I might be the first person to admit I find the whole spa experience unbelievably awkward and uncomfortable. I just don’t really get it. Do people really enjoy being manhandled by a complete stranger? I recall my absurd butt massage in Mexico. And the weird small talk.
“So do you like…chocolate?”
And then there’s the whole not-doing-anything-but-being-quiet-and-relaxing thing, where you’re supposed to sit in a sauna, sweat profusely, and shut your mouth. For me, the scenario always goes something like this.
*Tries to sit tall on lower level of sauna seating.*
*Starts thinking too much.*
What happens if you pass out in a sauna? Am I really detoxifying? Is mascara running down my face? How far is my stomach protruding right now? That girl is so thin. Oh god I’m going to die in here.
When I was in Quebec’s Outaouais region last September, however, I got to experience Nordik-Spa Nature, the largest outdoor day spa in North America (and still growing). Since I was with a handful of other bloggers, it was kinda like a girlfriend getaway, but without any excessive drinking. Plus the spa is one big happy social scene, complete with a bar and lounge area. I figured if I could grab a beer after an awkward sauna sesh, I’d be quite happy.
I just said “sesh.” I did.
We were staying in the cabin adjoined to the spa, and so all we had to do was don our special brown robes and head over to the pools. We are classy ladies.
Being a Scandinavian spa, the theme here is hot –> cold –> relaxation. We hit the ‘ol regular sauna first, and lasted all of 5 minutes before Jenn’s asthma started acting up. So we left and danced around a cold shower, trying our best not to scream, and then darted into the warm infinity pool overlooking Ottawa across the river. Everyone else seemed to look like they knew what they were doing. I, however, kept accidentally stealing other people’s flip-flops and robes (despite ours being brown).
The pool was amazing. I was actually enjoying myself.
Next came the Infusion (“Aufguss” in German) heat therapy session in its Finlandia sauna. The whole thing is based on a Finnish tradition of using bursts of hot, humid air by pouring water on heated stones. The vaporization technique is used with essential oils to make things smell all nice and stuff. Ours was lavender. The Infusion “master” uses a towel to sweep the air at you, and you’re supposed to inhale the magically healing vapors. I’m still waiting for that mysterious rash to go away, however.
I loved it, but it was intense as hell. Like, another minute and I would have fainted. Glancing around the room though, I could tell I wasn’t the only one. One of the girls got whipped with a towel and a little giggle erupted from the benches. Just before we all passed out, the session was over and we bolted into the cold pool right outside. I’ve always been amazed at how accurate sauna people all are guessing when I’m going to pass out. I wonder what kind of gauge they wear to predict such a thing.
This time, as I plunged into an icy pool, I shrieked at the top of my lungs. An attendee came to shush me, looking stern, and pointed to the “Quiet” sign. Oops.
The final pool I submerged my pasty, goose-pimply body into was the Kalla saltwater pool, dug deep beneath the spa. It’s built to mimic the effects of the Dead Sea, with a 12% Epsom salts content to keep you afloat. It’s also the only of its kind in North America, and seeing as how I was headed to Jordan in a few weeks, it felt kinda like fate. Somehow we had the whole pool to ourselves, so we grabbed some floating pillows and drifted around the pool like we were in one of those alien tanks from that movie I saw one time.
Apparently it’s not cool to roll over on your stomach though. No idea why. I rolled around like a cockroach on its back with its legs flailing wildly, and got shushed again.
I survived the spa with only two reprimands and a handful of awkward stares. Then we got to eat in the spa’s restaurant in our robes. There’s something oddly liberating about sitting around a fancy restaurant in a robe, sipping wine, feeling salty. That was fun, Nordik-Spa.
(The last two photos belong to the spa. Obvs.)