Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

My new favourite mental-health recharge location

So sometime last summer Jill and I were chatting about silent retreats; I mentioned that I’d really love to go to one but only if it was non-religious (or at least participation not required) and had food I would enjoy.   Well that proved to be an impossible combination because while there were many for which belief in their religion was optional, there were none that had any food that would even slightly appeal to me (admittedly a very picky eater w the pallet of an 8yo, but seriously, also extremely easy to do - like I can live off eggs bread and cheese for a remarkably long time).

Anyways - I have still failed to find my dream escape, but Jill suggested a spa day and found a spa with a silent area.  Awesome!   Based off the Scandinavian (I think!) concept of hot, cold, relax this spa had hot tubs, steam rooms, saunas, and rock beds for hot, cold tubs (really cold - like 7deg c; genuinely felt like stepping into an ice bath), and relaxation areas.   The way it was laid out, about 2/3 of the area was social - you could chat all you want.  And people were, in multiple languages :).  The other 1/3 was very clearly signed everywhere “silence is golden”.   There are no cell phones permitted past the change rooms.  Win.

Figured it'd be easier to explain by just sharing the map ;)

I’ve been pretty stressed at work lately and working a ton of extra hours, so was pleased to have a relaxation day.   Even more pleased when I saw it was supposed to be 25 deg and sunny.  Win!   It was cold and rainy last week.  

So we got there - Vetta Spa, for the curious - the place is gorgeous and pretty much in the middle of nowhere, although I definitely heard the occasional train in the distance.  You’re given a wristband that both works your locker and is tied to your CC in case you want to buy anything lol.   The lockers were a royal pain to open and close - there was a real knack to it that I never mastered.  Concept was brilliant, execution not so much.  That’s pretty much the only negative though.   Lots of staff around and every single one of them I spoke to was friendly and positive; whoever is in charge of hiring is doing something right.

We started in the talking zones till we figured stuff out, and also cause we haven’t seen each other in a while so talking is fun :).  Hot tubs were hot - we lasted about 10 of the recommended 20 mins.  Cold tubs were painful.  The first time I’m not sure I made it past ankle deep about 3 seconds (the suggestion is 30s-3 mins).  There was another woman sitting on the bench calm as could be as though it was perfectly lovely.  She is my hero.   There were a large number of people through the day who completely committed to the cold - would go all the way in and dunk their heads.   I only ever got as far as my knees.  Jill did more of them than I and got to her waist.  Others told us it gets easier w practice.   It did seem like the body parts that got dunked legit felt better after, but not at the time for sure!

After the first dunk we chose hammocks as our warm.   It wasn’t yet quite warm and she-who’s-always-cold had a towel blanket for a bit although J was fine without.  But lying down it got warm quickly as you really didn’t feel the breeze.   So we lay and chatted for a while which was lovely.

Next round we tried the steam room.  Walking in it was nearly impossible to breathe - both of us instinctively covered our mouth and nose to make a space for the air to cool till we adjusted.  It felt like the hot equivalent of when you walk outside in -30 and the air freezes your lungs.   

Anyways, within seconds the sweat was pouring off.   I don’t like saunas in general but for some reason the steam room actually felt good?   I genuinely don’t know why, but I would definitely do it again.   Except I was having real issues w my contact lens in there so after a couple mins I bailed to save it.

Cold is always water so that was the same throughout.

Then we hit up a different set of hammocks lol, working our way around.   There were lots of other “warm” options including reading rooms (this place is open in winter too), Muskoka chairs around a fire, lounge chairs, etc

Jill wanted to go get some more water, so I stayed at the hammocks.  Related squirrel moment - Have I mentioned I’d had less than 3h sleep the night before?   Literally, not exaggerating.  And I drove because I’m the only one w a transponder (for those not in GTA - our one and only toll route is wildly expensive, esp at rush hour, but less so with a transponder).  So apparently by this point I was pretty tired.   And while J was gone, I fell very asleep.  When she got back she woke me up long enough to tell me she’d brought me water too and was going to explore the sauna. All good. I decided I’d stay and read and suggested she come back when she’d finished her next hot/cold adventure.

Here’s where I f’d up.  I didn’t even open my book.  I was asleep, and I mean *really* asleep, in seconds.   J did her thing and came back and knowing how exhausted I was and the whole point of being there was to relax, let me sleep.  Because A, she is an awesome human, and B, she doesn’t need me to entertain her.  She read a bit, did another lap of hot and cold, read a bit more, and I woke up an entirely new human.  Felt wonderful and also amazed (usually I’m the lightest sleeper on the planet - it’s a royal pita).  

And off we went in search of the stone bed.  We’d heard it was great for being a lizard lol and we’re both a little confused as to what it actually was.  But this was also in the silent area so seemed a good time to go there now that we kinda got how it all worked.  Well it was basically a room of heated stone beds, and it was pretty much heaven.   Felt like when you lie down on a hot deck after getting out of the just-a-bit-too-chilly lake.  And I promptly fell asleep again lol.  To be fair, this time J did too!

When I woke up I could feel all the signs of too much heat, so got out v fast.  Fortunately there was a cold pool a couple feet away.  That’s the one I made it the farthest into and it definitely pretty instantly reversed all the panicky “too hot” alarms going off in my body.   Then went over to a firepit in the silent area and read for a bit.   J got in another cycle while I was reading (she was targeting trying every option once while I was not interested in any of the saunas).

Anyways, we were starting to head back and I figured one last hot tub.  This is when I started to understand my fuck-up.   I stepped into the tub and just about screamed.  It felt like it was burning.  But all the tubs are within the same temp as each other.  Right.  It wasn’t too hot - I was.   It’s May.  In Canada.   My body hasn’t seen sunlight in months.  Sunscreen somehow didn’t occur to me.  And I slept, in the afternoon sun, unprotected, for hours.  Fuck.   

J wanted to do the salt scrub room (supposed to be the last thing you do before you leave) but A - I really wasn’t interested in more steam/sauna and B - I was beginning to think salt was going to feel the opposite of good on my skin :(

So we agreed to meet at the warm pool - one pool that’s an actual comfortable sitting temp and has a waterfall (those who know me will understand how much of a draw that is).   Well it was fine even with my slightly toasted skin and I went and sat behind the waterfall which was almost as heavenly as the stone bed given the cooler spray, the sound drowning the noise of people, and the sun shining through the water.  Kinda lovely.   

But more sun wasn’t what I needed, so I moved to a shady area till Jill was done her last adventure.   She also went and explored the falls before we decided to pack it up and head home.   In the change room, I saw the first signs of how badly I’d fucked up.  I was red.  Really angry red.  Pretty much everywhere.  And not the kind of “oops” red that fades the next day either.

Sure enough, today is that next day.  I can’t remember ever having been so badly burnt.   So incredibly unpleasant.   Thank god it was warm out so I could wear light and soft clothing.  Even my hands and feet are burnt.  And my armpits?!?!   I clearly was sleeping w my arms over my head - which I do, so not surprising but…. Ow.   So much ow.

I often say stupid should hurt.  This time it did.   But other than that it was a lovely day :)


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