There’s something about a lazy few days away with your mum, if you’re lucky enough to have that kind of relationship in your life, that just feels nourishing for the soul. And that cozy, warm, nostalgic feeling is multiplied in the winter, when crackling fireplaces and bubbling hot tubs and luxurious spa treatments are on the menu, as they were when my (very wonderful) mum and I checked into Langdon Hall in Cambridge, Ont ., on a day dusted by the kind of fresh snow that seems just for decoration.
Pulling up to the imposing 1890s-chic Federal Revival-style facade (that now always calls to Drake’s mind Views album image), we rushed out of the biting wind and into a glowing lobby adorned with bountiful floral arrangements, a ticking grandfather clock and the generally refined taste level that you expect from a property with the prestigious Relais & Châteaux status.
When we get to our room, the first order of business is rushing around squealing about the depth of the soaker tub, the fluffiness of the bedding and the picturesque view to the croquet lawn and kitchen garden beyond (and the outdoor pool, which is on my list for the summer). Then we light the fire in our fireplace, which has been considerately pre-built, and proceed to lounge alongside it for a while, popping chocolates into our mouths like spoiled Greek gods gorging on grapes. As a pandemic mother of a 3-year-old myself, this is exactly the kind of escape from reality I’ve been craving—and that’s before what comes next.
Spa! Three letters that induce a softening of the shoulders just upon hearing them spoken. Langdon Hall’s spa has been impressively renovated since I first visited many years ago, and now features a large whirlpool set in front of a glass wall looking onto trees and sky, so you can sit in steamy bubbling water before your treatment and watch the wintry scene outside.
A sauna and steam and a few delicious tiny muffins in the lounge area later, and it’s time for the main event: an evocatively named Vitality of the Glaciers facial, 90 minutes of hydrating, oxygenating bliss featuring a parade of skincare from the luxe Swiss line valmont. My favorite part is the medical-grade collagen face mask, which helps to plump and heal tired skin and envelops the entire face save the nostrils—a bit claustrophobic for some, potentially, but deeply cocooning for me. (COVID note: Check which spa facilities and services will be open at the time of your visit, as that depends on current restrictions.)
Skin positively gleaming, I wander back to the room in a giant white robe and collapse into the king bed for the kind of untroubled afternoon nap that has been dancing in my dreams for the duration of the pandemic.
Next up is dinner, which is exciting because Langdon is famous for its five-diamond rated restaurant and the meticulous efforts of its longtime chef, Jason Bangerter, who does miraculous things with seasonal ingredients, many of them grown or foraged in the inn’s own organic gardens or nearby farms. His menu includes such delicacies as venison with foraged mushrooms and grape preserves, or lobster with stone fruit jam, butternut squash and brussels sprouts—served on a beautiful curved white plate that calls to mind an oyster shell or sea anemone.
Because my mother and I happen to be vegetarian, we order off the special veg menu, to which the same care has been given as every other dish (a fine dining rarity, let me tell you). I sup on a sublime cauliflower risotto, swirled with Parmigiano Reggiano and dotted with crunchy fried capers and crispy onions.
A little out of fine dining practice, I feel woozy for a moment, sent over the edge by a sublime truffle soup, and have to step out for some cool night air. It’s incredible, but if I were staying longer than a couple days, I would probably start to crave some simpler fare as well (there’s nary a club sandwich to be found).
My mother heads back to the room before I do, and there one of the nicest moments of our visit occurs. A staff member named Linda knocks on the door to do our turndown service, and my mum tries to say we don’t really need anything, thank you. Linda assures her that it’s very nice, and proceeds to pop chocolates, water and extra tea bags (those and a kettle in the room being my mum’s love language) on our nightstands. They go on to have a lovely chat about the property, local happenings and their families.
It’s the kind of kind, friendly interaction you find yourself having with virtually every Langdon staff member you come across, and when I remark upon it later to a friend who’s also a regular visitor, she tells me that it’s one of her favorite things about the place—that the staff typically seem very happy to be there, and are each treated to an all-expenses-paid one-night stay every year. We leave Linda a gift and a note when we check out.
After a last ramble in the woods on one of the 12 kilometers of walking trails, we read newspapers in one of the delightfully decorated, natural-light-filled sitting rooms on the main floor while waiting for our ride home, soaking in the convivial atmosphere and one last crackling wood fire. Nothing could be cozier.
Accommodations for Rani Sheen were provided by Langdon Hall and Valmont. Langdon Hall and Valmont did not review or approve this story.