Travel Photographer / Writer
chasing the essence
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Nordik Spa-Nature – An Outaouais Retreat
The tingle of bubbles in a warm pool, the chill of winter’s breath on your face, the soft glow and crackle of a wood fire, snowflakes on your head, pungent aromas of orange and eucalyptus filling a steam bath, the searingly dry wood of a sauna — these are a tonic to the senses and all in a day’s play at Nordik Spa-Nature.
The spa, founded by owners Martin Paquette and Daniel Gingras in the attractive village of Chelsea, within the Outaouais region of Québec, opened in July 2005. WHERE magazine ranked it one of the top 9 tourist attractions in Canada for 2012.
The spa draws most of its clientele from Ontario, with the majority being women. No one holds a monopoly on stress and the need to release tension, though. This past Dec. 26 Boxing Day was busy with couples of every age and background enjoying the facilities. Surprisingly, despite the activity, the spa just didn't seem crowded...must have something to do with being the largest in North America.
Although conveniently near the Autoroute de la Gatineau (Québec Highway 5), it's effectively shielded by a natural landscape of trees, rocks and bush on several acres of land. Access is easy, a mere 15 minutes drive north from downtown Ottawa / Gatineau.
Nordik is already expanding with plans for 2 more spas: Thermëa-Winnipeg, officially opening January 15, and Whitby, Ontario, on the eastern fringes of the GTA (Greater Toronto Area). The GTA (which I think of as the Greater Trauma Area) should be an excellent source of clients needing to shed their anxieties or just kick back and relax.
A Scandinavian approach to facilities is evident in the wooden structures which blend with rather than subdue the landscape as well as minimizing environmental impact. The teepees, though, are pure Canadian, eh?
A variety of pools, dry saunas and aromatic steam rooms lead spa goers indoor and out in a recommended sequence of warm-cold-rest. Warmth raises the body temperature, cool/cold creates a mild shock, rest allows recuperation. The regimen is designed to stimulate mind and body. Except in extreme weather conditions such as a lightning storm, these procedures are viable year round — including a Québec winter.
Silence is encouraged (and usually practised) in order to allow fellow participants peace of mind. I'm not a spa person, but there's definitely much to be said for immersing oneself in a warm bubbling pool, snowflakes plopping on you, with steamy vapours disappearing into the chilly air. Beneath sun or cloud, night or day, it’s pretty magical.
The youngest, bravest and most hardy souls then plunge into icy outdoor pools or walk beneath a frigid waterfall to cool off. For those less inclined to extremes, gentler results can be achieved in the pools with warmer temperatures.
Massages can be booked for any time during a stay. A tapas room with snacks and beverages including beer and wine was our choice during a mid-day break, but there’s also a chic restaurant that gets crowded in the evening. A couple of lodges are available for overnight sleeps.
The subterranean Källa treatment (extra fee required) is meant to simulate the same experience as being in the Dead Sea. Bathers enter a shallow underground pool to float effortlessly in a mixture of 12% Epsom salts.
The theory is that both parts of the brain come together in complete relaxation (my brain being a notable exception). Salt absorption is maximized after 12 minutes, although many bathers opt to stay much longer and sometimes even fall asleep. The only other location with a Källa bath is Switzerland.
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© 2015 by Gary Crallé.
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