Caldes de Malavella…
With the alternative accommodation arrangements in place and being finally satisfied with our room we decided to explore the centre of the small town of Caldes de Malavella and walked out into the streets where there was a sort of old fashioned ambiance about the place.
The hotel was on a main square with a roundabout constructed of old oil drums painted blue and white and decorated with pot plants and next door was the town petrol station which consisted of a single pump obstructing the pavement standing outside the main shop, a bit more than a mini-market but nowhere near a supermarket but which had a good selection of wines at the sort of prices that we like.
Along what you might call the main street we passed a few bars and restaurants but they weren’t all open so dining choices later looked as though they may be a little limited. The town had a small stone built church and some interesting grand houses and this was on account of the fact that Caldes is a spa town, rather like Harrogate in England or Baden-Baden in Germany, blessed with natural spring waters and thermal baths that are said to have a long list of health benefits and miracle curative powers.
In fact the Romans, who knew a thing or two about thermal baths, discovered this place about two thousand years ago and there was an excavated villa on the other side of the town and close to the Balneari Prats there was another Spa hotel called the Vichy Catalan with a splendid and imposing brick facade.
Vichy Catalan Mineral Water…
Next to the hotel was the bottling plant for the natural spring water sold under the same name and claimed to be Spain’s most famous natural water. According to the web site “It is a Naturally Sparkling water with a high mineral content and a distinctive taste. Composition in mg/litre pH (at source) 6.82 TDS (total dissolved solids) 3052 Calcium 54.1 Magnesium 9.2 Sodium 1110 Potassium 48 Bicarbonates 2135 Sulphates 47.3 …” – so, a lot of good stuff in there!
The best part of the town was a dusty tree lined boulevard which was slumbering in the soporific heat of the late afternoon and which followed the line of a straight road with once grand villas with rusting iron balustrades, heavy wooden doors with impenetrable metal locks and adorned with scarlet geraniums spilling untidily over the balconies and dropping their crisp, sunburnt leaves one by one into the street.
It was clearly going to be difficult to find somewhere to eat so we found a bar and tested it with a drink and after concluding that it would do we returned to the hotel via the shop where we bought some wine and a bottle of Vichy Catalan mineral water, which turned out to be nearly as expensive as the alcohol, and we sat out on the balcony to sample it.
This was not the best hotel balcony it has to be said with probably the worst view ever overlooking a council car park, a builder’s merchants yard, a recycling centre and the rear view of a block of apartments with scruffy balconies but with a bottle of Estrella and a glass of Rioja we hardly noticed it as we sat in the sunshine and wasted an hour or so away until some unwelcome grey cloud began to sweep in from the north and take the sunshine away.
There weren’t many guests about at the hotel in the evening and the following morning we woke early and presented ourselves for breakfast in the dining room and it was only then that the truth dawned about the Balneari Prats!
Balneari Prats Hotel and Spa…
Being a Spa hotel with magical curative waters meant that it was full of old age pensioners with a variety of ailments who were here for the treatments and the promise of health improvement. They obviously started early because the dining room was full of people who clearly had no time to waste and were all down here in their white hotel dressing gowns and slippers, shuffling back and forth arthritically to the buffet table, drinking the Vichy Catalan in the hope of everlasting life as though from the Holy Grail itself and selecting healthy option breakfasts.
It was all rather surreal and it is certainly the first time that I have ever stayed in what seemed to be a care home for the elderly who after breakfast disappeared one by one along a clinical and rather sinister looking corridor towards the treatment rooms.
In the garden of the hotel there was a swimming pool with natural thermal water with more expansive claims about health benefits so before taking to the road we went for a swim and wondered if it would be rather like the film ‘Cocoon’ and that we would finish the exercise feeling twenty years younger. We didn’t of course but probably because we didn’t stay in the water long enough because today we had plans to visit the Costa Brava.