I’ve been dabbling in wellness for over a decade, so whenever there’s an opportunity to indulge in some self-care, you bet I’m there!  While living in the UK, I ventured on the first of many wellness retreats. On a retreat in Turkey, I was introduced to the true delight of the Turkish bath. It’s a traditional bathing and cleansing ritual that has been part of Turkish culture for centuries. You move through a circuit of hot, cold and rest areas to promote relaxation. Now living back in Canada, I couldn’t be more pleased that there are several spas which offer a variation on the Turkish bath experience.

Our end of summer ritual is spending the Labour Day weekend with university friends in Esterel, north of Montreal. While I cherish this time, the weekend will always start with a day on my own. That day starts at Bota Bota, a full-service spa in the Old Port of Montreal. One of the (many) things I have learned as a woman somewhere north of 40, is the importance of solo self-care. With lives stretched managing too many priorities in a fraught world, our nervous systems are fried. For me, time alone is an essential indulgence to be at my best for others, but most importantly, for me.

Get onboard:

What makes Bota Bota a unique spa experience is its location on a floating boat on the St. Lawrence River, surrounded by stunning views of the city skyline and river. On arrival, you’re greeted by the crew (wearing the mandatory blue and white stripes of naval crew, of course!), who equip you with your robe and towels and orientation of the Bota Bota experience. Bota Bota offers a full selection of massage and beauty treatments, however, a visit to the water circuit alone is incredibly restorative.

Wade in:

There are two main areas to enjoy the water circuit – on the boat and in the garden. The boat enforces strict silence while quiet conversation is permitted in the gardens.  Like the Turkish bath, the water circuit consists of 3 steps:

·       first is 10-15 minutes in the heat – Options include a dry sauna, steam rooms and hot tubs but the dry sauna is recommended first to relieve muscular pain and release toxins.

·       secondly you spend 1-2 minutes in the cold plunge pool or shower.

·       Thirdly 10-15 minutes relaxing on a hammock, a sun lounger or bean bag.

·       Repeat

Top tip: If you haven’t booked a massage but your muscles need releasing, the waterfall in the garden pool will do the trick!

The essentials:

·       It costs $70-90 for a 3-hour water circuit experience, depending on the day and low or high season.

·       You can walk in during the week for the water circuit, but appointments are mandatory on weekends. Book treatments early – Bota Bota is well-known and popular with locals as well as tourists.

·       There’s a restaurant on the main level of the boat and a bar in the garden if you need to refuel. On this visit, there was a special promo offering an extra hour if you visited the restaurant.

·       Don’t forget your swimsuit, flip flops and a water bottle.

·       Hot, cold and relaxation areas are available on the boat and in the gardens, so pick one area or indulge in both.

·       Multiple areas have been created for relaxation and quiet contemplation – explore the outdoor spaces on the many levels of the boat or the paths in the garden. Find your secret spot – I’m not telling you mine.

Go with a friend. But also, go on your own. Lean into the beauty of silence and unselfishly indulging in your own pure pleasure and self-care. Breathe in, breathe out ….. and relax.