By Joel Dembe
Prior to attending a series of wheelchair tennis tournaments in South America, my girlfriend Kathryn and I had the opportunity to check out Grafton’s Ste. Anne’s Spa for a weekend of relaxation at one of Canada’s best spas for a weekend getaway.
The idea of a spa weekend did not fully excite me when I was first approached by our editor. Facials, body cleansing, stone treatments, and seaweed body wraps seemed quite foreign to me! However, Kathryn, always more game than me to try new things, convinced me of the benefits of spending a quiet, healthful weekend together before my busy tennis season kicked off. Turns out, dare I say, as usual, she was right.
Located about 90 minutes east of Toronto in the small village of Grafton, Ste. Anne’s Spa is a 360° holistic getaway. The moment we entered we were embraced by the warm and friendly staff. They treated us like family offering help at every turn. The room we stayed in during our weekend stay was large, with a nice view of the rolling landscape surrounding the area. Plus there was a lovely fireplace and a sizeable jacuzzi bath-tub.
Easily my favourite part of Ste. Anne’s Spa, aside from the fact that there was a tennis court, was the food. Now, I’m a bit of a foodie and enjoy trying out different foods but the options available were completely unexpected. As someone who enjoys eating healthily, I indulged: there were dairy/gluten/nut free menu options plus even more amazing vegetarian dishes. The selection was simply top-tier.
I would highly recommend selecting the daily specials, since the chef always selects in-season produce. As for the regular menu items, I would go with the ground almond pancakes for breakfast, open-patty quinoa burger for lunch, and the pan-seared trout for dinner. With so many delicious options, you really cannot go wrong either way.
As for spa treatments, I decided to go with the athlete’s massage (surprise, surprise) on the first day, and the men’s express facial on the other. Both treatments were great. I had been highly skeptical that I would actually enjoy a facial, but after 15 minutes I couldn’t believe what I had been missing all these years on the power of skin exfoliation!
Besides spa treatments, we were invited to attend wellness classes, with activities ranging from yoga to meditation time. Kathryn also enjoyed a walk to the stables to see the horses, while I enjoyed a nice nap!
In terms of accessibility, there are a few barriers to take note of. While Ste. Anne’s will be undergoing changes in the next few years to ensure it will be fully wheelchair accessible, at this point there are a few parts of the spa that may be difficult depending on your ability level. The men’s and women’s change rooms have a few small steps up to enter so I suggest that you change into your spa robe in your room. (Note: robes are fine in the dining room for breakfast, lunch and dinner. A nice touch that creates an even more relaxed atmosphere.) You will also need to ask for assistance to get to the outdoor grotto area (but be sure that you do – because it’s really amazing!) Other than those concerns, the spa is a perfect getaway for anyone in a wheelchair with different levels of ability.
Overall, both Kathryn and I had a most memorable time and vowed we would both come back. Be sure to turn off your cell phone, laptop, and leave your stress at the door. You won’t regret the drive to Ste. Anne’s. Via Rail from Union is also an option with chauffeur service from the Cobourg train station.
Joel Dembe is a Canadian National Wheelchair Champion, Paralympian, and a Canadian Abilities Foundation Board Member.