Just outside of Saint John, New Brunswick, in Canada’s Atlantic Provinces, Inn on the Cove is a gracious waterside home that grew into an inn and then morphed into spa, under the direction of owners Willa and Ross Mavis. The cove is in the wide tidal reaches of the Saint John River, where the legendary Bay of Fundy tides rise and fall by 28 feet twice each day.
Hoity-toity spas are not for me – those where you feel as though you need a whole new wardrobe and a new car --- not to mention a new hairstyle – to set foot inside. To me, the whole point of a spa is to relax and be pampered, not worrying about whether I look like the Ugly Duckling beside all the Beautiful People.
So I was delighted to check into Inn on the Cove and discover the warmth of an owner-run B&B, the facilities of a country inn, the chef of a classy restaurant and an atmosphere that put me instantly at ease. Here was a place I could call home for a few days as I sloughed off my winter-parched skin and ski-strained muscles with some healthy pampering.
Inn on the Cove’s intimate relationship with the sea is not just its setting overlooking the water. Their skin-care products are the French Phytomer, whose marine-based ingredients include seaweed, sea salts and desalinated seawater.
Recently, Ross and Mavis have added an even more local connection – their hot stones massage uses locally gathered stones that have been smoothed and shaped by the constant tumbling by the Bay of Fundy tides. If you’ve ever gathered the beautiful perfectly round and silky smooth stones that fill every cove in New Brunswick, you can imagine how gently these massage tired muscles.
If you’ve never had a hot stone massage, it’s a wonderfully relaxing and muscle-soothing experience. Small perfectly smooth flat round stones were warmed and placed across my back, neck, shoulders -- even tiny ones between my toes. Then they were used to massage, so their warmth seemed to soak right through the skin.
This was only one of the treatments I enjoyed on my recent trip to New Brunswick. Just as memorable was the full-body seaweed wrap, when my entire me was slathered in a seaweed-enhanced mud, wrapped mummy-like in a warmed white sheet and further wrapped in a shiny space blanket to simmer. A spring-water shower removed every last gooey trace before I was massaged with moisturizing cream. I emerged a new woman – well, the old one with happy new skin anyway.
In between mud-slatherings, creamy-dreamy facials and massages, were mealtimes that made my inner self as happy as the spa had made my outer self. Ross is a skilled chef (he and Willa had their own popular TV cooking show, Tide’s Table, for several years and the inn’s restaurant serves spa lunches and dinner by reservation), and as you might expect from the Inn’s preoccupation with things ocean, he excels at seafood dishes. My spa lunch was perfectly seared sea scallops that melted like butter in my mouth, grilled shrimp and a fishcake, all served on a bed of baby spinach laced with sesame seeds.
Our fireside dinner (I shared my spa retreat with my best friend, Valerie, who lives in New Brunswick and told me about Inn on the Cove) was a filet of perfectly grilled Atlantic salmon glazed in maple and pepper, with a delicate vermouth finish. Proving that he never takes himself too seriously, Ross suggested I complete my day in the mud with his chocolate creation, Bay of Fundy Mud Cake. The chocolate soufflé is served, in his words, “in back eddies of Kahlua and cream with tidal toffee flotsam and jetsam.”
As I savor the last bite I wonder if Willa could make a body-wrap out of that so I can absorb a second helping.
Contact Inn on the Cove: www.innonthecove.com