Friday, November 8, 2013

Our Summer Vacation - Couples Resort

This is the second part of our summer vacation where we took our kids to my mother's place and went to the Couples Resort. We traveled from Lumina through Algonquin Park and onwards to my mother's in Barry's Bay. Later that day, we came back to stay.

The first part chronicled the Lumina Family Resort and this part will cover memories from the trip through the park and the Couples Resort.

Algonquin Driving Trip

On the entrance from the Dwight side of the park, there was a sign for park reform and one for the logging museum. Algonquin Park is the largest park for logging. My father logged outside the park in Mattawa and Deux Rivieres which was pronounced like doreeveer. He also did work inside the park including working for a long time in Kiosk. He would stay in a lumber camp for the week and return on weekends.

In the 1880's, lumber barons convinced the government to give away huge plots of land near the park to attract immigrants, mainly Polish and Irish. Many, not being able to farm the land due to the Canadian Shield, turned to working in the bush. The names in the park such as Killarney reflect the Irish influence. There are derivations of Native names such as Cache Lake, Lake of Two Rivers, and of course, the name Algonquin. I haven't found any Polish names in the park.

Often bits of literature on logging will talk about shantymen and shanties as if they don't happen anymore. Not more than twenty years ago, there were still logging camps where groups of men spent the week, taking turns at cooking. Sometimes it would be game after hunting season or the odd fish but mostly, anything form bologna to steak would find their way onto wood or propane stoves.

Couples Resort

This is a Canada Select 5 star resort that makes note of its surroundings in a particular way.  Local magazines talking about art galleries, including the owner’s own onsite gallery. The proximity of Algonquin park brings out the Ontario Parks paper, and brochures on the Group of Seven, and Algonquin art centre exhibit on the Canadian shield. It even mentions the logging museum where some of the exhibits show some of my family members and their machines.

-       Totally different feel than Lumina. The noises, for one, are radically different. No boozy shindigs nor slamming doors that you often find in a hotel. You can hear the occasional footfall but largely only the hum of the fan, or quiet motor of the hot tub and fridge. You can hear the sounds of nature. The lawns are more manicured with spots of curated local flowers bricked in patches to break up the solid green. The main part of the property feels like a slice of suburbia without the car focus has landed along the lake front. Every view from the rooms are designed to feel private. 

This is a spa and there is the luxury of water and electricity. There is in our room, not the most luxurious or expensive, a steam shower, a Jacuzzi, a hot tub, and other standard amenities, toilet and two sinks. The whole compound is heated with solar panels, low flow toilets, and the design of rooms make them dark and all have ceiling fans and fireplace. There are reminders of how rural septic systems work with notes stating not to throw Kleenex into the toilet. There are nature walks with bike rentals available so that you can easily ride to the park. Hiking trails can get you there, albeit, slower but when you are so relaxed and trying to reconnect with your partner, this might be the right speed. There are notes everywhere and manuals available for the finding. A nice presentation binder with how the place operates is open and waiting for you. The one weirdness was finding a K-cup which doesn't quite seem to fit with the attention given to the environment but does speak to standard luxury.

The spa uses all natural products. There is a salt water pool that my wife got to try before the rain began. Once again, I let my embarrassment at not being able to swim impede my enjoyment. I wished I had gone in. My wife also had a massage. This is truly a spa experience that allows you to customize your relaxation.

There is an on site gallery and museum. Sports galore. Kayaking, cycling, horsebacking riding, Several at an additional fee. There is no tipping required as an 18% gratuity is included as a surcharge. 


The names of the rooms are a little offputting. We stayed in Exotic India. It feels slightly colonial but in fact is not as tacky or racist as it sounds. I suppose there is some evocation of India with prints of the tiger and elephants wandering across the top of the bamboo wallpaper but the African like masks make you wonder… The whole idea of luxury in a part of the world where poverty is one of our first thoughts and probably wrongfully so. The rest of the rooms in our building are named after African nations.  The room here is bigger than the two adjoining rooms we stayed at in Lumina.


The menus and the wine list still have the old name of Bear Trail Inn embossed on the covers. The maître d’ and staff for the evening meal are young looking and seem to be fairly fresh from culinary arts, either hospitality, sommelier or some other discipline. Initially, there appears to be some stilted formality that warms as the night gets older. This is not helped by our first impression of our maître d’ who hails from just outside of Mattawa, a place where my father logged when I was younger. 

He has a delivery that suggests this is a rote speech that he delivers every night using phrasing that while aid recall deliver a little like a SNL parody of an Austrian dimplomat. This is the way that service in the dining room works. You will… and so on. I suppress a giggle and appreciate the effort. Not everyone who will find themselves in this place where a dress code is enforced will have had a chance to do fine dining. In some ways this is not only training grounds for the fresh fellows but also for the young newlyweds, suburban professionals, and small city dwellers who are close enough to make this a special occasions spot to get away from their lives and focus on each other. 

I will review the restaurant in a subsequent post as it deserves specific attention.

Other Thoughts

Look, the name couples resort may bring to mind some Nordic swingers club or a dirty weekend but I found it relaxing and a time to reconnect with a significant other. There is no feeling of prurience but when you get relaxed, things happen. This is a good place with its focus on the couple. There are extra events but they are things like horseback riding and love poetry competitions. Things that I wish I had done but with only a two night stay, didn't want to take time away from the relaxing. I would recommend this place for nature lovers, spa lovers or just lovers.

The last two posts to cover the summer vacation will be restaurant reviews of the Couples Resort and Lumina. 

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