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FORSYTH: Grotto spa at Tigh-Na-Mara a crash course in relaxation

Spa and tapas allow you to experience all your senses
The mineral pool is designed as a natural stone grotto that gives Tigh-Na-Mara’s Grotto Spa its name.

There's more than a few very good reasons why the Grotto Spa at the Tigh-Na-Mara was named Canada’s No. 1 spa by Spas of America.

Nestled in the towering trees of the Parksville coastline, the spa lets guests experience total relaxation and connect with nature and all of your senses.

Once inside, my wife and I felt like we were inside a very welcoming, temperature controlled cave (it's been designed to emulate a natural stone grotto) with the soothing sounds of a waterfall.

My wife and I really appreciated the "go at your own" pace philosophy at the Grotto. We had two hours to enjoy ourselves — there's no pressure to move from one area to next, as with some spas.

We enjoyed the mineral pool (with jets), infused with minerals to detoxify the body, the whirlpool, a cascading waterfall (this was my favourite) and the outdoor area which includes four cedar barrel saunas set in a garden patio. There's something really refreshing about alternating between hot and cool water.

The outdoor area is a good spot to enjoy a beverage, but we decided to hold on until we reached the Treetop Tapas & Grill. We dined comfortably in our robes and sandals with an amazing view of the forest that surrounds the Tigh-Na-Mara. 

We were delighted with the Chef’s Tasting Menu.

As a bit of a tapas newbie, I initially thought we were meant to pick an item or two off the list. Instead we were treated to a journey that highlighted the tastiest flavours of Vancouver Island. 

We started with a kale blend salad that included a nutritional yeast vinaigrette, granola and fruit. Next I realized how delicious celery can be when we tried a celeriac and apple soup with toasted pumpkin seed and leek oil. 

Moving right along, we tried the Sheringham gin-cured sockeye salmon, then the Dungeness crab cake, apple and watercress salad, followed by Quadra Island mollusks with raspberry sunchoke purée (my wife's favourite).

Despite my not being much of a seafood fan, I thought they were all delicious. The menu includes some very unique, but tasty, elements like Pacific pickled bull kelp tartar and I ate every bite. We also appreciate that the menu all seemed so healthy.

We continued on to a wild mushroom blend, the beef sous vide tenderloin (my favourite, although the celery soup was close behind), BoMé selection of cheese and then finished with dessert — Ginger Creme Brulé with vanilla meringue. There's an option to have seconds, but we were completely satisfied. 

Every member of the staff was gracious, kind and helpful, so thank you so very much for welcoming us to the Grotto. We will be back.

Kevin Forsyth

About the Author: Kevin Forsyth

As a lifelong learner, I enjoy experiencing new cultures and traveled around the world before making Vancouver Island my home.
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