Some experiences stay in our memories forever.
That is exactly the kind of experience I wanted to share with two of my best friends, when I headed to Ottawa during the last weekend of March. One of them was getting ready to move to the United States, so I wanted to make sure we had a very special time together before she left.
I wanted to spend an entire day with the girls, somewhere that would be interesting and fun. Most importantly, considering how stressful and deadline-oriented my life is, I wanted to find something relaxing. And then I remembered about one place that I always wanted to go to and heard many positive reviews about—Nordik Spa-Nature (also frequently called Le Nordik or Nordik Spa). When I lived in Ottawa for five years, I somehow never managed to get there; this was the perfect chance and reason to do so.
Within days, I got in touch with Le Nordik’s team and planned our day at the spa. Here is what happened!
Before we get into the details, here are some facts and statistics about Le Nordik.
Located at the entrance of the Gatineau Park, a 10-minute drive away from downtown Ottawa, Canada, Nordik is the largest daytime spa in North America.
It has seven outdoor baths, seven saunas, an infinity pool, a restaurant and a lounge. One of its most popular recent additions is the Källa treatment—the second salt-water floating pool in the world.
Select images from Le Nordik (courtesy of the spa)
The spa attracts about 450 people per day in winter and about 550 per day in the summer. It is open all-year long, with the exception of December 25. One of its advantages is that, unlike many other spas, it has longer hours (Sunday to Thursday: 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Friday and Saturday: 9 a.m. to midnight). Reservations are required for massage and body treatments, but no reservation is necessary for the thermal experience or the Källa treatment.
Over the years, Nordik Spa-Nature has won numerous awards, including the Innovator of the year at the 2013 Ottawa Tourism Awards and Innovator of the year at the 2012 Canadian Tourism Awards.
The spa is also going to expand later this year: this summer, it will open six outdoor massage rooms at its Gatineau location, and in June it will unveil its Thermëa, by Nordik Group spa in Winnipeg.
We all booked a different type of massage for the day: a Tonic Massage for MaryAnn, a Deep Tissue Massage for Tess, and a Swedish Massage for me.
We arrived at 10:30 a.m., ready to relax and unwind.
The original plan was to do the massages, have lunch and head home. However, we were very pleasantly surprised when Marianne Trotier,
the spa’s spokesperson, said that she had in fact booked us for the entire
day at the venue!
Marianne was friendly, polite and incredibly knowledgeable. She was able
to answer all of my numerous questions throughout our 15-minute tour of
the facilities. That was also the case with every single person I encountered during our eight hours at the venue. Everyone was very eager to help answer questions, and everyone had a smile on their face. To me, that is an essential element of good service.
Assuming that we were only going to do the massages, I did not bring a swimsuit, nor did I bring any appropriate footwear. Marianne took care of it immediately by getting me a swimsuit and flip flops from the spa’s on-site boutique. That was much-appreciated!
The spa provides all of its guests with towels, a rental bathrobe and cashless bracelets. The bracelets are highly convenient, because they are made of rubber but each has a chip inside that can be scanned against its respective locker in the changing room. As a result, we were able to store all of our personal belongings, including our jewelry and cellphones, in the locker room.
With many of the treatments located outdoors and with the snow still visible in some corners of the spa, I was concerned that it will be too cold to try some of the pools. It was around +5°C that day. However, Marianne was quick to point out that all path walks at the venue were heated, so there was no actual snow accumulation in the areas we walked.
The concept of the spa is broken down into three elements: Hot—cold—rest. This means that in order to get the best ultimate experience, you have to go from a hot treatment (e.g. a sauna), to a cold one (e.g. a swimming pool), to a restful one (e.g. a relaxation area indoors with complimentary tea and water).
Quick note: I was glad that I opted to wear contact lenses and left my glasses at home—otherwise, this may have greatly restricted my experience. Also, some areas at Nordik ask that the guests do not talk, as meditation is highly encouraged. This added an important element of relaxation to our day.
The steam baths had orange and eucalyptus scent. They were very hot and exceptionally pleasant. The temperature of the outdoor baths, pools and hot tubs ranged from 8°C to 39°C. The saunas made me feel like I was in a Scandinavian country: their wooden décor was very reminiscent of traditional Swedish and Finnish saunas I have seen while growing up in Europe. My favourite was by far the TULI Sauna, which is a meditation sauna. In Finnish, Tuli means “fire.” This dry sauna is made from solid wood and is described as “meditative” because its octagonal shape and central pillar lend themselves to a form of meditation. The current of heat radiates from the middle, rises to the ceiling and rolls back down the outer walls. Therefore, sitting with your back to the wall allows the heat to flow down your spine, relaxing your entire nervous system. For some, the fireplace in the middle is a particular highlight, while the narrow windows around the outside invite a mental diversion that is equally beneficial. The temperature here is about 90°C.
Some of my own photos—arriving at the spa and exploring it
In mid-afternoon, we headed to our massages. I tried the Swedish massage and was pleased with how my masseuse adjusted the treatment to my needs. Due to my lifestyle that involves sitting for prolonged periods of time, I have a very sensitive back that often hurts from pressure. I found the massage to be a perfect balance between being pleasant and firm. I felt refreshed and rejuvenated afterwards, as we headed to have lunch.
We had a three-course meal at Le Nordik’s restaurant, called Restö. We shared the cheese plate, and I had an old-style braised lamb shank with warm lentil salad and winter-style vegetables. We finished the meal with a New York cheesecake. While the ladies had some wine, I decided to go for a mini-detox and had some cranberry juice instead. The entire meal was delicious.
We saved the best for last—and headed to experience the Källa treatment afterwards. I’ve tried a lot of beauty treatments in my career, but this one was truly memorable.
Picture this: a large, underground pool. Mood lighting. Silence. Salt water that makes you float. Neck pillows that can be picked up before entering the pool and that help keep your body in a straight line, while floating. A particularly entertaining moment was when I submerged my head in water—the spa plays meditative music under water at the Källa. I also really enjoyed floating on my stomach, as opposed to on my back like most people: it thoroughly relaxed and stretched out my back, while I was actually able to “swim” a bit.
“What I love most about Le Nordik is the accessibility of the escape. This affordable luxury is only a 10-minute drive from my house in central
Ottawa, yet its location in the Gatineau hills and the beauty of the nature-inspired spa makes it seem like it’s so much further from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
“To me, the thermal experience is the highlight of Le Nordik. The sensation that comes from the cycle of relaxing in hot saunas, then dipping yourself into frigid pools before relaxing and repeating, is both calming and re-energizing. Maa was my personal favourite—it’s a dry sauna that’s partially dug into the bedrock and maintains a very high heat.
“Immersing my body afterwards into the frigid Kristal bath was incredibly invigorating. While it’s hard to really pick any one favourite part of the thermal experience, the infinity pool was another stand out for me. The warm temperature of the water, combined with the stunning views of downtown Ottawa beyond the forested hills, and the social atmosphere, made it a one-of-a-kind pool experience.
“In addition to the thermal experience, I was thrilled to try other treatments available at Le Nordik. I received a 60-minute Tonic massage that soothed every inch of me. As an active person, my muscles are always in need of some love and the tonic massage delivered, with quick and fluid movements along the length of my body.
“The Källa treatment was another unique experience. I wasn’t quite sure of what to expect heading down to the dimly-lit saltwater pool. Stepping into the water and laying back to float peacefully in the silent underground succeeded in transporting my mind into a state of zen. Källa, to me, is the epitome of mind, body and spirit rejuvenation.
“The blissful day was made complete with a delicious meal in Le Nordik’s lovely restaurant. The menu boasted many appealing options. I satisfied my appetite with the grilled whole trout and seasonal accompaniments. While I loved the food, my favourite part of the meal had to the wine—the day was meant for indulgence, after all.”
“My fourth experience at Le Nordik was as beautiful and rejuvenating as every time before. I have been here during every season (winter, summer, spring and fall), at every time of the day (morning, noon and night), and
with a variety of company (alone, with my husband, and with girlfriends), and I have always found the experience to be profoundly healing in an emotional or physical way—often both. Perhaps, my favourite part of these experiences is the feeling of closeness that develops with the company I arrive with; it’s in those quiet moments, totally relaxed and away from all distraction that you’re really able to talk to someone … including yourself.
“On to the experience itself! My favourite sauna has always been the dry Swedish sauna. I love to start with this one because I find it so intensely hot that it really helps set the tone for the remainder of my visit. For massage, I received the Deep Tissue treatment, and it was by far and away the best massage I have ever had. As an athlete, I look to massages to remove waste from my muscles and help rehabilitate injuries, but too often my masseuses give me a more “relaxing” treatment. At Le Nordik, my masseuse gave me exactly what I wanted—it hurt so much I almost cried …. in a very, very good way! I came out feeling sore, but knowing that my body had undergone a complete overhaul; the quality of service during the massage alone is worth the drive to this spa.
“After building up a great appetite with the baths and massage, we had a lovely lunch, and although my Trout was fantastic, I savoured every bite of my appetizer (Tomme de Savoie Verdannet cheese board) along with a beautiful glass of red wine. And, finally, the Källa treatment was a fantastic way to cap off the visit: it was tranquil, comfortable and had a perfect atmosphere for quiet reflection.
“Le Nordik never fails to deliver on all counts. If you live in, or are ever visiting the Ottawa-Gatineau area, I highly recommend spending the day at this world-class facility.”
Eight hours passed in the blink of an eye, and it was a fabulous way for me to bond with two of my best friends: be it chatting in a pool, sharing a laugh over lunch, or talking about our experiences with Källa as we headed home. I felt relaxed, rejuvenated and happy.
I will be back again soon.
À la prochaine, Le Nordik!