Two Balnearis in Catalunya

I have never done this before and I doubt if I will again, but I went to two balnearis on one day!

BalneariI arranged to meet a friend in Caldes de Montbui as I wanted to visit the new municipal balneari at Plaça de Pau Surell.

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!

IMG_0079

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 want to write about them so you too can enjoy the fabulous healing and luxurious pleasure of bathing in mineral waters.

El Safareig

IMG_8309A 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.

IMG_0084And here is the view from this wonderful new place to go and bathe.

IMG_8313It  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.

Follow this link for some more photos and information

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.

IMG_8306The 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.

IMG_8310I took only a bathing costume and flip flops. You don’t need a bathing hat. I bought a paper towel which was ok but next time I would take my own.

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.

 

Broquetas Baneari

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.

IMG_5115It is right in the centre of Caldes de Montbui, opposite the famous Lion fountain

IMG_5119The Romans loved it here.

IMG_8323I have been there twice before and enjoyed it every time.

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.

IMG_8330Here you need bathing costume, flip flops, towel, no hat required but a dressing gown is essential for walking between rooms and you can either bring one or hire one for 6 euros.

St Thomas le Bain
One of my early spa experiences

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?

 

 

Hotel Balneari Broquetas – the modernist spa

Balneari Broquetas
Spring flowers are the best

Spring is coming in fast. The trees in Granollers are in the first stages of their annual blossom-fest – first the almond and then the cherry. White then pink.

The nights are now pleasant. Only a week ago it was still cold up in the bedroom and we needed the electric fire to dry off the humidity. Now I have relegated the hot water bottle to the back of the cupboard.

Dull dry skin – sluggish jaded body

When Spring is in the air it can often make you feel sluggish. You realise your body has been deprived of sunshine and warmth and it feels like you need a cleanse of some kind. Many people change their diet at this time of year or start fasting or take up a new form of exercise.

My skin has been feeling very dry and dull and when my body needs a boost  of course my thoughts turn to the balnearis of Catalunya!

Caldes de Montbui has a source of hot mineral water

I went with a friend a few weeks ago to one of the balnearis in Caldes de Montbui and took lots of photos as it is such an incredibly beautiful and unique place.  More news will follow soon on the other spas in this town – one of which is my current favourite!

balneari broquetas
so much creativity went into making these tiles

Balneari Broquetas

Broquetas
it stands in the town centre near the Lion fountain

The most wonderful aspect of this balneari is that the building is modernist and the baths are full of beautiful details and designs.

Balneari BroquetasWe chose three things to do as part of the basic spa package which lasts for one and a half hours. There is a wide choice but we picked the pool, the hammam and the horizontal jet spray baths.

There was no-one else there at all while we had our session – third time I’ve been lucky like this!    Here is the entrance to spa, you go down these stairs and enter a hot water paradise!

IMG_5107The pool is booked for your personal use so only members of your group will be there. It has all the usual jets and sprays and feels both intimate and big enough to swim around in.

balneari broquetas
our private pool

The hammam is too steamy to take photos but was enjoyable apart from the session being a little too short for us seasoned steam bathers.

Balneari Broquetas
I wonder who the artist was?

Imagine wandering around this lovely place, feeling warmed and cossetted by the beautiful design as well as the healing waters!

Balneari Broquetas
Love this ceiling

Even the changing rooms are lovely. This is the door to the Dones.

IMG_5101The horizontal jet bath was the most exciting thing. You lie down side by side, with your heads on cushions and hold on tight when the water starts because it comes both hot and cold and with such force that my friends bathing costume ballooned out to make her look 9 months pregnant. We were laughing and squealing and trying to stay steady in the very exhilarating water pressure.  When we came out we both felt totally revitalised.

Balneari Broquetas
two people can lie here side by side

There is an outdoor pool in the gardens which we were able to use and as the water in Caldes is very hot it felt comfortable even on this chilly day.

Balneari Broquetas
cold air, hot water

Perfect place for someone who wants to bathe in private

This was my second visit to Broquetas and I like it very much although I prefer to have more freedom to move around and not have to keep to a fixed schedule. However as my friend pointed out it is a wonderful place for a beginner or a shy bather as you are always in a private space, the staff are friendly and they leave you to enjoy it in a very relaxed way.  My first visit was with my sister and nephew a few years ago. My nephew, then 14, didn’t want to come really but afterwards he said it was the best part of his holiday.

The place itself is a work of art and as always, the waters of Caldes are healing and magical.P1090946We paid 30 euros each for our sessions which included gowns and towels.

IMG_5100 As you leave to return to the real world you can stop and admire the entrance which you didn’t notice when you arrived rushed and nervous from the journey. Now, relaxed, cleansed and ready for Spring,  you have time to look up and admire the flowers.

P1090942Here is the link if you would like to visit this balneari yourself.

IMG_5117Have you ever been to a hot mineral spa?  Let us know which places are your favourites in the comments section below. If you have any questions do get in touch and I will be happy to try and help.

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And let me know in the comments if you enjoyed this post or if there are other things you would like to know more about from The Catalan Way.

Till next time!   Happy Spring!

Chatting in the wash house

 

There is a town near here called Caldes de Montbui.

I went there when my sister and my nephew were visiting, to bathe in the hot mineral baths in one of the spas. The one we chose was a beautiful building with modernist interiors called Broquetas. The water comes from the ground at more than 70 degrees and has to be cooled before you can comfortably get in. There are various places in the town where the water spurts out of fountains and I’ve heard that some houses have their own supply.Last weekend we went back again, this time to see our friend Paula Kramer doing a dance performance as part of a project called Miau I first met my partner on one of Paula’s workshops in the Pyranees – her speciality is dancing creatively in nature and in so many ways it was a healing and life changing weekend. It always feels special to see her and the other friends that I met on that workshop.
Some of these photos are a bit misty and dark but if you tilt the screen you can get the picture and I like the way they are rather mysterious and watery.This performance took place in a Safareig – a communal wash house that uses the natural hot water and has a large central stone tub where women used to come to wash their laundry and talk. There is a Catalan phrase ‘fer safareig‘ which means to gossip – a word that in English has some negative associations but which I think also describes a vital and caring way of passing on news about your friends aquaintances and family. Womens communications – so many words that are pejorative – nagging, bitching, gossiping….
This town now also has a large community of people from Mali and some of these women have begun to use the Safareig as a meeting place and for washing clothes again. There are three Safareigs in Caldes and one of them seemed derelict and sad although as part of the project it was being used as a grafitti house where you could write your desires on the walls.
At the end of the performances people were invited to have a hot bath in the tub – I dangled in my feet and legs but wasn’t tempted to plunge in when it started to fill up with hot steamy bodiesBut it was an incredible scene.