I walked into Scandinave les Bains with shoulders knotted from week’s worth of intense stress and floated out without a care in the world.
You could have told me that my house was on fire, Somali pirates had captured my sister and that my boyfriend was leaving me to star in an off-Broadway drag show, and I wouldn’t have been able to muster much more than a dismissive hand flap. I was that relaxed.
An Architectural Oasis of Calm
Despite its location on the main-floor of a building on a busy street in Old Montreal, the 12,000 square-foot thermal spa is an oasis of calm.
It’s also gorgeous: I felt like I was walking through an architecture magazine, which made sense when I learned that its designers, Montreal “starchitects” Saucier + Perrotte, won a Governor’s General’s medal in architecture for the building.
Running Hot and Cold
The spa experience involves spending 10 to 15 minutes in one of the hot zones, momentarily immersing oneself in shockingly cold water, then resting for 15 to 20 minutes in the lounge area. It’s a bit like steaming asparagus.
There are three hot zones: a heated pool (with a pounding waterfall perfect for working out any muscle knots), a dim eucalyptus-scented steam room, and a spacious sauna panelled with exotic hardwood. The cold water portion of the experience involves either plunging in a frigid pool or braving a freezing shower.
I’m a complete coward when it comes to cold water but in the interests of research, I decided to follow the staff’s instructions and do the hot-cold-rest cycles exactly as they recommended, and let me tell you, those people know what they’re talking about.
The Final Say
Two of my favourite eco-touches were the use of salted water (no chlorine) and the fact that they filter drinking water on-site to reduce the waste associated with bottled water.
One thing I didn’t realize until my friend and I were there is that there is no talking. Absolutely none. It hardly mattered, though: once we left, we couldn’t shut up about the place.