Although I looooove to travel, there are only so many days you can take off work without the boss starting to find your replacement due to your lack of attendance. Not everyone is blessed with multiple weeks off, so us travel lovers need to get crafty! This winter has been BAD, I don’t think we have seen a day above -10c since basically November, and I really dropped the ball on booking a winter escape somewhere hot. I am saving myself for a spring European adventure (Which seemed great at the time, however right now I am really reconsidering my decision)
When you work a Monday-Friday job, you are lucky enough to get 2 days off in a row, which is a great excuse to plan a weekend getaway somewhere drive-able. I feel like I have exhausted most of my options through out the years-There are only so many places you can drive from Toronto in less then 10 hours, and anything over that doesn’t seem worth it. A few weeks ago my boyfriend’s sister mentioned that her and her boyfriend were planning a little getaway to a spa in Quebec and asked if we would like to join, and who am I to turn down a spa weekend??? Luckily my boyfriend doesn’t like to say no to his sister- he saves all his NO’S for me. “The last thing you need is to go to a SPA- Paint your OWN nails!!”
SO, after plenty of research, I realized that the spa we were venturing to was the LARGEST spa in North America and looked AHHH-MAZING! It is called the Nordik Spa-Nature and is just a 15 minute drive past Ottawa. I found that this spa wasn’t like just any spa-it had tons of hot tubs, waterfalls, and saunas. You can book basically whatever treatment you want, but we ended up booking “The Thermal Experience” From the pictures on Pinterest and their website, I didn’t think I was going to be disappointed! We figured we would stay in the nation’s capital and make a super Canadian weekend out of it full of skating, beaver tails and an educational tour of Canada’s parliament.
Saturday morning, bright and early we packed our bags and started our (very snowy) drive to our palace for the night: The Fairmont Chateau Laurier, which was right downtown Ottawa beside Parliament and centrally located for all our weekend needs. This hotel was beautiful! Everyone was super friendly and we made ourselves at home pretty quickly!
After we checked in, we wanted to grab a quick bite to eat before we hit the spa. We headed towards the Byward Market, which is Ottawa’s main dining area. We walked around until we found an adorable diner, which served both all day breakfast and classic diner food (and it had the recommended by Trip Advisor sticker on the door, which made it seem promising! The sign read “Eat at Zaks” so we went in and enjoyed a lovely meal by Zak before our excursion.
Now that we were super full (and probably not going to look the most toned in our bathing suites) we make the short drive through the winter wonderland to find this building which resembled a large log cabin nestled into the woods. We walked through the busy parking lot into this reception area. There was a bit of a wait, due to it being Saturday (and winter definitely looked like the best time to visit this spa, it looked truly enchanting!) Finally, we booked our treatment and headed to the locker room with our high tech locker bracelet, put on our white robe, took a quick snap outside and headed to the baths.
So at this spa, they offer basically any treatment you want, and generally the baths are included in the price, however we only came to the spa for the baths and planned to make a day of it. As I hung my robe and walked into my first hot tub I realized I was in heaven. When you look around you feel like you are in a Nordic paradise. Winter never looked so great. Each bath (there was at least 10) was a different temperature and had different purposes. They have cycles where you hit up a specific sauna, follow it up with a specific bath (this may include the ICE COLD ONE!) then either another sauna or room temperature. These cycles aid numerous things like circulation and skin care. I proudly say I ventured into one of these ice cold baths TWICE! The key is to sit in the hottest sauna until it is unbearable then run in to the bath. Once you do it once it isn’t so bad.
Let me continue to talk about HOW amazing it is to just stroll around in a robe all day like it doesn’t matter. When you want to take a break from the cold, they have swanky restaurants where you can sit by the fire, drink wine (or tea, which ever you chose, I always chose wine!) order food, listen to some lounge music and forget where you are. The prices for the food wasn’t overly expensive and if you plan to be at the baths for a while, it’s a great option-running from bath to bath in the freezing cold often works up an appetite! When you are done with the indoors you can stroll over to one of the many tee-pees and when you open the door you are greeted with a campfire, Muskoka chairs and a blanket, AKA heaven. I had never been able to say I hung out in a real tee-pee in a bikini before, but now I can.
If Tee-Pee’s aren’t your thing and think to yourself “Man I am really tired, all this relaxing is wearing me out.” You know what, you deserve a nap-can I interest you in a room dedicated to sleeping? Do you want a tea or water before your nap; follow me into the sleeping room-yes, sleeping room. This room is equipped with numerous sleeping pads and headphones where you can lay down and listen to the sound of waterfalls and pretend you are in Hawaii. If you just want to relax and aren’t sleepy, there is also an area with magazines, a fire and a place to rest your drink. Have I enticed you yet?
If you then are like “I’ve already slept, sat in both a hot tub and sauna and I am really tired of putting any effort into ANYTHING; Don’t worry, there is a room where you can literally just lay down and float in water. It is called the Kalla Treatment and it is one of two in the world. You don’t need to fly all the way to the Dead Sea, they have brought the Dead Sea to YOU. This treatment is a bit extra but it is said to help with stress, inflammation, blood circulation etc. PLUS it is all lit up with fun lights, so that is always a bonus.
At this point it is now 1030pm and we have been at this spa for 6 hours. Maybe it is time to leave, but it is hard to tear yourself away. I would recommend seeing this place both day and night because they both have bonuses. During the day you are able to see how cool everything is, however at night it is all lit up (how romantic!) Believe it or not after all this time we weren’t pruney, must be the eucalyptus.
Sadly we de-robed, showered and headed back to our chateau for some WELL DESERVED sleep! Relaxing takes a lot out of you!
The next morning we woke up refreshed from our rough day and headed to the Byward market for some crepes and coffee. It was quite snowy so downtown Ottawa looked like a winter wonderland. After we ate we headed over to the Canadian Parliament for a few photos and a tour. It’s funny how I have gone to so many other countries and seen their political buildings but never my own country! It was fascinating but I was ready to leave and hit the canal for some skating. When I say, “skating” I more or less mean my boyfriend holding me up and pulling me around but fun never the less! The Canal was busy with people drinking coffees, skating with their lovers and pushing their kids in sleds.
Apparently this winter has been SO COLD that this is the longest the canal has actually been frozen over (pretty cool however Id give that up for some balmy weather over the freezing mark!) After my 15 minutes of skating, I retired my skates and traded them in for a beaver tail. If you have never had a beaver tail I feel sorry for you. It is basically a pastry in the formation of a beavers tail (I guess?) with whichever topping you chose whether it is cinnamon and sugar, Nutella or a savory tail. I ate one, but if I were alone and not being judged I would have gone up for another.
After our cold afternoon of outdoorsy-ness we headed to the Rideau Centre (the mall) to warm up and do some retail therapy. After that, all good things must come to an end and we headed to our car for our commute home. Needless to say, I raved about our spa experience to all my girlfriends at home, and fingers crossed that I will be returning sometime soon! It is good to know that there are places out there that make winter in Canada a delightful experience!