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Hello From Ottawa, The Wakefield Mill Inn and Spa

Hello From Ottawa, The Wakefield Mill Inn & Spa
To experience the charms of the quaint village of Wakefield, I combined my unique transportation experience on the Hull-Chelsea Wakefield Steam Train with a lunch experience at the historic Wakefield Mill Inn and Spa.
Ali, the Mill's maitre d', came to pick up a number of passengers from the steam train, all of whomwere going to spend an entire weekend in this famous country retreat. I on the other hand had barely an hour and a half to acquaint myself with one of the most historically significant places in Wakefield.

The Inn's origins date back all the way to 1838 when a Scottish immigrant by the name of William Fairbairn decided to construct a stone mill in order to mill local grains for farm families in the Gatineau and LaP che river valleys.
After the sale of the mill to James MacLaren, the mill was expanded to include a saw mill, woolen mill and general store. The whole complex was ravaged by fire in 1910 and a flour mill was rebuilt, but the woolen mill stopped operating. The flour mill continued until 1939 when larger mechanized flour mills started displacing smaller-scale local mills. It was converted into a grist mill to produce livestock feed for local farmers and operated until 1980 when it was turned into a heritage museum by the Gatineau Historical Society.

In 2000, a local husband and wife team, Robert Milling and Lynn Berthiaume, realized their life-long dream and restored the vacant building and turned it into today's inn, spa and conference centre. The renovation project was extensive and required the approval of a variety of agencies, including the National Capital Commission which owns the land on which the mill is located. Several unique features of the original building have been preserved: the heavy wooden beams in the reception area were used to support the grain silos above, and several guest rooms (numbers 205, 206, 306 and 307) are now located in the former grain silos.

The dining room downstairs is the former "engine room" of the mill and underneath it used to be the location of mechanical and electrical turbines propelling the milling process. One turbine room is today's Spa and the other turbine room now features the inn's wine cellar. Several old mechanical components are now used as decorative elements in the outside garden surrounding the mill.

The Mill's restoration has indeed been very successful, and the new addition on the east side of the building integrates seamlessly in the pre-existing historic structure. Ali took me downstairs into the dining room which features stone walls, an open-hearth fireplace, billiard table and bar. A variety of historic pictures adorns the walls and illustrates a cross-section of the personalities behind the mill over the years. To have lunch, I sat down in the 45-seat Solarium that provides the most magnificent view of the MacLaren falls.

I had a delightful Moroccan lentil soup and capped it off with a very savory tomato and eggplant dish that just melted in your mouth. I looked out the big picture windows at the impressive waterfall and even on a grey day like today I was impressed by the scenic beauty of the mill's location.

Since time was very short before I had to get back on the Hull-Chelsea-Wakefield Steam Train, I asked for a quick tour of this establishment and we briefly went outside into the garden that is located between the MacLaren River and the mill. A wooden deck with deck chairs would provide the perfect vista of the falls in better weather.

I had a quick walk through the spa facilities which all contain the latest top-notch equipment, perfect for relaxation and rejuvenation. The Spa features Swedish, Californian and chair massages that range from 15 to 60 minutes.

The Spa's facial therapies are based on the Reflexothermal Method, a relaxing, de-stressing and healing treatment. Two types of body therapies are offered and as well as different choices of pedicures and manicures. Men receive special attention with specialized facial skin treatments, relaxing body massages and back care treatments. One of the treatment rooms faces the falls head-on and I could picture myself having a pedicure, sitting back in the state-of-the-art treatment chairs and enjoying the astounding vista. A year-round outdoor hot tub is available on the outside deck for complimentary use for all Spa and Inn guests.

Finally, I had a chance to have a look at a couple of the Inn's rooms and they are decorated in light wood and tasteful colours, many of them featuring stone walls and some of the buildings original features.

Well, believe me, at this stage I wished I was one of those Steam Train passengers who were going to stay overnight at this beautifully restored inn, but I had to get back on the train to complete my historic train trip. On our way back to the Wakefield train station, Ali quickly took me on a side excursion up a little hill where there is an old cemetery. One of Canada's most famous prime ministers, Lester B. Pearson, is buried here. Another piece of evidence of the history that surrounds the Wakefield Mill Inn & Spa.***

By: Susanne Pacher

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