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!


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.

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 you can go there directly and see if they have space. It is behind the church.


Broquetas Balneari

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?



Catching Up with you….and with myself

This is crazy – I want to write but it all feels too complicated to explain.

So here is my promise – I will write something in here every day for the rest of August and even if it’s short…..or boring…..or totally irrelevant……it will get me going again!

And to get me started here is a photo diary of the last few weeks.

Wild flowers in the little garden behind the cabin
My furniture arrives from Spain! I felt a bit silly for having sent it south three years ago but I suppose you can’t always know what the future holds and I did get (some) use from it.
After spending three weeks in Cornwall I went back to Catalunya once more! This time feeling relaxed enough to spend time enjoying the sunshine
And even more importantly to spend time with my favourite little friend. Stylish as always, here she is wearing a Japanese suit with top and shorts.
Summer isn’t complete without regular drinks of Horxata
I met my friend Cristina for supper in one of the beach cafes near Barcelona and ended up having a naked moonlit swim
Back to Cornwall and there was another party – this one meeting lots of people I only know from an internet photo group. I’m not very good at meeting lots of new people all at once – I struggled a bit I have to admit. But the organiser did a very thoughtful thing and gave each of us little bundles of cards made from our own photos. I think I will get some more made from my photos of Granollers
Twice a day the dairy herd crosses this road beside my home. You just have to switch off your engine and enjoy the scene. It’s not an easy life but this herd is well looked after by two Cornish twin brothers. This farm also is home to a large cat colony – the kitten overspill often arrives in neighbouring gardens and garages.
Work starts on renewing the sitting-room floor. A large granite slab is revealed
My sister and cousin came to visit and we went for posh fish and chips in St Ives where they were staying for the week
Walking the coast path with a friend and her dog, we came across the wild ponies who live there to keep the grass down
Cornish sky over Sennen beach. It’s not warm enough to swim yet for me but there is always the hope that you will see dolphins or seals
Work on The Stone continues!
I’ve fallen in love with my neighbour’s cat. She was born in a nearby shed, grew up in my garage, went missing with her sister and then finally found her forever home next door. She is one of the farm’s kittens – see above.
The Minack Theatre is right on the edge of the cliff. Even if the play isn’t enthralling, the view is always wonderful. I had friends to stay so we went to see Something Funny Happened on the Way to the Forum. I have to admit spending a lot of time watching the clouds.
July’s Blue Moon over the Merry Maidens. I love going there at night but it makes me sad that neither Blue nor Bonnie are here to accompany us. It’s time to get a new dog.
This is a view I never get tired of. Just as you drive out of Newlyn on the road to Mousehole there is a place that looks down over the harbour and across to St Michaels Mount. It’s double yellow lines but I often have to stop just for a minute.
And lastly the sky again, this time from the James Turrell room in Tremenheere sculpture park.

It’s been a busy time but also a time for contemplation. Friendship, home, illness, loss, dreams, changes, fears, love, time passing. Thank you for visiting!

“I make spaces that apprehend light for our perception, and in some ways gather it, or seem to hold it…my work is more about your seeing than it is about my seeing, although it is a product of my seeing.”
— James Turrell








Blue and Red and Gold


Two big pieces of news here.
One is the World Cup final which takes place tonight and will be a match between Spain and Holland. As a Scot I always have to resolve the vexed question of who to support when England has qualified and Scotland has not. I’m not very interested in football but I do get annoyed when people assume that I want England to win when it really doesn’t feel like my country. And something rather similar is the case here in Catalunya but it is also more complicated. As the graffiti says, Catalunya is Not Espanya! Catalunya is officially an Autonomous Region but to the majority of Catalans it is a country with its own language, culture, customs and history. Catalans do not feel they are Spanish which is why it feels complicated to support La Roja. At the start of play in the semi final 7 out of the team of 11 were players from Barça – the Barcelona football team inspires love, respect, admiration, adoration, obsession from people of all ages here and beyond. On nights when Barça plays you don’t need to watch TV – you know when there is a goal as the streets thunder with explosions and horns tooting. And if they win – cars stream along with horns never stopping and scarves and shirts hanging from the windows. Sounds from the streets after the match were loud and excited but to my ears rather less than after a Barça/Madrid game. Four of the eleven players in the semi final were Catalan. So although it is not the national team which would swell the hearts of people here it is also hard to ignore the match tonight. Mixed and complicated emotions.

Connected to this and even more complicated is the news of the demonstration yesterday which took place in Barcelona. I have struggled to get a good enough grip on the facts so I can write about it here. But in brief, the Catalunian government created a constitutional law called the Estatut. It describes how the people want the country to be organised and what is the vision for the future. But while Catalan people see themselves as a nation the Spanish government see Catalunya as no more than a region and herein lies a quagmire of power struggles, reactions, fear and anger, frustration and suppression. Within the Spanish state there is a lot of fear of Catalan independence. Financially Catalunya is a wealthy region and pays a lot into the central coffers while receiving less in return. What things make up a separate identity? Culture, history, laws, taxes, self determination, education and language. If you want to suppress a culture these are the areas to try and control. And as the Estatut gives the Catalan people rights to organise and control these areas there was a reaction from the Spanish government especially in the guise of the PP – the Spanish Right Wing party. They took the Estatut to court and in the past few days the verdict has been announced. Some parts are deemed unacceptable and others need to be changed. Now that I have read through more of the detail I can see why yesterday more than one million people – ONE MILLION – marched through the streets of Barcelona to protest that Catalunya should decide on its future. That Catalunya is not a small region of Spain and that now it seems that full independence is the only way forward.
All the areas I mentioned above are under attack –
* Catalunya should not call itself a nation
* Catalan language should not take precedence in Catalunya
* Catalan government cannot make decisions on creation of taxes
* Only the Spanish government can control and oversee Catalan banks
* As it is not a nation it cannot possess a national flag nor a national anthem
….and more…look at this site if you want to know more – its in english written by a Catalan man who lives in Holland.
I watch all this of course from the outer edges – it is interesting and also another little minefield to tread and I try to remember not to say the wrong things or put my foot in it too deeply. After years of being ‘anti english’ in Scotland, ‘anti carnivores’ as a vegetarian and more than a little ‘anti men’ as a feminist I am now more pro things than anti and I don’t like to feel carried along on emotions which make me forget my humanity or stop thinking critically. But…I can see there is a problem here – there is something out of balance and eventually there will be a shift.
The newspaper headline at the beginning of this post says ‘Catalunya shouts ENOUGH!’ I begin to think an independent Catalunya could be a positive way forward and it is an interesting time to be here and part of the story.