I have never done this before and I doubt if I will again, but I went to two balnearis on one day!
She arrived late when I was almost finished so we went on to bathe together at Broquetas which I have written about before but was very happy to visit again.
I won’t do two in one day again. Later that night I came down with a terrible cold. I think I did a bit too much cleansing! These places are powerful.
Balnearis of Catalunya
As you may know I am doing a survey of the Catalan Balnearis which are not well known outside the area. There are people who live here who also don’t know about them or how to go about visiting them.
There is a lot of information on the internet but it is generally very poorly translated into English. Here is an example from the Caldes tourist information:-
The spa tradition of Caldes de Montbui date very old as in Roman times was a spa town founded about hot springs that gush
However it is quite a good way of describing it – hot springs that gush – yes that is the wonderful miracle of these spas or balnearis as they are known here.
I am going to concentrate on the Catalan town of Caldes de Montbui because they have an especially rich history of mineral spas and a fountain where the gushing can be seen and felt – but don’t touch it – the water comes out at 76 degrees centigrade!
Where is Caldes de Montbui?
It is about 30 km from Barcelona and is not on a train line but you can get there by bus or by car. It is one of my favourite Catalan towns and is well worth the effort – not just for the spas, but because I think the medicinal waters have a healing effect on the people who live here and it is very friendly and relaxed.
How many Balnearis are there?
Unless there are some secret ones which I haven’t yet discovered (which wouldn’t surprise me at all as I imagine people have the mineral waters flowing right into their homes) there are four balnearis in Caldes.
Broquetas, Vila de Caldes, Victoria and the ‘new’ one at El Safareig.
I have visited all four and hope you can visit one day to enjoy the fabulous healing and luxurious pleasure of bathing in mineral waters. Here I will describe just El Safareig and Broquetas. The other two will follow later.
A few years ago I went to an art festival in Caldes called Miau which centred on the places where the mineral waters are available for everyone to enjoy. There are places called Safareig which were traditionally used for washing clothes and many generations of women have spent time there chatting and cleaning, and breathing in the minerals. And there are places to bathe.
One of the exhibitions was in an old dilapidated neglected safareig which was full of rubbish, forgotten, and covered in graffiti. We were invited to write down our dreams on one of the walls. I wrote mine on the far wall in the photo above!
Here is one of the other safareigs used to this day.
It has been totally renovated and reopened as a place to take the waters. It is simple, beautiful, and priced so that everyone can come. I heard that the vision to reopen this place came directly out of the art exhibition of Miau. And especially an American woman artist called Charity Blansit. It was called Santa Esperança before and has a wonderful position between the allotments of Caldes and the church.
There is a long slim pool of water with the jet bubbles at one end.Yes you have to share it with other people but everyone was very quiet and they only allow in a certain number every hour. I felt fine being there by myself.
It overlooks the vegetable gardens zone of Caldes with the mountains in the distance. On a warm day it would be good to sit out here.
The water pours in at a very hot temperature into a bath where they warn you not to bathe – but thankfully as this is not nanny Britain, they do not fence it off in any way. I suppose it must be mixed at this point with cooler water and then it flows into the long pool.
It cost 5 euros for an hour.
Totally fabulous and if I lived in Caldes I would be there every week.
To reserve a place go to http://www.visiteucaldes.cat/safareig-termal/or you can go there directly and see if they have space. It is behind the church.
This is one of the old modernist balnearis that is a pleasure to walk around in your dressing gown, feeling you are inside a historical setting.
It is not that easy to understand the booking system, even speaking and understanding Catalan as I do.
I usually ask for a ticket for a circuit but in this hotel there are so many choices that I think the best way to book is for a bateig. (bat-edge) Bateig means christening and in this case means you have a bath in a large pool and then two treatments of your choice.
However, we arrived rather late for this so we ended up having just the bath in the pool. This cost 31 euros for two people and also includes the option of swimming in the outdoor pool which is also mineral waters.
For me bathing in the mineral waters of Catalunya is a spiritual experience. It is healing, relaxing, softening, centring. I feel connected to the earth and to all the people who have used these magical places over the centuries. All the balnearis are different and bring different energies to the surface. The waters have been on a long journey down to the deep places of our planet, taking on minerals and heat as they flow, and then they surge up in very special places like Caldes, where the waters gush.
To finish I must just way a few words about Caldes. This is a very friendly place. People seem relaxed and happy. We went for a beer and tapas at a local bar and there was a man playing cello outside the church. Many people stopped to listen and to drop in a few coins. The music was soothing and beautiful. Every time I have visited there has been something special to enjoy. My recommendation to everyone – whether you are a visitor or a resident – come to spend some hours in Caldes and even better, take the waters.
If you would like more information about the balnearis then please do contact me here. I am happy to give more detailed advice and suggestions and am planning to write a leaflet about the spas which will tell you all you need to know in order to plan a visit to one.
If you do a search here on the blog for ‘balneari’ you will be able to find lots more information.
Do let me know if you have visited a balneari here in Catalunya. What was it like for you?