ALL THAT GLITTERS
All that glitters - Luxury Travel Magazine
|By: Ute Junker, Issue 50 Autumn 2012|
|(Canada, Health, retreat, resort, spa, wineries, vineyards, steam room, penthouse, Okanagan, valley, accommodation, luxury, travel, summertime)|
|Ute Junker DISCOVERS A SPARKLING RESORT IN BRITISH COLUMBIA’S OKANAGAN VALLEY AND TREATS HERSELF TO SAUNAS, STEAM ROOMS AND FINE CANADIAN WINES.|
|Sparkling Hill resort smells like rose petals. Not the whole resort – just my favourite steam room, where the 38 degrees Celsius temperatures and the heady scent of roses sends you into a deep state of relaxation. If rose petals aren’t your thing, there are six other steam rooms and saunas on offer. There’s the aqua meditation room, a herbal sauna, a sauna with a view (over pine-clad slopes down to Lake Okanagan), and a crystal cave. Sparkling Hill is part of the Swarovski empire, and a reported 3.5 million crystals decorate the resort’s interior. Instead of blinging it up, the crystals are scattered subtly: for in stance, in the crystal glass fireplace which glows gently in my room.|
The vast spa – almost 4,000 square metres – also offers a number of pools, a Kneipp water therapy area, and treatment menu that includes not just massages and facials, but also acupuncture and nutritional counselling. There’s also the cold sauna – but we’ll get to that in a minute. Sparkling Hill, clearly, is not your average resort. Guests are encouraged to book in for several days, to make the most of the spa services and the indulgent guest rooms. Bathtubs are set by the panoramic windows, for those who like a bath with a view; guests also complimentary access to the saunas, steam rooms and pools, including the indoor pool where Swarovski crystals set in the ceiling sparkle like a starry sky. What I’m really keen to experience, however, is the cold sauna. This treatment falls on the therapeutic, rather than the luxurious, end of the scale – unless your idea of pampering involves immersing yourself for three minutes in temperatures of minus 110 degrees Celsius. The cold sauna is recommended for arthritis, depression, migraines and stress – and it apparently leaves you feeling exhilarated. It’s not suitable for the style-conscious, however: the recommended outfit consists of a bathing suit, socks and shoes, gloves and ear muffs and a surgical mask. You enter via two “ease in” chambers – one at a mild minus 15 degrees Celsius, the other at minus 60 degrees Celsius – and spend your three minutes moving constantly, to stop yourself freezing up.
|The day I decide I’m ready to face the cold sauna, however, turns out to be its weekly day off. (The precision instrumentation requires careful maintenance.) Fortunately, the Okanagan offers plenty of other diversions. I decide to drive down to the lake for a swim at one of the sandy beaches. Along the way, I’m tempted by the best of Okanagan produce. At roadside stalls, farmers sell glorious peaches, nectarines and berries fresh from the orchard. I also stop in at a honey farm and a lavender farm and, at the urging of a local, I pick up a bottle of Davison Orchard apple juice. I’m told the juice, blended from 25 different types of apples, is one of the Okanagan’s treasures: and it is indeed the best apple juice I’ve ever tasted. The valley’s main harvest, however, is wine. Over the last few decades, the Okanagan – on the same latitude as wine-growing areas such as Champagne– has developed a boutique wine industry that may just be Canada’s best kept secret. Although they win awards around the world, these wineries are family businesses – you’ll often meet the makers at the cellar door. |
Close to Sparkling Hill, I drop into two very different wineries. Ex Nihilo has a chic cellar door and a delicious ice wine called Sympathy for the Devil that is a coventure with the Rolling Stones. Ex Nihilo has only been making wine for a few years; by contrast Gray Monk, just down the road, is one of the area’s pioneers. The Heiss family’s Germanic background is reflected in their Alpineinspired cellar door and restaurant. I eat lunch on their terrace, washing down the sensational view with a magnificent Odyssey rose brut – perfect summer drinking. I then order several more courses, including a beautiful platter of house-made charcuterie, just so I have an excuse to drink more of their wines, including an unusual ehrenfelder varietal that mixes up a honeyed, floral nose with unexpected peppery notes.
There’s more fabulous food and wine on offer later that evening, when I dine at Crush bistro in the nearby town of Vernon – a relaxed little town where the parking meters take 20-cent pieces. Crush is known for its superb wine list, but the food is also lovely: my heirloom tomato salad is bursting with flavour. The pattern of my days here in the Okanagan has already been set. A bit of steam, some gorgeous wine and fabulous food. Repeat until done. Oh, and the cold sauna? Unfortunately, when they try to restart the machine the next day, the machinery refuses to play along. It sulks for the rest of my stay, so I never get to experience it for myself. The beauty of that, of course, is that I have an excuse to go back.
|Boutique Okanagan wineries set within the Okanagan Valley.|
|WHEN TO GO|
|Although Okanagans will tell you how much fun the local slopes provide in winter, summer sees the Okanagan Valley at its most glorious, with temperatures in the high 20s, fabulous fresh produce in the restaurants, and the beaches beckoning invitingly.|
|Fishing on Vaseux Lake in the summertime.|
|WHERE TO STAY|
|Perched on a forested hill with a view over the north end of Lake Okanagan, Sparkling Hill Resort offers a Europeanstyle spa experience. Room rates start at C$210 (around A$196) per room per night, which includes breakfast, Wi-Fi and access to the seven steam rooms and three pools. sparklinghillresort.com|
|View from one of the three luxe penthouses of this Okanagan Resort.|
|Air Canada has daily flights from Sydney to Vancouver, with onward flights to Kelowna in the Okanagan Valley. Return fares from Sydney start from A$2,610 including taxes. Executive First (business class) return fares start from A$18,665 including taxes. aircanada.com.|