was worth the drive on the long and winding road that brought us here from Montreal.
The next morning at breakfast, I have an exciting revelation. It comes in the simple form of poached eggs with spinach and brioche-style kamut bread, softly cloaked in luscious hollandaise sauce. The surprise is in the purity of organic eggs and homegrown spinach, gluten-free bread and dairy-free hollandaise. The taste? Fantastic. I can hardly wait for tomorrow morning to have the same, or maybe a buckwheat crepe with fruit, molasses and cream of soy with almonds
Inspired, I am ready for a short hike on a woodsy trail, to breathe deeply and clear the lungs of city sludge. I can fill the hours between the highly anticipated meals with the assistance of kinesiologists who evaluate and recommend Pilates classes, cardio-boxing, zumba, essentric workouts, or simply exploring the thermotherapy techniques of contrasting hot and cold baths and the infrared sauna for which Spa Eastman is renowned.
Lunch is a splendid buffet of vegetables, fruits, sprouts and shakes made of delectable—and sometimes surprising—ingredients. An array of oils, dressings, condiments and good-for-you herbs sparkle in their glass bottles. It is not until after dinner when I have the opportunity to speak to the kitchen alchemists. Their signature dinner entrée, duck magret with Sichuan pepper, parsnip purée, confit of shallots, and a salad of sunchoke, brussels sprout and hazelnut is a triumph. There is not a nefarious ingredient on the plate. Striped bass comes partnered with cauliflower and hemp couscous, and two purées—beet and creamy orange peel—and to drizzle to your liking, raw fennel oil. Plus, there is a vegetarian menu that could set a vegan’s heart aflutter.
Award-winning chef Kevin Belisle specialized in organic vegetarian-based meals at a Michelin-starred restaurant in France before he began collaborating with French-trained chef and nutritherapist, Jean-marc Enderlin. Their goal: to establish guidelines ensuring that the kitchen offers meals that are hypotoxic—in other words, dishes that have no short or long-term side effects such as heartburn and fatigue. “Our distinctive menus offering meals that are healthful, as well as delicious, is what makes me truly proud,” says Belisle. And we are the lucky beneficiaries of their craft.
Jocelyna Dubuc, proud owner of Spa Eastman, sips her favourite green smoothie and tells me that in 1977, she held her first retreat on this farm near Montreal, which later became the spa. Her pioneering vision drafted a place where life could be enjoyed naturally and mindfully. Today, almost two decades later, the concept of wellness, detox, exercise and nutrition are all parts of mainstream society. Come here with your allergies, rheumatic aches and pains, inflammations, diabetic symptoms and cortisol deficiencies. You might miss them, since you may well go home without them. Wellness happens naturally here.