Esterel Suites, Spa & Lake reopens with a renewed glam

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It’s back to the glamour days, but this time the style is 2011.

The reopening a few weeks ago of the rebuilt Esterel Suites, Spa & Lake, a renowned resort in the Laurentians, is a major hotel happening.

Year-round sports and fine food are on the menu and the lakefront location is fabulous. But most intriguing are the hotel’s innovative joint ventures for entertaining its guests. Bell has installed a high-tech lounge with iPads, the Societe des alcools du Quebec’s Signature Services is overseeing a wine cellar for private tastings and exclusive purchasing, and Amerispa’s latest is a superbly designed body and beauty treatment centre.

When Esterel first opened in the 1960s, it set the standard in Quebec for modern countryside hotels. The Laurentians had been dominated by homespun Tyrolean-style ski lodges and vintage family resorts. Then came Esterel, a fabulous resort that broke new ground east of Ste. Adele, far from highways and gas stations.

The wow factor was Esterel’s glamour. It was the first resort to have sexy, low-slung architecture. Then there was the in-crowd who lounged poolside for cocktails and suntanning. Esterel’s manicured greens, hilly fairways and lively 19th hole were an enviable new link on the golf circuit. Hey, this was living. Quebecers had a magazine-worthy lifestyle, chez nous.

"That’s what Esterel has come back to now," said Shawn Zarbatany, whose grandfather Fridolin Simard founded the resort. "With our totally rebuilt structure and sharp interiors, I believe we are Quebec’s top resort. We only salvaged a few stone walls from the old Esterel.

"And we made sure that the lake is the star attraction from almost every vantage point."

Now Zarbatany and his father, Don, have been joined by other hotel and condo industry veterans Francois Dallaire from the Eastern Townships and Luc Desmarteau and Jean Beaulieu from Tremblant. The result of the partnership’s $26-million investment is Phase I of a deluxe condo-hotel with a spectacular lakefront setting and 95 suites, all with sleek modern decor, stylish bathrooms and superior fittings like burnished wood floors. The smallest accommodation is a double-room suite with a glass balcony, a granite-topped kitchenette, a fireplace, two LCD televisions and an espresso machine. Request one of the Spa Suites, and you’ll be soaking in a private whirlpool bath with the lake lapping against your terrace.

Esterel has recaptured its original sprit and style, and then some. The Bistro is the latest "it" place for the 20- to 25-year-old set, the sons and daughters of Esterel’s weekenders. They’re here for the blue-tinted martinis and Scotch sours, plus the steaks, pizza, pasta and burgers. Executive chef Olivier Parry has worked at several five-star resorts in France and Switzerland and also at Montreal’s Hotel de la Montagne. His signature dishes include foie gras with berry chutney, duck confit, salmon tartare with anise, king crab legs and beef Rossini. Give him 72 hours’ notice, and you can have an authentic Marseillaise bouillabaisse simmered with saffron and served with a garlicky rouille.

Soon Lac Dupuis will freeze over, and Esterel guests will head out for skating and hockey. Esterel helped to popularize cross-country skiing among resort-goers, and trails will open through the woods and along the golf fairways.

"We always have been known for outdoor sports, but we want to be sure the hotel is not weather-dependant," said Dallaire, who also is the general manager. "We have what likely is the most beautiful spa in Quebec. And you can borrow an iPad to read a newspaper or check unlimited apps in the Bell lounge. Or you can simply enjoy the views from these great new suites. We won’t have cancellations, even if it’s freezing rain."

Esterel offers to all guests a compact Nordic spa experience that features a sauna, a rain shower and outdoor hot tubs on a deck built over the lake. Amerispa, the chain that operates in many of Quebec’s more important hotel spas, rounds out the experience with more than 40 beauty and body treatments and a variety of massages.

If you go

Esterel is a one-hour, 15-minute drive from Montreal. Take Highway 15 north to Exit 69 and Route 370 east.

Esterel Suites, Spa & Lake: 39 Fridolin Simard Blvd., Ville d’Esterel; 450-228-2571, www.esterel.com. Prices include access to hot tub, sauna, Nordic shower, fitness room. Accommodations range from garden view and lake view to beach suites and executive suites and cost from $99 to $189 for two people per night Sundays, to $159 to $249 Mondays to Fridays, and $209 to $299 Saturdays. Some suites have private whirlpools on their balconies. There is a 50 per cent discount for a third night. Packages: Gourmet Getaway includes breakfast, five-course dinner and spa access, and starts at $278 for two per night. The Lover’s Getaway adds a couples’ massage, breakfast in bed, dinner, spa access and extras, and starts at $478 for two.

Amerispa at Esterel: 866-263-7477; www.amerispa.ca. Hotel guests at Esterel receive a coupon for a 10 per cent discount on Amerispa beauty and skin-care products and a 50 per cent discount on second spa treatments Sunday to Thursday.

Organizations: Societe des alcools du Quebec, Signature Services, Nordic

Geographic location: Quebec, Laurentians, Ste Montreal France Switzerland

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