A Perfect Ontario Getaway: Ste. Anne’s Spa

Established in the 1800’s Ste. Anne’s holds an immense amount of history from being used as farmland, a school, a summer home and a castle.

Today, it is a beautiful inn and spa perfect for a solo retreat, family getaway or romantic couples day or weekend. Located on Grafton, the drive to Ste. Anne’s is beautiful if you go at the right time of year.

In the summer you can enjoy the vast outdoor pool, beautiful walking trails and plunge pools. No matter how many people at the spa, its grounds are so large, you always feel like you’re one of the only people there. On my most recent trip in July I had the pool to myself for the several hours that I was out there and enjoyed a breathtaking view while swimming and tanning poolside enjoying a mimosa. Ste. Anne’s does not provide alcohol but you can bring your own alcohol to enjoy.

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A typical day at Ste. Anne’s goes something like this. Arrive early to enjoy the whole day where you are warmly greeted by reception and given a tour of the facilities. No matter how many times I visit I always take the tour as it’s so large it’s good to get reoriented. We started the day on one of the walking trails and wandered around the grounds taking in the warm sun and fresh air. We made our way back and found a swinging bench that overlooks the landscape, made a mimosa and relaxed.

We had time for a quick dip in the pool before lunch. We ate lunch inside the dining room as we thought it may be a bit too warm to sit out on the patio. We started with the chili which was hearty and delicious. For the main we both had the chicken club sandwich but after the filling chili we could barely eat any. They boxed up our leftovers and saved them for us to pick up at the end of the day. After lunch we went back out to the pool and swam and tanned for a while. Then we made our way up to the plunge pools. We cycled between the plunge pools and the eucalyptus steam room. It was heavenly and relaxing! Before we knew it was time for afternoon tea which consisted of different kinds of sliders, baguettes and pinwheels, crackers and various cheese, fruits and veggies, scones and a variety of sweets. Our favorite was the blue cheese pear tart which is a phyllo tart with caramelized pear, cream, walnut and a sprinkling of blue cheese.

After tea we had our couple’s massage, which was fantastic. Being gluttons and deeply immersed in relaxation, we ended the day in the quiet room which is full of massage chairs where we sat and enjoyed being massaged for an hour, because we hadn’t already been massaged enough! The change rooms are massive and have everything you need from shampoo, soaps, hair dryers and fresh towels. I ended the day with a piping hot shower, blow dried my hair and drove top-down all the way home. Depending what way you drive home, you may pass one of several farms full of sheep. It’s worth pulling over and seeing them, they’re very cute!

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A single day at Ste. Anne’s makes you feel like you were away for a weekend. The staff cater to your every whim, the food is amazing, the scenery is breathtaking and the amenities are unparalleled as far as Ontario spas go. I’ve been in both fall and summer and due to the pool would recommend the summer however, the fall with the changing leaves is also remarkable.

 

 

 

The 3 Best and Worst Locations for Female Solo Travel

There have been many times in my life where the stress of life and long working hours had tired me out to the point where I needed a solo recharge. I didn’t want anyone asking me if I wanted to go eat, or go to a show, I just wanted to be alone to rest and rejuvenate.

Through these experiences of solo travel I’ve found my top and bottom picks for female solo travel. Yes, perhaps some will view this as sexist but I do think, based on my experience that females do have to be a bit smarter about protecting themselves when traveling alone.

Top Rated

1. Chica Brava – an all-girls surf retreat in Nicaragua. Great if you want to challenge yourself to something new, if you want a tranquil environment and if you want to be surrounded by like-minded women in a peaceful atmosphere. The retreat offers yoga, massages and lots of quiet space to read a book, write in a journal or meditate. http://www.chicabrava.com

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2. IMG_0094RIU Palace, Puerto Vallarta. This was the safest I have felt as a solo female traveller. Yes, I was in the confines of a resort but you have to be very careful when selecting what resort to stay at as you’ll read later in my worst solo travel experiences. Why I like this resort is because it’s one connected tower, so you aren’t walking off to a smaller building by yourself late at night. The security guards line the beach and front entrance to the resort at all hours so you will not get any locals wandering off the beach into your hotel. The staff don’t bother you to join in. If they see you relaxing they will offer you a drink and let you be. The spa and gym are fantastic and you can fully rejuvenate while feeling safe here. The food is amazing, every floor of the hotel has an automatic coffee/cappuccino/latte machine on it and every room has a premium bar with wall mounted dispensers. The staff here are wonderful and cater to your every need. The beach feels safe to wander and the guests and staff are great if you ever get lonely.

3. Sayulita, Mexico. Sayulita has this amazing quality in the air that relaxes me instantly when I am there. It offers surf camps, yoga retreats and retreats with no activities, only time to relax. I lived in Puerto Vallarta for several months and Sayulita was always the magical getaway a short bus-ride away that makes you feel like you could live a simple life there forever. If you want a different Mexican experience check out the many retreats available here and select the one best suited to you.

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Avoid

1. Hotel Playa Coco, Cuba. Avoid this place even if there is more than one female. The buildings are spread across the property and there is no lights on the paths to get back to your room. Once it gets dark watch out for guests, locals and staff following you back to your room. There’s no security keeping locals out of the resort. The harassment from staff was atrocious. The bartender in the main lobby stopped serving us drinks for the entire week because we wouldn’t accept his advances. There was no hand soap or toilet paper ever in public areas, so think about what the chefs use? Likely, nothing. The food was deplorable there was nothing to eat and you had hawk eyes on you constantly as a female at this resort. The chefs would leave their stations to come harass us as we picked at fries for dinner, the only thing we could bring ourselves to eat.

2. Club Amigo Guardalavaca, Cuba. Cuba has appeal for solo travel due to the fact that many of its resorts do not have single supplements for solo travelers. This was the scariest solo travel experience of my life. We landed at 10pm and I arrived at my hotel closer to midnight after dropping everyone else off at their hotels. I had to find my room which was once again in a small building far from the lobby on my own in the dark. As I walked back to my room I heard people behind me, I turned and saw a group of locals walking a distance from me, I was certain they were following me. I ran to get to my room and locked the door. Once locked, the knocking started. Knocking and cat calling went on for what felt like hours. I actually fell asleep with the bible in the drawer of the bedroom in my hand praying that I would be ok. Not too long before this trip, 2 female travelers were shot at in their room after a similar experience so I was thinking the worst. I have no idea how I fell asleep that night. When I woke up, I went to the gym to relieve some of the stress of the night before. The “trainer” sat on a bench and watched me workout. After 15 minutes of his uncomfortable stare, I went and found my rep as I knew I needed to change hotels immediately. I didn’t care what I had to pay, just get me out of there! She said she likely couldn’t change my hotel until the following day so I got a security guard to stand outside of my room that night. He must have left at some point as again the knocking and cat calling started. They were turning my doorknob trying to get in while yelling in Spanish. It may not translate into this small blurb, but being alone in Cuba where you came to relax and literally fearing for your life was horrible beyond words.

3. I was moved down the street after 2 days to Hotel Brisas Guardalavaca. Where do I begin with this resort? I decided to get a massage on my first day to finally relax. I only found a lifeguard so I asked him when the masseuse would be back. He told me in one hour. An hour later he came and found me and said he could give me my massage now. I was confused but assumed he had misunderstood my Spanish and that he was the lifeguard and the masseuse (hotel employees can often have more than one job at the smaller resorts) and that he just wasn’t available earlier. What I experienced made me jump off the table and run to the front desk to report him. He was definitely not the masseuse. The hotel did nothing and I spent the rest of the week being stalked by this man. One day I wandered for an hour up the beach to read a book and have a nap and get as far away from him as I could. I woke up to his face leaning over me as his “hola” startled me awake. He said he had found me and brought me a flower. I told him to go away and he did but it didn’t make it any less disturbing. At this point I gave up on my solo relaxing trip, made friends with everyone at the resort and stayed with other people at all times.

There are more locations I could add to each list but these are the top and bottom 3.

My final advice for solo female travellers is this:

  • Avoid Cuba.
  • Only stay in hotels that have a single tower, are 5 star and have great reviews. You want the best and safest environment if staying alone.
  • Look for retreats. They are built for people, often solo travelers, who are looking to relax and rejuvenate so when you do feel like some interaction you are surrounded by like-minded people and when you don’t a quiet and safe paradise is what you will experience.
  • Never choose cost savings over safety. I went for the resorts that didn’t have a single supplement, don’t make my mistake. Pay more and stay safe.