Imagine this—it’s a cold, rainy, spring day, and you’re sitting outside in your bathing suit, every muscle in your body relaxed, roasting your toes by a roaring fire.
For Mother’s Day my son treated me to an afternoon at a beautiful spa just north of Ottawa in Chelsa, Quebec, Le Nordic Spa. I’d never been to a spa before and wasn’t prepared for the size and beauty of this one. Apparently, it’s the largest in North America. Set on a rocky hillside, the designers made use of the natural rock formations and existing trees to create waterfalls, stone paths and patios. Surprisingly (to me) the large parking lot was full when we arrived in the middle of the day, the middle of the week.
There are five saunas and two steam baths, (there could be more, but that’s what I counted) and I think we only missed visiting one on our rounds. We (well, me) were like kids—What’s next? Let’s try that one. My favorite was the Meditation sauna, a hexagonal wood building with windows in each wall that framed a different and inspiring view. Most of the saunas and resting places were marked as silent areas. People respected the silence, but if they did talk it was in hushed tones.
There were places to sit around a roaring fire, inside and out, and read a book or just contemplate the fire or waterfall, if there was one within view. I think it was the repeated visits to the steam rooms—one eucalyptus scented, the other orange—punctuated by dips into frigid pools or waterfalls, that finally knocked out a month long virus I’d been fighting.
Or maybe it was floating in the infinity pool that did it. The first time we went in the pool, we clung to the sides and looked for miles over the impressive Gatineau Park, with the city of Ottawa in the distance. When we revisited the pool a couple hours later, I free-floated on my back and stared at the sky. It was a chilly, grey day, but between the hot tubs and pools, the saunas and braziers, it wasn’t hard to keep warm.
We skipped the restaurant and the bistro, where people lounged in chairs, sipping wine or beer as they looked out at the forest and waterfalls. Of course there are sorts of treatments available. The next visit I’d like to experience the Kalla treatment, which is floating in a salt pool that emulates the Dead Sea.
And there will be a next time. One of the things I found most impressive was the number of people who were treating themselves to an afternoon of cleansing and contemplation. It was inspiring to see.
But the thing I liked best about the spa? Spending the afternoon with my son, of course! It was a Mother’s Day gift I’ll never forget.