Tag Archives: Balneari Prats Hotel

Weekly Photo Challenge: Converge – Avenue of Trees

Caldes de Malavella Catalonia Spain

Caldes de Malavella, Catalonia…

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.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Street Life

Caldes de Malavella Catalonia Spain

The Siesta Time in Caldes de Malavella, Catalonia

In the early afternoon the residents retired into shuttered rooms leaving a dusty tree lined boulevard which was slumbering in the soporific heat 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 into the street like confetti.

It was so quiet that I could hear the paint lifting and splitting on the wooden doors, the gentle creaking of rusty shutter hinges, the squeaking complaints of rattan as sleeping residents shifted a little in their balcony chairs and the faint crack of seed pods in the flower planters.

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Catalonia, Caldes de Malavella and Vichy Catalan Natural Water

Caldes de Malavella Catalonia Spain

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 Caldes de Malavella Catalonia Spain

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…

Balneario Prats Caldes de Malavella Catalonia

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.

Costa Brava Catalonia Spain

Catalonia, A Historic Nationality and a Car Hire Scam

Girona Catalonia Post Card

“For almost the first time I felt I was really in Spain, in a country that I had longed my whole life to visit. In the quiet back streets of I seemed to catch a momentary glimpse, a sort of far-off rumour of the Spain that dwells in everyone’s imagination.”  –   George Orwell – ‘Homage to Catalonia’

The Ryanair flight was delayed for almost an hour due to a baggage handlers dispute at Barcelona airport so it was already early afternoon when the plane landed and we descended down the steps to the tarmac and into the Province of Girona where we would be spending most of our time on this visit.

It was hot, it was humid, it was bright and I could smell Spain or to be precise I should perhaps say Catalonia or Catalunya as many of the local population would prefer because this is a region of Spain, one of the seventeen Autonomous Communities, that is fiercely nationalist and has growing aspirations of independence from Spain and Madrid.

I had been to Catalonia before but on that occasion without knowing as much as I do now; that within the Spanish Constitution it is defined as a ‘Nationality’ and enjoys significant regional autonomy (as are the Basque Country and Galicia), it has its own distinct language and is culturally very different to the Spain of Castile.  There is no mention here of El Cid or Don Quixote but rather of Antoni Gaudi and Salvador Dali and in 2012 the Catalan parliament even banned the Spanish sport of bull fighting.

Antoni Gaudi Comillas Cantabria SpainSalvador Dali Surrealist Artist with Sea Shell

A bit of quick history – Catalonia was created by Charlemagne as a buffer state to protect the northern Frankish Empire from the threat of expansion by the Moors of Iberia and like all buffer states that has meant a turbulent history, squeezed between more powerful neighbours, its borders frequently rearranged, dismantled, absorbed and passed back and forth like a serving plate at a banquet depending upon the prevailing balance of power.

In 1492 Catholic Spain was united through the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella and the new power based in Madrid favoured Seville and Cadiz over Catalonia for monopoly of the New World trade routes and sea power gradually declined; later there was conflict with Madrid again during the Thirty Year’s War and then The War of The Spanish Succession when the region seemed to have an unfortunate tendency to back the losing side and then suffer the inevitable consequences when it came to peace and settlement.

The most recent conflict came during and after the Spanish Civil War when Catalonia was one of the last Republican and Socialist areas to fall to the Nationalists of General Franco and then paid the price through years of recriminations, subjugation and suppression of its language and culture as the fascist government in Madrid set out to stamp the authority of Castile on its troublesome region.

Catalonia 2

I was hoping to learn more about this during our travels but before we could begin the journey we had to pick up the hire car.

I had booked with Solmar before and had always been pleased with them but this time there were some complications.  I had booked a small car group C vehicle but there were none available so I was told that we were being upgraded to a group B which on the face of it didn’t seem to be something to complain about but the upgraded vehicle turned out to be a Volkswagen Cabby which is a seven seater van rather than a compact car which was much bigger than we needed.

Even worse was that although it had seven seats it had no boot so there was nowhere to put our bags and coats out of sight of thieves and there was a big sticker in the window telling us not to leave bags and personal items on show – which was impossible.  We were planning to travel around of course which meant that we had an itinerary that involved stopping off now and again on route with our bags so the first thing that had to be done was a complete revision of the planned schedule.

The next thing that annoyed me was that Solmar have now introduced a ‘pick it up full, return it empty’ policy regarding fuel which means that they charge for sixty litres of fuel at an inflated price with about a 25% mark-up on the average pump price and hope that you don’t use it all so that they can then make a dishonest additional profit when charging for sixty litres of overpriced fuel to the next renter.

Actually, this is worse than dishonest – it is bordering on fraud or even theft because if they only have to put in thirty litres they charge for the full tank and in my opinion is bare-faced deception because they are billing for something they haven’t provided or incurred a cost for.  I was immediately determined that I would bring the car back with a tank so empty that I would be driving on fumes!

We weren’t going to use a lot of fuel today however because we were staying only a few kilometres from the airport at the Spa town of Caldes de Malavella just south of Girona and we arrived there quickly and without incident and as we pulled into the car park we were pleased with our choice of hotel, The Balneari Prats, which from the outside looked smart and grand.

At reception we completed the check-in formalities and then were given keys to room 101 and as we approached it down a worn out corridor I began to worry that this could just be a nightmare room.  And I wasn’t wrong because it was old and tired with heavy wooden shutters at the windows with vegetation creeping through which looked horribly like a certain home for dozens of mosquitoes.  I imagine that this could well have been a room that Orwell himself may have stayed in when on leave from fighting with the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War.

There are some things that English people are not good at which include not complaining about a disappointing meal, not getting angry when people push in front at queues and not asking for a change of hotel room when it doesn’t live up to the description in the brochure.  I am exactly like this but I could tell from Kim’s demeanour that on this occasional I would have to act out of national character and ask for alternative accommodation.

Actually the hotel had an old part and a new part and getting changed was absolutely painless and simple and within ten minutes we had a modern room with a balcony for only €10 extra a night.

Balneari Prats Caldes de Malavella Catalonia