Location: Quebec City, Quebec
Siberia Station Spa, located north of Québec City at 339 Rue de Genève, Québec, is a beauty. It underlines the reason we blog about experiences. This outdoor-indoor combination spa comes at a surprisingly reasonable price with its all-day spa package at only 47 CAD allowing access from 9 am - 9 pm! There are also combos for spa + massage/dinner etc. All in all, it’s a perfect gift too.
Siberia Station Spa is situated far away from the noise amidst a forest that lets you get in touch with origins once again. It is inspired by a Scandinavian concept of alternating hot, cold, and rest treatment till the body reaches a state of deep relaxation. This therapy is said to provide several benefits such as reduction of stress, cleansing the body of toxins, muscle relaxation, improved blood circulation, skin care and more. We were advised to come here with at least 3 hours in hand to fully experience what this spa has to offer. We arrived at the station at 10 am and were checked-in by a friendly and very helpful host who gave us a tour of the spa and details of how we were to go about the therapy. The spa houses 4 hot stations: Hot Basin, Steam Bath, Dry Sauna and Infrared Sauna; 2 cold stations: Cold Basin and the River (quite literally!); and finally, the rest stations: Pavillion Upe, Siberian Yurt and the Lodge, among a few others. The 3-step repetitive process is quite simple: you calm the body and mind in one of the hot stations for a while, then give them a sudden wake-up in cold water and finally, lounge and rest to the natural sounds of the wind, the birds, the trickling water and the quietude.
Once we had switched our phones off, were out of our clothes and in our bathing suits, we were all set to relax after a 3-day journey. First up was the Hot Basin, one of several distributed across the outdoor site. It is a natural starting point, given the pristine steaming basin of warm water with a beautiful unobstructed view of tall trees, a steadily flowing river nearby and open sky. It is heavenly! We could instantly feel our bodies relax and let go. The jets of water shooting out underneath serves as a welcome tissue massage for your palms, feet and back. Yet, even as your heart begins to speak out through its relaxed beats, it is soon time to give it some shock therapy. As you step out of the basin, you must now enter one of the chilled waterfalls around. The water is naturally cold in this northern, Quebecois region of Canada. This part required a quick run-in and run-out for me even though the macho Mr. Fly was happy braving the chills. While some may feel compelled to skip this part, we strongly recommend not to. This exciting, if inconvenient, step is important to the physiological healing you are subjecting the body and mind to, activating your nervous system. The final step is one where you relax - for starters, in a muskoka chair by a fireplace, surrendering to the sound of the slow breeze humming around like soothing music.
Round 2! This time we went into the Steam Room. We entered a fairly large size room filled with hot steam and a light smell of Eucalyptus oil. As advised by our host, we carried our bottle of water (provided by the station) and a bucket of ice. Occasionally placing cubes of ice on our necks as they melted away, we sat for about 5 - 10 minutes here to help calm muscle tension. Following the quick run-in, run-out at the Cold Basin, we now had bed swings to relax on!
Round 3! This one was an Infrared Sauna - a tiny wooden room with dim lights and light music, passing infrared rays through our bodies. Post another chilled waterfall outside, we chose to relax on hammocks, hung between trees right by the gently flowing river. As we lay down in our respective shells, surrounded by the majesty of forest cover, the line thinned between wakefulness and sleep. The eyes were open, yet with all surrounding view cut-off, except for the leaves and the sky, the mind had gone silent. You will be forgiven for catching a quick nap if you so choose.
Round 4! Our final round began in a Hot Stone room. The tiara, though, was won here by the cold therapy - a quick dip in the steady flowing Yellow River in the middle of the forest! For those quick seconds, I felt the river embrace me, spreading her soothing balm all over. So it was only fitting to choose one of the riverside Adirondacks after. These isolated beds overseeing the river and facing the opposite bank of thick green cover were our moment to say a personal goodbye to the place.
The spa had several other options to try too - from yurt to igloo to indoor upper-level beds. Starved for time, we couldn’t explore them all, or even the cafe which we hear has good comfort food to follow the experience with. Siberia Station Spa is open all year-round. We can only imagine this outdoor experience when covered in snow around. Some things are best saved for a next time though. We will be going back to the sound of the steady stream, the breeze gently blowing around and this escape into serenity where all we could hear were the murmurs of mother nature gently breathing life back into us.
Location: Paris, France
The experience of Sacre Couer is in many ways the experience of Montmartre, aptly summed up as a cozy romantic evening through the narrow alleyways of Paris. Exploring the streets of Montmartre is a hike! These cobblestones dotted with shops of various interests give you a very local feel. And for good reason. This region of Paris was home to many artists of the long gone Beautiful Era.
You can take a subway to Pigalle or Anvers station and begin the climb to the cathdral. On the way, you will see several points worth a well-deserved pitstop, starting with a love-themed wall of 40 square meters in the Jehan Rictus garden square, known as Wall of Love. On this deep blue tiled wall are over a thousand “I love you”s, each written in a different language. We could not help but see how this great wall had made everyone cuddle with their partner or even parents while they stared at it. What a romantic spot to be at!
After being overwhelmed by the love-filled airs, we moved on to climb what was a tall stairway with tiny doors on either side that probably led to the homes and so many more stories. But as you move higher and higher, the bustling spread of Paris appears to play hide-and-seek as it comes into view and vanishes just as quickly. Ironically, one of the better views happens to be at spot where you’d find yourself smitten by something entirely different - a cute pink cafe, nestled under a low roof, called La Maison Rose. Upon entering this quaint cafe, we met a friendly hostess who seated us at tiny table and served delicious coffee and fresh bread, the perfect break to our long but exciting climb! There are several ways to reach Sacre-Couer but we advise you take the path that goes past the Wall of Love and this cafe.
As we set out with happy tummies, we reached several souvenir stores a short walk away, and lining the street that now directly takes you to the final destination. It’s a good place to pick up a few knickknacks - maybe a coin purse with Paris embossed on it or a couple love mug that locks with each other and says J’taime! As you move forward, the path has one last gem in store before unraveling the cathedral - Place du Tertre. Oh, how do I even begin to describe the splendor of this square! A dimly light yet lively space that once used to be the main square in the village of Montmartre and inspired renowned artists such as Van Gogh, Picasso, Pissarro, Modigliani and many more; it has now come to be known as “The Artist’s Square”. It is located high on the hill approximately 300 meters from the Sacre Coeur Basilica, buzzing with local artists quickly drawing up stunning sketches of their customers while others indulge themselves in various delicacies sold by cafes and restaurants that frame this square. It is a mesmerizing sight to see. But like everything in Paris, it only takes a short walk to come across a view that beats even that.
For generations, Montmartre had been considered a place of worship by the local Parisians. It is said that after the war in 1870 between France and Germany, Alexandre Legentil and Hubert Rohault de Fleury vowed to build a church dedicated to the Sacred Heart as reparation since they believed that the misfortunes of France was due to spiritual rather than political causes. In the late 19th century, the Basilica of the Sacré-Cœur was erected keeping in mind its tradition - “God is well and truly present”. The Basilica was designed by Paul Abadie and 6 other architects. While exploring this magnificent place of worship, we noticed that the architecture was Romano-Byzantine style. This house of God dimly lit and surrounded by tranquil silence has been designed gave a feeling of eternal harmony and peace. After basking in this serenity and praying for a while we continued our tour of the basilica.
A look at the ceiling showed us a 475 square meter Mosaic of Christ in Glory, considered to be the largest in the world! This mosaic is said to represent the risen Christ, clothed in white and with arms extended, revealing a golden heart. Surrounding him is a world of adorers including the Virgin Mary, Saint Michael, Saint Joan of Arc, as well as a personification of France offering her crown and Pope Leo XIII offering the world. On either side, in two rows of gilded architecture, the homage of the Church and France to the Sacred Heart are depicted beautifully. The grand pipe organ of the Basilica of Sacré-Cœur adds to the magnificence of this basilica. It is considered to be one of the most remarkable ones in Paris, in France and in Europe. Built in 1898, it is the last great instrument built by the illustrious Aristide Cavaillé-Coll. Rumors have it that in 1611, a staircase was discovered that led to an ancient crypt that was said to have been sanctified by Saint Denis.
If you feel you are in the mood for an adventure, we recommend that you do not miss the climb to the dome of Sacré-Cœur at sunset which is open every day from 8.30 a.m. to 8 p.m. (May to September) and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (October to April). Once you embark on your adventure you will come across a narrow spiral stairway with 300 steps and no lift that leads to the dome of the basilica. Once we finished our climb to the top, watching the sunset accompanied with a panoramic view of the Paris, timed perfectly to witness the Eiffel Tower begin to sparkle, was probably the highlight of our trip! We truly lost ourselves in the glory of this basilica.
As we descended on the other side, we availed the services of a minivan located at the climb below the basilica where a jolly host singing old Parisian songs serves you a glass full of hot wine that was perfect in the chilly weather around us. Aah, but our pièce de résistance came by soon after when the hunger pangs took over. We headed to Le Refuge des Fondus! Don’t miss it as this unique little restaurant is filled with loud chatter, delicious food and a dining concept that will leave you talking about it for months. That included climbing over the tables to get seated, and drinking wine served in baby bottles!
To experience Montmartre truly, soak in the streets and these little corners. If you listen closely, you will find yourself to be the closest to La Belle Epoque than you’ll ever be.
Who are Mrs. & Mr. Fly?
Mr. Fly is a central character in the ongoing Kalki Evian series of books. Originally conjured in the fictional narrative to describe an unbiased view of our everyday world, he was soon joined in real life by a jolly Mrs. Fly who taught him how to truly discover pleasures in little things often missed while living out fast-paced lives. As they began exploring, this blog took shape with a view to share what they saw.