I first heard about mineral bathes when I read Shirley MacLaine’s book Don’t Fall off the Mountain where she describes amazing experiences in the Peruvian Andes. Later I went travelling there and after walking the Inca Way to Machu Picchu our group was taken to a beautiful place called Aguas Calientes which I still dream about. It was a small outdoor pool with very basic changing facilities and a little bar selling beer. We went at night and bathed our walk weary bodies in the hot mineral waters while gazing up at the stars and mountain peaks all around us. It has become one of the places I travel to in my mind when I want to feel at peace.
Since then I have always felt drawn to places with natural hot springs. I felt very excited when I discovered that Catalunya has many towns and villages with balnearis – some are more basic and some are pure luxury. I wrote before about the Safareig in Caldes de Montbui and also about our visit to the Bains St Thomas in Catalunya Nord.
The idea of going to laze around in hot bathes on a regular basis could seem a bit self indulgent so I decided the best idea is to write about them, thus bringing in the justification of ‘work’ to my cunning plan to visit them all!
This week we went to La Garriga to see what happens in the Gran Hotel Balneario Blancafort. It is a huge complex – a very up market hotel with the thermal mineral spa inside, gardens dotted with sculptures, a large indoor carpark and apartments for holiday rental. We rolled up in a tiny Peugot, carrying backpacks and looking not at all like the sort of people who would actually stay here. But everything from the first moment at reception was perfect and welcoming. You can have a two hour stay in the spa for 38euros and after showing us around they left us to relax in peace and do things in our own time. There are several large swimming pools, some with different temperatures, some with water jets for muscle massage. Saunas and hot humid rooms, showers with special sprays pointing at different parts of your body. A semicircular walkway where round pebbles massage your feet while hot jets of sulphur water pummel your legs. Places to relax – if you only had time! And hot herbal drinks always available so you don’t dehydrate.
You can’t take photos inside the bathes so to see how it looks you need to take a look at the web site. The decoration was beautiful – whites, blues and greens, carefully placed plants and stones and interesting paintings and sculptures all around. There was no sense of rush or being monitored – if you needed help someone was there but for most of the time you were left to relax and enjoy.