Coming in from the road doesn't give you much of a glimpse into the beauty of the property -- just looks like you're coming in and parking next to a nice, albeit very large, cottage. Park we did, then sauntered up the steps onto the main building's -- holy cow! -- expansive verandah, overlooking the lake. A blissful pause with the scenery, then in the screen door to the front desk, looking kind of like an old European inn, complete with a little bell. Before Don got a chance to demonstrate his musical skills, however, a young woman came out to greet us. Despite our detour, we were still a bit early for check-in, but... ah yes, our room was ready anyhow. Did we want to just go and settle in to our room, or would we like a tour of the inn first? Tour, please, if you have time -- of course! (As we came to learn during our time here -- the staff ALWAYS has time to do things for you, and seem genuinely pleased to do it.)
The front hall with the reception desk was the centre of the original building, with stairs to the guest rooms down the right. At the entrance was a bulletin board detailing the current weather forecast, times for the daily boat tour (we really wanted to do this, but the first two days the times conflicted with other things we were doing, and then, sadly, the boat seemed to be out of commission for the next two), events in town, expeditions, etc. And, on the main credenza, a basket of every type of sunscreen and bug spray you could possibly need, just in case you'd forgotten to bring your own.
Our guide started us in the dining room, overlooking the expansive verandah overlooking the beautiful vista. Very cozy, stone fireplace in the centre of the inside wall (not that it was needed during our visit), maybe about 20 tables set out, dark-stained wood trim and real wood shutters -- definitely staying true to a country-inn feel. Just inside the door to the dining room, a spiral staircase down into the wine cellar, where you could go before dinner to pick out a bottle from over 80 delicious options (I'm assuming... we didn't have quite enough time to sample all of them!)
Across the hall was a living room / lounge with nice comfy couches, antique (guessing) coffee tables, and an expansive selection of coffee table books. In front of this was a screened-in patio, with a bunch of little tables set up for drinks or snacks or... whatever you felt like doing on the patio. Back into the main hall and going to the back of the building, you reach the pub, complete with a beautiful old wooden bar, typical pub-style tables, and more comfy couches in case you want to read a book with your beverage. We never asked if these were the creations of staff or guests, but there were a number of artfully decorated canoe paddles displayed on the walls, as well as some historical photos of Sir Samuel Hughes -- apparently not a terribly impressive man, but he sure had good taste in summer homes!
And so ends the original part of Sir Sam's estate, but a bright, modern atrium (complete, of course, with comfy couches, in case you're needing a moment) connects the main house to the Hughes Wing. Here again are a bunch of little nooks with comfy couches, a community room with ping-pong table, etc., workout room, and the spa treatment rooms. Plus an endless supply of tea, apples, and water, in case you're feeling too far away from the main building to make it back un-nourished.
A little farther, and you reach the piece-de-resistance: the WaterSpa! I swear, if it weren't for the fact that there was no food or alcohol here, I would have probably spent the entire time in this WaterSpa. If you haven't already, take a look at the photos on the website (we, of course, forgot the camera!). It's about twice the size of our house -- a salt-water pool with various "rooms" with varying massage jet configurations. They heat it to a different temperature depending on the season, and have a suggested "circuit" for you to try -- it's open any time from 8am to 10pm, although they'll open it for you any other time you like, as well (did we mention, they just don't say "no" to anything at this place?). At night, it's just beautiful, with little lights embedded in the ceiling and the moon coming in through the full-length glass wall overlooking the lake. In case you get tired from all that relaxing, you can climb to the platform overlooking the pool and lounge on one of the Balinese beds.
The WaterSpa Circuit:
The full suggested course takes about an hour or so, if you're keeping track. First, you have a warm shower and loofa -- they suggest a sauna too, but we didn't do that, neither did we take the quick, cold plunge-bucket showers they suggested at intermittent points throughout the circuit, because that just didn't seem terribly relaxing! As you walk into the pool, there's a very large area where you can just float -- or swim, if you're feeling energetic (!). The first station is The Large Bench (not terribly imaginative name, I agree), with jets that concentrate on the neck and back -- it's suggested you sit here for 7-10 minutes, but we stayed until the jets turned off, at this and every other station. Next is the centre island, which is notable for the large marble ball rolling around on top of the fountain, and the jets that look after your feet and calve muscles. Next are the deck fountains -- my second-favourite formation (favourite until I moved on, though...) The deck fountains are like giant curved faucets that spew out strong streams of warm water down onto your neck, shoulders and back. Basically, I could stand on my tip-toes and lean backward into the stream and be held up -- I did this one twice the first time! :-) Just when you thought it couldn't get any better, you move to the air lounge, which is my all-time favourite station! You lie on your back with your head in a nice little pillow. Start the jets, and they come up from the bed below, floating you to the surface and massaging your back with a gazillion strong fingers. Pure bliss! The final station was the only disappointment, despite the pretty name of "The Champagne Grotto" - just a bunch of tiny little bubbles that looked pretty but didn't really do much that we could tell.
Ahem, back to the tour:
Actually, that was the end of our tour of the building. Other than to say that in every little sitting area or room, there were bookshelves filled with books and movies you could borrow for rainy days, and just tons of pretty decorative touches. Oh yes, and would we be alright with a 6pm dinner this evening?
In front of the house was a large outdoor pool, festooned with many deck chairs and patio umbrellas. Scattered across the grounds were various formations of Muskoka chairs and more Balinese beds. There was a dock with the tour boat and room for visiting seafarers, a lakeside gazebo, a bonfire platform, and the boathouse. At the boathouse, there were canoes, kayaks, windsurfers, waterskis, etc., which you were welcome to use whenever you wanted, and there was a staff person available during the day to help you out with anything you had questions about. We asked where we should sign out the boats when we wanted them, and were told they didn't need us to do anything like that -- just remember our life jackets. Wow, a hotel that doesn't assume its guests are criminals, who'd-a thunk? ;-)
We headed back into the main "Lakewinds" section, up the centre stairs, past even more bookshelves to the end of the hall and into our corner room (#1, so we couldn't forget too easily!). And what a sweet room it was! Walking in the door, on our right was the bathroom with large jacuzzi tub and environmentally-friendly toiletries. To the left a closet with our spa robes (nice and comfy they were, too! -- sure beat the robes at the hotel on our wedding night that more closely resembled itchy tea-towels and came complete with a warning that if you stole them, you'd be charged $100), a little "kitchenette" (OK, it had a bar fridge and a coffee-maker -- what more do you need, really?), and then the main room, decorated in cozy cottage style. The outside corner had a real fireplace and stack of wood -- not that we ever needed a fire, but it gave the room ambience nevertheless -- and behind the wooden panel above, a television, stereo and DVD player (not that we ever used those, either). On either side of the fireplace corner, two nice big windows that gave us a good cross-breeze and a great view of the waterfront. Obligatory big comfy couch with a cedar chest serving as coffee table, and a chest of drawers whose drawers didn't always fit together perfectly -- in other words, just the perfect amount of perfection for us!
On a side table under the window was a bottle of chilled champagne and two champagne flutes, plus a wrapped "congratulations" gift from the staff at the inn -- two lovely glasses, etched with the Sir Sam's loon logo, resembling large-ish champagne flutes without the stem (if anyone knows an official use for these, do let us know, otherwise we reserve the right to pour whatever we wish into them!). Upon closer inspection of our bar fridge, it contained a "welcome" platter of yummy cheeses and breads, plus, OF COURSE, chocolate-dipped strawberries. Pure bliss!
Since it was still fairly early in the afternoon, though, we decided to wait a bit on the special treats and do a wee bit of exploring... (to be continued)