By Shannon Mastaler
Just minutes from Ottawa, sits the beautiful region of Outaouais in the stunning countryside of Quebec. A visit here offers tranquility, recreation, picturesque views, rustic fine dining, country charm and the famous Nordik Spa-Nature.
We exit the highway, and make our way through the quaint roads and into the village of Old Chelsea, to the Auberge Old Chelsea B&B. Set among tall trees, with a cute porch and country feel, the charming main house offers visitors intimate and cosy rooms perfect for a vacation in the French countryside. The B&B also offers private rooms that are more like little cabins and this is where we will be staying on our first night in town. With a handmade quilt on the bed, charming and delicate furniture, a private bath and private patio, our room is the perfect blend of country charm and elegant accommodations.
After settling in we stroll the streets of Old Chelsea. With old heritage buildings now housing galleries, cafes and restaurants, and the hills and trees in the background, it’s a lovely little town! We stop for a bite to eat in one of the restaurants and take in the scenery from the welcoming patio. With full bellies we continue our stroll to Gatineau Park. Covering over 300 square kilometres, the park is located in an area of Old Chelsea where the Canadian Shield meets the St. Lawrence Lowlands and where the Ottawa River meets the Gatineau River, a must see for recreation enthusiasts visiting the region.
After our lovely walk it’s time to head back to our room for a little relaxation. We sit in our private patio with a cocktail and get ready for our dinner at L’Orée du Bois, the region’s top fine dining French restaurant.
Located in the heart of Old Chelsea and Gatineau Park, L’Orée du Bois is tucked into a forested nook. With a river running in the distance, walking up the dimly lit entryway into the charming restaurant is already a treat. Chef Jean-Claude Chartrand utilizes local ingredients as well as herbs, mushrooms and more from their very own garden.
The menu offers a large selection of traditional French dishes as well as some with a modern twist. Starters include rich soups made from local ingredients, escargot, mushrooms in puff pastry, Foie Gras, smoked scallops and so much more.
For our mains we decide on Veal with Wild Mushroom Sauce and Red Deer Medallions marinated in red wine from Cave Springs Vineyard with black peppercorn sauce. Both are served with a beautiful presentation of brussel sprouts and potatoes and our first bites result in a speechless moment as we savour flavours that overwhelm us. Smooth, rich, perfectly balanced – tender meet, and beautiful vegetables – our mains are the result of top notch and fresh ingredients, and a renowned chef that truly showcases ingredients as art.
The next morning we wake up in our cosy B&B to French toast muffins and fresh fruit, tea and coffee, and then head out for a day of pampering at The Nordik Spa-Nature, located only one minute from the B&B.
The Nordik Spa-Nature is located in the picturesque hills of Old Chelsea and is the largest spa in North America. It is a relaxation and healing centre mainly focused on thermotherapy and relaxation techniques from Scandinavian countries.
The large property includes 10 exterior baths of different temperatures and guests are encouraged to partake in the Thermal cycle – a heat therapy treatment that involves alternating between hot and cold, followed by a rest period. This relaxation ritual is based on a 2000-year-old tradition founded in Nordic countries and offers numerous health benefits.
In addition to the baths, various saunas are scattered across the property. Each sauna offers its own unique experience with essential oils and meditation. A large outdoor heated panorama pool is set overlooking a cliff with beautiful views of the valley and Ottawa in the distance. There are numerous resting places where you can cosy up and read a good book in front of roaring outdoor firepits and heated quiet rooms.
One of the most unique experiences is Källa – a large floating salt-water pool dug five metres deep into the rock which contains 10 tons of Epsom salt in 1,200 cubic feet of water. Nordik Spa-Nature’s Källa pool is only the second of its kind in the world, the other being in Switzerland.
After a day spent in such deep relaxation, with our exfoliated skin, calmed mind and relaxed soul, we head to our accommodation for the night – one of the beautiful lodges at Nordik. Located just a few steps from the spa, our lodge is a large, stunning log home featuring rustic architecture, large windows, modern décor, and a huge patio overlooking the picturesque landscape.
For dinner, we head into town to the historical Chelsea Pub, located in the heart of Old Chelsea. We enjoy sharing various starters including their gourmet burger and famous nachos and one of their many beers on tap. The patio is lit with sparkling lights and the ambiance is fun and light. Old Chelsea is alive tonight with couples, groups of friends and families exploring this lovely region and charming village.
The Outaouais Region and Old Chelsea are places of calm, indulgences and natural beauty. It’s the perfect choice for a weekend escape.
- Bring with you: A good book and a robe for the spa and comfy walking shoes for exploring Old Chelsea and the park!
- Treat yourself: To dinner at L’Orée du Bois and indulge in classic French cuisine in a beautiful atmosphere.
- At the spa: Be sure to partake in the Källa treatment at Nordik Spa-Nature – a large floating saltwater pool dug 5 metres deep into the rock which contains 10 tons of Epsom salt in 1,200 cubic feet of water.