A lovely day

Lovely day.
Spent the morning at Granollers market. Took the dogs to Premia de Mar beach and then had lunch on the terrace in the sunshine.  Drove home over the hills behind Mataro and took a little detour to see the abandoned and derelict masia which I fantasize about doing up. Then a relaxed evening chatting with my friend on the sofa while watching BBC television drama with Juliet Stevenson.

I’ve done lots of research about balnearis in Catalunya and still haven’t decided which one to go to tomorrow. I found this site with a long list of possible ones and now am dreaming of taking a mineral bath every week while researching my book on The Mineral Spas of Catalunya.

Will let you know where we finally go!

Virtual Vermut

It’s Friday and time to wind down and relax.
Which is what we did. We went to La Garriga to the Balneari for a few hours of swimming and floating and steaming and cleaning. We had invited a friend from Barcelona to come as a birthday present and it was even more special as we had the place to ourselves almost all the time

We were there over two hours and it cost about 30 euros each.
It was my second visit there and next time I must try the other one – Termes de La Garriga. Then there is the Victoria in Caldes,  several in Santa Coloma de Farners and the special one in Puigcerda. If I am ever to write the English guide to Catalan balnearis (mineral bathes) I better start exploring.
If we sat together for a vermut today I would probably show you my photos of the wall near our house
I love the colour of this door. The notice is about the Grua which is the lorry that comes and tows away your car if it is parked in the wrong place. Here they are taking a coffee break near the Toy bar.

It’s easy to be in the wrong place as almost every second door is an entrance to a garage and you can’t park or even stop there. It makes Granollers a nightmare for parking

Also I always hesitate before saying ‘I am sorry’ as the words are too close for my liking. An apology is Em Sap Greu Greu and Grua – not so different.  The literal meaning of Grua is a crane. Then there is the word Gual as seen above. What on earth does that mean?

I have been in a cooking phase this week. Is it something to do with the absence of resident adolescent?  It is heart sinking to cook when he is around as he won’t eat anything that isn’t simple meat, pasta, pizza or chips. Somehow it takes the fun out of it. And he hates anything spicy.
So this week I have made
1/ Nut and Vegetable rissoles
2/ Rice Pudding
3/ Mexican Tortillas
4/ Baked salmon with potatoes dauphinoise
5/ Fideua`

This last you do in a paella pan – the sort with little holes in them

I hadn’t made this dish before and it is typically made with seafood and a fish stock. I was experimenting with a vegetarian version and it worked better than expected, especially nice with a little alioli on the side.  And a glass or three of cava.
And now as I am trying to watch Pa Negre on the TV why not drop by Bodhi Chicklet and see if she has dug out her bottle of vermut.  I need to concentrate to understand a film totally in Catalan. It was put forward for the Oscars this week as Spains foreign language film and almost got nominated. Imagine that – and it’s not in Spanish!

Thermal Baths

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.

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.

Bains de St Thomas


We went in the van to Catalunya Nord last week so called as it is widely seen as being a part of Catalunya although officially it is on the French side of the Pyrenees. Past clamp downs on the language mean that only the old and the young now speak Catalan there but it is now taught in schools. The highlight – for me – was our afternoon in the hot sulphur bathes of St Thomas. Being a great fan of indulgent lazing about I always head for these places if they are available and luckily for me there are lots of centres – Balnearis – to try out. Some are closer to home and I will write about them as I gradually work my way around them!Set in the mountains it is the perfect way to relax after a long walk up one of the highest mountains in the region – Canigó.