Ooedo Onsen Monogitari, Tokyo

Mindblowing is the word I use to describe this place.  This is the Disney of hot springs!  Ooedo Onsen Monogitari is an onsen theme park located in Tokyo Bay.  It is also a fully functioning natural hot springs onsen, with multiple indoor and outdoor baths.

Yurikamome line & Tokyo’s Rainbow Bridge (Brianlockwood)

Getting to Ooedo Onsen Monogitari is a great trip in itself.  I took the Yurikamome automated train that goes across Tokyo Bay’s Rainbow Bridge.  The views of Tokyo were stunning, and the Telecom Center station stop is worth a visit on its own.  From Telecom Center, it’s a short walk (3 minutes) to Ooedo Onsen Monogitari.  The entrance reminded me of a typical Japanese Ryokan but on a man-made island, surrounded by automation!  It’s reminiscent of a typical Japanese anachronism of history amidst high technology.  Those who have visited Japan know exactly what I mean by that, and you will too once you’ve been there a few days.

Entrance to Ooedo Onsen Monogatari

There were no lineups when I went!

Inside, again, the design is of a typical ryokan but serving thousands of people per day.  Language was not really an issue – once I paid my entrance fee, I really didn’t have much of a choice but to go in the same direction as everyone else!  Like Disney, you automatically get carried to Main Street.

Inside, there is a reproduction of a historic Japanese market street – on steroids!  There are food and gift vendors everywhere, games, etc.  It’s the usual Disney/Niagara Falls experience, with a strong Japanese flavour.  It’s a great place to bring kids as they can run around as much as they want but the exits are closely monitored so they can’t leave the building.  There are a lot of families here, especially on the market street.  The food is acceptable to good, the atmosphere is of a fair or carnival, and you can’t really help but smile at all the activity.

Then there are the onsen.  The change rooms dwarf anything I had ever seen before or since, and were about 5x bigger than the largest university change room I have ever seen. There were some excellent hair and skin products freely available in the change rooms and the flow of people was very fluid both going in and going out.

From GoTokyo.org

The change rooms are segregated into men and women’s rooms.  Bathing suits are prohibited, and so are tatoos.  From the change rooms, you go to the wash area were there are hundreds of wash stations for you to clean up at before going into the baths.  The overall feel is clean and efficient – very different from the bustle of the market area. There are so many people going through that the process is smooth and painless; there is no waiting for a wash station, they are all clean and bright, and by the time you have finished getting ready for the onsen, you will be in the mood.

Onsen baths at Ooedo Onsen Monogatari, from TokyoOdaiba.net

Beyond the wash stations are the baths themselves, and you enter an onsen.  A real, functioning not-crazy onsen, with a variety of baths both indoors and out.  There are many different tubs inside, some are large, some smaller, with different temperatures and jets.  I particularly enjoyed going from the vigorous high intensity jacuzzi type very hot spring bath to the large relaxing one by the window.  The outdoors areas were very natural and you could easily forget you are in the middle of downtown Tokyo.  I didn’t get a chance to try the little fish pond or get a massage, but I found these onsen to be totally in line with what I expected for onsen.  There was just “more” of everything!  For details on visiting Ooedo Onsen Monogatari, visit their website here

from vagabondish.com

I really enjoyed my day trip to Ooedo Onsen Monogatari – I had no idea what to expect when I started out and certainly didn’t expect the reality.  Everything was a pleasure, from the train ride to the onsen, to the funky and wild mainstreet, to relaxing in the natural setting of the onsen.  It’s a great day trip in Tokyo.

Il y un excellent article en français au sujet d’Ooedo Onsen Monogatari sur le site dozodomo.com – visualisez-le ici.  If you’d like to see more great photos of the interior of Ooedo Onsen Monogatari, follow this link to an excellent review in French on dozodomo.com

Sam’s Family Spa Hot Water Resort – Desert Hot Springs, California

Sam’s Family Spa is a true oasis in the desert.  This is a 50 acre RV campground that is centered around a large lake with lush gardens and lots of shade.  It’s been a family run and family oriented business since 1971.

Campsites at Sam’s (from http://www.wheelingit.us/)

Desert Hot Springs is the lesser known cousin of Palm Springs, California.  Desert Hot Springs still retains its desert feel, even though it is a fairly large city.  The approach to Sam’s is no different; the roads are dun and dusty. Once you arrive at the grounds, the campsites retain that desert feel – ours had a large saguaro as well as some smaller desert plants, and we shared our RV site with a desert hare who seemed to accept our presence as a mild inconvenience.

The central feature of the RV park is the lake, complete with ducks and other wildlife.  It’s a true oasis, a very tranquil centerpiece and a nice change from the surrounding desert.  There are walking paths around the lake and a large well furnished rec hall.  There is a volleyball court and picnic tables.  And of course there are the springs.

The Lake at Sam’s (from Tripadvisor.com)

Outdoor soaking pool at Sam’s (via Yelp)

The spring water is pumped from deep underground Desert Hot Springs aquifer, and comes to the surface at about 105 F.  There are 5 soaking pools and another pool for smaller children, along with a sauna and a regular swimming pool. All the pools are clean and well maintained.  There were lots of times when we were the only ones in the pools so we found it very relaxing.  I really enjoyed listening to the birds singing while I soaked.  I moved from pool to pool, both indoors and out and soaked up the moisture of the oasis after a week in the desert dust.  The lushness at Sam’s is a really nice change from the desert.

Children are everywhere here and it is a great place for them to run around and enjoy the outdoors.  While we were here, we never felt crowded – there was lots of space and many different types of areas to relax in.  There is lots of shade at Sam’s so we didn’t have to worry about the desert sun, but we could step out of the shade to dry off instantly in the desert wind.

Sam’s is one of the best RV parks I’ve ever seen.  It has loads of activities and great hot springs pools in a lush desert setting.  There are very few well developed hot springs in California and I count this as a great place to stay for an extended period, and especially good for families.  Because of the layout of the springs and pools area, it’s one of the few places where a parent can have a relaxing soak while still keeping one eye on the children.  Check out Sam’s Family Spa Hot Water Resort the next time you are in Desert Hot Springs!

An American Expat Onsen Addict in Japan


Every week, I like to repost someone else’s blog that is particularly interesting and focused on hot springs.  This week, I found this blog written by Greg Goodmacher, an American expat living in Japan.  His blog is about the cultural experiences of life in Japan seen through the eyes of a “hot springs addict”.  There are over 27,000 onsen in Japan, so he’s in the right place to be an addict!

Greg’s most recent post is called “Amazing Snowshoe Trip and Japanese Onsen” and is about snowshoe & hot springs.  It is similar to my own experience in the Gatineau Park & Spa Le Nordik here in Canada, that I wrote about in “Snowshoe & soak”.  The big difference is that he got to visit this cool ice cave near Hokkaido!

Ice Cave in Japan, by Greg Goodmacher

Ice Cave in Japan, by Greg Goodmacher

Follow Greg’s blog and give him a big shout out for sharing his experiences as a Hot Springs Aficionado living in Japan!

Remembering the Healing Springs of Eastern Ontario

Dominion House Hotel, Carlsbad Springs, Ontario

Dominion House Hotel, Carlsbad Springs, Ontario

I live in Ottawa, Ontario, very close to a town named Carlsbad Springs. A hundred years ago, Carlsbad Springs was a renowned spa town, with four grand hotels and steeplechase horse racing. It is rumored that Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald, stayed at the Dominion House hotel. The Dominion House burned down in 1930 as the North American spa culture died out and it was never rebuilt. The last of Carlsbad Springs’ grand hotels closed in 1968.

When I first moved to Ottawa, there were still ruins of a bridge leading to the spa’s site. Today, there is almost nothing left, just one spring house and a plaque to commemorate the glory days of the springs.  The trees have grown in and Carlsbad Springs is part of suburban Ottawa now, with houses on standard size lots and some townhouse developments not too far away.  There is one original spring house still standing and there is a historical plaque along with a small park commemorating the glory days of Carlsbad Springs.

Carlsbad Springs, March 2015

Carlsbad Springs, March 2015. Russel Road Bridge over Bear Brook

I enjoyed watching the spring water gurgling out from under the spring house on the day I took this picture, which is taken from almost the exact same spot as the one above – if I had gone to the exact same spot, we would have a picture only of trees!  The little spring house to the right of the modern photo is the one to the far left of the old photo (I think!) For a detailed history of these healing springs, see the Carlsbad Springs Community Association’s web page at http://www.carlsbadsprings.ca/?page_id=165

Caledonia Springs Hotel, 1872 Photo Source: Library and Archives, Canada Photo

Caledonia Springs Hotel, 1872
Photo Source: Library and Archives, Canada Photo

In researching this post, I learned that a little east of Carlsbad Springs was the even grander Caledonia Springs. This video, featuring University of Ottawa Chief Archivist Michel Prévost, describes the four springs with their different curative properties, the bottling factory and the hotels frequented by rich members of the elite on doctor-supervised thermal waters cures. The video is in French, but the pictures and ruins are evocative even without the audio.

Mr. Prévost raises a good point that bottle mineral springs water was the only safe water to drink in the days before sanitation. A hundred years ago, drinking water didn’t come out of a tap – you needed a well to find it.

Take some time to think about the history of springs and look around where you live to see if there are some springs that may be almost forgotten.  Let us know what you find!

Ad for Caledonia Springs from Harper’s Bazar, 1879.  Unlike Caledonia Springs, Harper’s is still around!

T or C, New Mexico


Every week, I like to repost something I found that is a particularly interesting view of Hot Springs.  This week, I am posting a few great blogs and video about the town of Truth or Consequences in New Mexico.

The town was originally named Hot Springs, NM, but changed its name in 1950 when the game show Truth or Consequences offered to host the show from the first town to change its name – on April 1st!  For the next 50 years, the radio and TV shows were hosted from T or C during the first week of May every year.

Map of the Hot Springs in Truth or Consequences, NM

Map of the Hot Springs in Truth or Consequences, NM

There were over 40 hot springs resorts in town before WWII and while there are only about 10 active hot springs spas today there is also a renewed interest in the town.  In February 2015, Spaceport America announced that its visitor center will be located in the historic district of Truth or Consequences, NM.  If you want to know more about what’s going on in T or C, click here for the link to Sierra County information.

On Sierra County’s site, there is a regimen for 21 soaks in 21 days – click here to find out more from someone who’s done it!

Riverbend Hot Springs, from Living the Dream  Deferred blog

Riverbend Hot Springs, from Living the Dream Deferred blog

There are a lot of great blog posts on Truth or Consequences, including:

this one from the Blog of Funny Names,

this one from the Gentle Art of Wandering and

this one from Living the Dream Deferred.

 

But so far the best review I have found is this great video on Truth or Consequences from New Mexico True Tourism.  It’s enough to put Truth or Consequences on my bucket list of hot springs to visit.  Take a look and see if it’s a town you’d like to visit.

Hot Springs for Health – in Bodybuilding & Extreme Sports

Here at Hot Springs Aficionado, we believe that hot springs and hot water hydrotherapy should be an integral part of a balanced wellness regime.  For those who push their bodies to extreme limits, it’s even more important to include a solid recovery plan in your training regimen.  If you live near a spa or natural hot springs, you can include those – if you don’t, you can try adding a hot tub to your back yard.

In this segment, Anne-Renée interviews Dean Danis.  Dean is a bodybuilder and pro wrestler with many years of experience and injuries.  In this video, Dean talks about how putting a hot tub in his backyard improves his flexibility and recovery, no matter what season it is.  This video was filmed in Canada, in February 2015, with an outside temperature of about -35 (which is about the same in both Celsius and Fahrenheit!)

Join us at Hot Springs Aficionado as we explore the health and lifestyle benefits of hot springs soaks.

Hot Springs for Health in France – la cure thermale

It can be very difficult to find information on the science behind the benefits of hot springs in English.  So I turned to France to get a sense of the proven medicinal benefits of springs.

Photo by Romaineolas (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The French health care system has included “thermal medicine” since 1947.  There is a national network of springs spas that provide services covered by the healthcare system, called CNETh.  Each spring has certain specialties, maybe rheumatism, psoriasis, or cardiac diseases.  There is a cancer recovery cure system of 11 or 12 days.  You can easily find a spa that will treat your particular ailment by using this central website.  Your doctor will prescribe the cure and when you attend the spa you will be supervised by a team of doctors and nurses who are trained in thermal medicine.

By Jeunamateur via Wikimedia Commons

About 73% of the prescribed cures in France are for rheumatoid diseases while 11% are for respiratory ailments.  Thermal cures are also used for digestive and skin ailments, psychological and developmental difficulties.  Although its use is fairly widespread, thermal medicine only represents about 0.14% of the overall health budget.

In 2004, the national association started a fund to support research into thermal medicine.  The results of these studies can be found here.  My favourite study was on generalized anxiety disorder, with the control group on a prescription for paroxitene.  After 8 weeks, there was a significant improvement for the springs group.

Here at Hot Springs Aficionado, we try to visit hot springs or spas at least once a month because we can feel a positive effect on our bodies and our minds.  We plan to share a lot more information about how hot springs affect us and how we can use hot springs to bring wellness to our busy modern lifestyle – follow us on social media or by email to learn more about hot springs and health.

As a teaser, here is a video of the pool Franklin Delano Roosevelt used to recover from bouts of polio so that he could continue serving as President of the United States.

 

 

Baden-Baden’s Caracalla Therme

Emperor Caracalla

I think this was the first fully developed hot spring baths I ever went to. If you’re going to start going to baths, where better than in a town named Baths-Baths?  Baden-Baden is one of the most famous spa towns in Germany.  There have been baths here since at least Roman times.  The most modern of these is Caracalla Therme, named for the Emperor Caracalla who visited this town almost 2,000 years ago to treat his arthritis.

Twelve springs supply the 4,000 m² of pools and saunas at Caracalla Therme.  There are many different bathing areas, including a large “no-bathing suits” sauna section.  The overall feel is very clean, white and modern with a passing salute to Rome from the columns and statues by the pools.  There are three outdoor pools and some poolside seating but most of the baths and saunas are indoors.  It can get quite busy and the atmosphere is family friendly, accepting children aged over 7 years, so it can be good to go early in the day when there is less traffic.

In the adult only nude section, there can be older German men who unabashedly ogle women.  I was there with my husband so I don’t know how they behave with single women.  I took it in stride as a cultural thing – when you travel you can’t expect everyone to behave the same way they do in your home country.

hot springs aficionado caracalla bubble jetMy best memory of Caracalla Therme was the bubble jet bath.  I love underwater air jets, especially where these were located in the middle of a larger pool – it gave a real sense of airiness to the experience.  I loved the sensation of so many tiny bubbles massaging my body.  It gave me a tingling sensation running up my back and bubbling to the surface like champagne – it was almost a feeling of being immersed in a giant cup of bubbly Reisling, very light and airy.  Being surrounded by white columns and white statues gave a very classic feel to the experience!

hot springs aficionado caracalla whiteWe spent many hours at Caracalla Therme, wandering from one experience to the other, trying different scented saunas, relaxing in the outdoors area, dining, and always returning to the centerpiece pools with their tall glass solarium walls that marry the feeling of being indoors with the feeling of being open to the air. That was my overall memory of Caracalla: a sense of airiness and openness.

In the lobby is a fountain from which you can drink the waters – at the time I went, little telescoping cups were provided as souvenirs, and I still have mine! The waters are from natrium-chloride springs and are quite strongly flavoured with salts and sulfur, so they taste medicinal and you won’t be drinking very much. The temperature at the main spring is 68C (155 F).

Add Caracalla Therme to your travel plans if you are going to the Black Forest – it’s a wonderful place to spend a day relaxing and recovering from your trip!  Watch the promotional video below to see more of the interior of Baden-Baden’s Caracalla Therme.

 

Spa Le Scandinave Mont Tremblant

Mont Tremblant

Mont Tremblant

It was -25 degrees outside and I had just finished an amazing downhill ski day at Mont-Tremblant, my muscles were tense and my core still shivering from the windshield factor coming down the mountain. Instead of driving straight home to Ottawa, I decided to give myself a treat and stop at Spa Le Scandinave Mont-Tremblant.

20150211_171501I was pleasantly greeted and offered a 20% discount since I had a season pass at Mont-Tremblant. Since this was a spur of the moment activity I didn’t have bathing suits but they had a great selection of swimwear and had all the necessities such as bath robes and flip-flops available on site. I was starving and the free basket of locally grown apples at the corner of each entrance was a delightful snack for me, I later had a delicious chai tea and vegetarian wrap in the lobby overlooking the river near the fire place.

 

20150211_163630My first feeling hopping in the hot tub was that I felt cocooned and wrapped by the trees and snow banks surrounding the baths just like being in a warm blanket of warm goodness. The aroma of the burning wood caressing my nostrils helped to deepen my breathing and letting go of the day’s high tension activity. I was in a winter wonderland and appreciated the heated pathways as I was walking around barefoot with ease from one hot tub to the other. As the sun was slowing setting, I made my way down the Diable River where an accessible underwater dock was at our disposable for a cold dip. The view was breathtaking and just being in that present moment was a delight to all my senses.

20150211_175229I tried all of the different stations, saunas and hot tubs and found the place very clean, quiet and beautifully decorated in Nautica apparel. I also got the chance to nap outside in extra-large cozy blanket in front of a massive Scandinavian looking fireplace overlooking the river, the fresh air and waterfall sound cuddled me to sleep and it was pure bliss! The tubs are suitable for up to 8 to 10 people therefore it is best to come on a week day as it can get easily overcrowded on the weekends. There is also a snowshoe and cross-country path that comes through the spa and under the trees easily accessible for a pre spa workout or nature walk.

 

 

Feeling Energized at Spa Le Scandinave Mont Tremblant

Feeling Energized at Spa Le Scandinave Mont Tremblant

Walking back to my car in the covered snow trees pathway I felt relaxed yet re-energized for 2 hour drive back home. I highly recommend Spa Le Scandinave as it is a great muscle relaxation after a day of winter sport activity as it is for the mind body and soul.

 

To find out more about Spa Le Scandinave at Mont Tremblant and its sister spas at Whistler, Blue Mountain and Vieux Montréal, click here!

Google’s Hot Springs Themed Offices in Budapest

Gellert Baths, Budapest

Gellért Baths

The best news story about hot springs this week was the opening of Google’s new offices in Budapest, Hungary.  Budapest has long been known for its thermal baths and is often called the “City of Spas”.  There are 118 springs in the city.  Budapest is one of the few cities that continues the Roman practice of public baths, with 15 large public spas in the city. 

Google’s new offices in Budapest have been designed to celebrate this culture, with boardrooms designed to make you feel like you are soaking while you are in meetings and wooden seating in a sauna theme.  This design is sure to stimulate the creativity in the office!  For more pictures of this fabulous work environment, click on the photo below:

Google's Hot Springs Offices in Budapest

Google’s Hot Springs Themed Meeting Room

Shout out to Graphasel Design studios and Google for being Hot Springs Aficionados – making soaking culture a part of our modern lifestyle.