LIVING, TRAVEL | July 20, 2008

Relaxing Day at Balnea Spa. Or Is It?

finnish saunas and cafe at Balnea Spa Bromont-sur-le-lac

Last Friday, I indulged in a Finnish meets modern meets hammam water spa experience. I wanted to try it since Balnea opened a few years ago in the Eastern Township.

Sitting next to Lac Gale with a superb view of the Appalaches, the site is designed around the balneotherapy. I liked my day but Balnea felt short on the drinking water part and in helping me getting the most of the balneotherapy.

How My Day Goes By

Balnea simply provides a small water bottle for the day. Unlike many spas, they do not have a self-served cucumber water station. But you can stop by the café anytime for a complimentary herbal tea.

We booked the Sukhasana package which includes a semi-private yoga (our trio), one hour of massage and the lunch. The lunch is up to $13, which means that you eat a soup and a healthy sandwich without extra. Their salad meal bowls are $12-$13. The food was good.

Even though my knee is not really fit for yoga yet, I went ahead because I wanted to try yoga on one of the several outside platforms overlooking the lake. It was raining heavily one hour earlier. So our yoga class took place inside, on the top veranda room. If they would have told me at the desk, I would have switched to a scrub treatment and a massage instead.

Saunas, Hot Tubs And Sun Bathing

Three Finnish saunas oversee the lake. Cool showers and an icy plunge pool reestablish your body temperature after each sauna session. I tried the dry sauna eucalyptus and a dry sauna with rosemary. The hot Turkish steam room complete the inside water complex.

We also enjoyed a series of hot tubs outside, including the renowned heavy fall cold pool (you have to try it) and a cold pond.

turk bath :: outdoor yoga :: cedar tub at  balnea

Next to the lake, the cedar tub and sun bathing lounge area is pleasing. You can swim on the lake. A small sauna pavilion with a fireplace and the new Fatboy outdoor chairs near the lake can be reserved by a group. Otherwise, it is available for everyone.

Pleasing Spa Treatments

The personnel at the yoga class and the massage took into account my injury. My girl friends enjoyed their massages too. One girl took an express facial treatment and was happy.

The striking site with direct access to nature makes you feel good. The décor of the spa is hip yet relaxing.

We took the quick tour of the facility with a guide. Rooms are well indicated. But I expect more from an upscale spa. Why Balnea do not devise one or two ritual programs around the thermal water experience? You make your own as you go. Unless you are an expert, it becomes more a day at the park than a spa treatment.

Short on Being a Top-Notch Host

On the customer service area, we were well treated but it is not worry free. That is where an upscale spa must deliver. They failed on the small details more than once.

My massage took place at the old Stone House. The sky was dark gray. Plenty of umbrellas were available on the main building. I saw them on my way out and I assumed more umbrellas would be available at the stone house. The girl who showed me the way did not suggest I bring an umbrella with me. It rained heavily as I was ready to go back to the main building. I asked for an umbrella and was told they were none at the stone house. I had to insist, playing on my injury as an excuse, before they called someone from the main building to bring me an umbrella. They finally found one sitting at the stone house. I got my umbrella but the other guests ran, all wet, under the rain to get back to the main building. Plus, they charge you $15 if you want to get a new bathroom – I hope these people did not have to pay. Sorry but you do not pay top dollars for that level of service.

Overall, Balnea provided me with a satisfying experience. They have a lot of things going for them. To become a must go destination, Balnea must improve on customer service. They must learn the art of being a top-notch host. You go to an upscale spa to feel pampered every step of the way and not just for what is in the premises. After this visit, I understand why some of my girl friends were disappointed when they visited last year.

SOURCING:
+ Balnea Spa Bromont-sur-le-lac – Web site is only in French

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5 Responses to “Relaxing Day at Balnea Spa. Or Is It?”

  1. Dommage – le site semble enchanteur et le concept est intéressant, mais je dois avouer que, pour moi, l’excellence en service à la clientèle est un élément incontournable. Rien ne gache plus vite ma soirée au resto ou ma fin de semaine à l’hotel (ou au spa) que du service décevant. Merci, Kim – j’apprécie ta franchise et j’en tiens compte.

  2. 2 Stanislas Metzger said:

    Bonjour Kim,
    je fréquente couramment votre site et j’aimerais vous féliciter, je m’y réfère souvent et je suis régulièrement d’accord avec vous. Par contre, je ne suis pas du tout d’accord avec votre article sur le spa Balnea. C’est vraiment mon lieu de prédilection. Je trouve la nourriture excellente et à juste prix et j’ai toujours eu un excellent service à la clientèle. Je fréquente cet endroit régulièrement avec des amis et la famille et nous sommes toujours traités comme des rois. Je trouve injuste de critiquer le fait que votre cours de yoga ait été donné dans la véranda puisqu’il pleuvait. Je pense justement que c’est un exemple de bon service à la clientèle que de pouvoir s’ajuster avec la température. Plusieurs autres endroits que je connais auraient tout simplement annulé le cours. Aussi, le fait que vous ayez eu une visite guidée prouve que l’on se soucie de votre expérience. Je pense que vous auriez pu poser des questions si vous n’aviez pas saisi le principe de la balnéothérapie. Pour terminer, puisque j’ai fréquenté une multitude de spas, je peux vous dire que Balnea est le seul à fournir l’eau, la clé de casier, la serviette et le peignoir. Je n’ai jamais eu de difficulté à remplir ma bouteille au vestiaire ou au restaurant. Je souhaite que vous ayez la chance d’y retourner pour vous faire une meilleure opinion.

    Stanislas Metzger

  3. 3 At Home with Kim Vallee said:

    Stanislas: I am happy to hear that your experience at Balnea has been up to your expectations. I am been to other spas where they provide the water, the robe, the therapeutic flip-flop sandals, the herbal tea and after-treatment snack and so on. I never said that Balnea is not an excellent spa; I even said that they have a lot going for them. But this was not my best ever experience on a customer service point of view.

    I am familiar with balneotherapy. That is why I made the comment. People for which it is the first time may be lost? My group asked a few questions but the guide did not know or did not want to expand on his original answers. Still, it is fun to follow a bath ritual. BTW, my biggest complaint was about the umbrella adventure and not the yoga class.

    I am happy to see that others have a great time at Balnea. Please share your views.

  4. 4 Valérie Noël said:

    AMAZING EXPERIENCE!
    I travel around the world 20 weeks a year and have the chance to visit the most beautiful spas with my husband. I never thought I would find this level of beauty, architecture, services, originality, style and professionalism in a spa in Canada but I found it a hour from home at BALNEA!!! Not a fossy old service but young and beautiful staff with smiles, coolness and sweetness. Their treatments are simply magical. I had my best massage ever there, experimenting their signature BALNEA massage in a 4 hand version… We are just waiting for a nice hotel boutique to enjoy a longer stay. I give it a 4.9 star -

  5. 5 spa sam said:

    hey kim,

    i totally agree with you, although this place has good facilities- the customer service is still lacking. i went in the fall of 2009 and my massage was changed a half hour earlier but no one notified me. i was still expected to pay for the full package. after they made me feel like it was my fault and lots of discussion on my part- she provided me with what i was told was $55 of services for my next visit. so i thought i would give it another try today…went with an open mind…and the customer service still SUCKED. i had a great massage and the baths were nice. however when it came to leaving, turns out the voucher i was given only had a value of $40 i tried to explain the situation and it ended up no where and the manager just said i was wrong…it is not the amount, it is not the amount but the principle of customer service- which doesn’t seem to apply her. i won’t be making the trek again and neither will all my friends and co-workers who regularly look to me for spa recommendations!