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Ontario Backroads


The Inn at Ste. Anne's
Canada's oasis of serenity


Pamela Campbell-Azeez is a Toronto travel writer. She recently learned the pleasures of a Moor mud bath.

If you've ever thought of going to a spa and surrendering your body and imagination to the magical touch of trained professionals, wonder no more. Ste. Anne's Country Inn & Spa in Grafton, an hour from Toronto, beckons weary bodies and minds.

My recent overnight visit to Ste. Anne's was where I sought to be pampered, and pampered I was! Rather than drive I took VIA Rail's short scenic route to Cobourg. Met at the station and driven through picture postcard country, my stress reduction had begun even before I reached my destination.

Ste. Anne's turrets and archways loom like a castle...
Beyond the walled courtyard, Ste. Anne's turrets and archways loom like a castle. Innkeeper Jim Corcoran has restored the buildings to their signature elegance, a nostalgic reminder of the first owner, Samuel Massey, of farm equipment fame. Spring water still flows from the original well and there is a deer and elk farm on the property.

Guests at the spa can luxuriate both indoors and out. The Inn has 12 rooms with antique furnishings, each offering a lovely panoramic view of the 560-acre grounds. There are three tennis courts, an Olympic-size swimming pool and peaceful walking trails. Full spa services range from massage to aromatheraphy, reflexology, aesthetics, hydrotherapy and body wraps. A fan of yoga, will definitely benefit from the spa's fitness and wellness center.

My room was originally a wedding chapel (circa 1941)...
The huge 700 sq. ft. East Suite was assigned as my bedroom. What fun! This room was originally designed as a wedding chapel in 1941. I chuckled at the sight of the four-poster wooden bed, perched so high I needed to climb up two steps to get under the covers. And who says everything has to be old? A jacuzzi tub sat next to the antique washstand--teasing my knotted muscles. I only had to get in and turn on its soothing jets.

The Ste. Anne's staff is so efficient! Within an hour of my arrival, I joined the robed and slippered set to await the treatments I hoped would de-stress me, strengthen my spirit and cleanse my body.

From Moor mud baths to sea salt glow...
I approached the Moor mud bath with slight trepidation. After a hot tub and shower I gingerly stepped into the mystifying bath. Surprise! Surprise! My senses were lulled silly. I was submerged in a sea of velvety, chocolate-like mixture and my body was buoyed by the mud that grew warmer as I moved my arms and legs. Cold towels relieved my sweating forehead as I succumbed to total relaxation. Too soon, it was over and I was pointed in the direction of my next treat.

To begin the sea salt glow, high pressure jet streams massaged my legs and spine; then I climbed onto a table to be rubbed with sea salt, loofahed and rinsed to perfection. But wait, there was more. I was treated to a soothing waterfall shower pulsating onto my neck and down my spine. Finally, a rubdown with essential oils and hydrating lotion took me straight to SPAAH heaven. I definitely want to do that again!

Dinner was baked salmon with brie wrapped in phyllo pastry...
Gourmet meals at the spa are prepared by chef Aram Saillian. I thoroughly enjoyed his rendition of baked salmon with spinach and brie wrapped in phyllo pastry. My side salad was topped with such a refreshingly tart cranberry vinaigrette dressing, I just had to have the recipe.

At dinner I had the opportunity to meet guests who came from as far away as Vancouver, some as close as Kingston, but all there to unwind and enjoy the splendor of the spa. Roz and Rob spent their honeymoon at Ste. Anne's last year and had returned for this, their first anniversary. They said they enjoyed it so much it would likely become their annual getaway.

The next morning I was up at 7:30 am for a session at the fitness center--guided imagery and meditation, followed by light body awareness. I can still hear myself repeating the words, "I am up before the day is full of moments and I make them all count..."

Breakfast was fruit with freshly squeezed orange juice and a cranberry muffin, then I left for my farewell treatments.

Reflexology doesn't tickle...
I indulged in a fantastic pedicure, always a personal favorite, and happily it lasted longer than any I've ever had. Next was reflexology, and since it was new to me I wondered about feeling ticklish (it wasn't). My technician explained that every point in my foot corresponded with another part of my body. By applying pressure the energy flows through the body improving circulation. I relaxed so completely I fell asleep while the other foot was stretched, pressured and prodded!

Ste. Anne's is indeed a treasure of pleasures. It's a jewel that I was delighted to discover. To enjoy it first-hand, visit their website at Call 1-888-3-INN-SPA or e-mail

  • 1/2 cup frozen cranberries
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Cook frozen cranberries, sugar and water for ten minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Place sauce in a medium size bowl and whisk in vinegar and oil. Serves 8-10





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