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.

Tecopa Hot Springs

My first official trip to do research for Hot Springs Aficionado was to Tecopa, California.  I’ve been to the desert before, so as soon I picked up my Jeep (shout out to Sixt car rentals of Las Vegas for giving me a brand new Rubicon!!!) I also picked up a case of water.  35 x 500 ml bottles, about 4 gallons – the kind of detail that makes a real difference in the desert.

The drive to Tecopa reminded me again of just how vast and remote so much of California can be. Tecopa lies about 75 minutes off the interstate that runs from LA to Las Vegas. That 75 minute drive brings you into a whole other world. There are vast big skies and painted deserts populated by tough resilient folk who value their independence. Cell phone service is a luxury. It is majestic, serene, grandiose, daunting.

Big skies on the drive to Tecopa

The drive to Tecopa

The geology around Tecopa is complicated by the Amargosa Chaos and there are at least two aquifer sources for the springs in Tecopa.  The water from one Tecopa aquifer comes to the surface at about 118F. It is fairly high in fluoride and arsenic so it’s not recommended for drinking. But it is perfect for bathing! County law requires that you bathe nude so most of the developed springs are enclosed in private or segregated bath houses. There are a few undeveloped springs in the area too – to find those, you will have to go to Tecopa and search for yourself!

Hot Springs Aficionado: hard at work in Tecopa!

Hot Springs Aficionado: hard at work in Tecopa!

Tourist destinations in Tecopa include the famous China Ranch Date Farm (worth a visit!) and four developed hot springs baths: the County Baths, Delights Resort, Tecopa Hot Springs Resort and Petersen’s Resort. All the “resorts” are primarily RV Parks with a few cabins or motel rooms – this isn’t the Caribbean all-inclusive type! The central core of Tecopa is quite pretty, and I am surprised it hasn’t become more of a “destination” town, like Desert Hot Springs, Palm Springs or Las Vegas. I’m sure that it will happen one of these days. Right now there seem to be quite a few Korean tourists: Delights Resort has a Korean sign and on the day I went to the county baths, all the other guests were speaking Korean. Amy, the owner of Tecopa Hot Springs Resort, told me that all her rooms had recently been booked by a Japanese Hot Springs Association tour.

There is a strange funky vibe to Tecopa.  Sometimes it seems almost otherwordly.  It’s hard to explain, but maybe this video will help.  It’s from the annual Tecopa Take-over, when artists from Las Vegas book all the hotels and perform for fun. There is lots to see and enjoy in Tecopa as long as you are prepared to leave your cellphone and TV lifestyle behind. Bringing an open, silent mind will help you enjoy your discoveries in Tecopa.

I’ll be writing more about the individual resorts in future posts, so stay tuned to learn more about this funky town and its wonderful hot springs!

This post is one of a series of on the Hot Springs of Tecopa; to see others, click on the links below:

Post #1: Tecopa Hot Springs

Post #2: Tecopa Hot Springs Resort

Post #3:Delight’s Hot Springs Resort

Post #4: Tecopa Hot Springs Campground & Pools

Post #5: Signing Off From Tecopa Hot Springs

Valentine’s Gift Idea: A Hot Springs Soak

It’s the first Monday in February – which means Valentine’s Day is next week! What will you do? Whether your status is “in a couple” or “solo” or “it’s complicated”, there is a simple way to deal with the stress of Valentine’s Day: Go for a soak!

Le Nordik Spa-Nature, Chelsea, QC http://www.lenordik.com/en/a-la-carte-rates/

Le Nordik Spa-Nature, Chelsea, QC http://www.lenordik.com/en/a-la-carte-rates/

First, for those who are solo (I will talk about couples further down in this post). We all need to spend time with the people we love, and we need to love ourselves first. And that means there is nothing wrong with going to the baths solo. Spend some time relaxing, get a massage, pamper yourself and enjoy your time. Self-care is precious. And if you feel stressed about being solo at Valentine’s, a day at the springs will help you forget that stress before it even starts. As with couples, the trick is to go BEFORE Valentine’s Day!

Le Nordik Spa-Nature, Chelsea, QC http://www.lenordik.com/pictures/baths/

Le Nordik Spa-Nature, Chelsea, QC http://www.lenordik.com/pictures/baths/

My husband and I were married at Valentine’s, so we have a tradition of celebrating our anniversary by going to our local Scandinavian baths at Le Nordik and spending the day together there. The trick, of course, is that we go a few days BEFORE Valentine’s Day! The main benefit of that is that the spa is much quieter than it will be AFTER Valentine’s Day when everyone is redeeming their gift certificates. An added bonus is that when everyone else is running around trying to buy last minute chocolates at the pharmacy, we are done, relaxed and happy. There is nothing that says “couple” better than “we already had our Valentine’s Day together”.

Peter & Dawn.  Read the full story here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2916515/Man-tryst-girlfriend-natural-spring-trekking-desert-heart-attack-moments-later-airlifted-hospital-given-250-000-bill-gets-dumped.html

Peter & Dawn. Read the full story here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2916515/Man-tryst-girlfriend-natural-spring-trekking-desert-heart-attack-moments-later-airlifted-hospital-given-250-000-bill-gets-dumped.html

If you are in the right location there can be other great reasons for you and your lover to head to the hot springs! Just ask Peter Cousins, the British citizen who was hit with a $250,000 USD medical bill following a heart attack at a remote natural hot spring he and his girlfriend found on a Nevada ranch.  He has no regrets, he says, and his final comment? “It was worth it for the sex”.

Read his full story then head out to the nearest hot springs right now – just make sure you have medical insurance first! Have a wonderful Valentine’s retreat with yourself and the ones you love.

Yudanaka Part 2 – Jigokudani Monkey Park

The walk to the monkey's hot springs

The walk to the monkey’s hot springs

Yudanaka is best known for the Jigokudani monkey park, where Japanese macaques enjoy their own onsen. Yes, these are those charming fellows who lounge around in hot springs all year round, stealing tourists’ phones to do facebook updates! You can visit them at the Jigokudani park, located outside of town. Just a bit of a warning – in real life, a 40 lb macaque has very large teeth and one heck of an attitude, along with a penchant for taking anything that’s not locked up. Be careful.

https://www.japaneseguesthouses.com/ryokan-single/?ryokan=Korakukan+Jigokudani

https://www.japaneseguesthouses.com/ryokan-single/?ryokan=Korakukan+Jigokudani

Inside the Jigokudani Monkey Park is Korakukan, a 150 year old mountain lodge accessible only on foot, for the adventurous who carries their luggage. https://www.japaneseguesthouses.com/ryokan-single/?ryokan=Korakukan+Jigokudani We didn’t stay there but it does have good TripAdvisor reviews, so I will definitely try it the next time I go.

Park keepers throw rice into the hot spring to get the macaques to dive in.  You can get very close to the monkeys when this happens since the monkeys are more interested in the rice than in the tourists.  It’s fun to watch the little ones swimming underwater and the social dynamics of the macaque families.

At the onsen in Jigokudani

At the onsen in Jigokudani

Onsen tamago, or "hot spring eggs", Yudanaka, Japan

Onsen tamago, or “hot spring eggs”, Yudanaka, Japan

Walking back from the park, we stopped in at a wonderful sake factory and museum on the main street. It was full of history and some lovely flights of sake. I stocked up on Nigori sake, my favorite. Then we found one of the funkiest things I saw in Yudanaka: onsen tamago, or onsen eggs. These are eggs placed in a pot under a hot spring. The heat of the flowing water boils the egg. There was another basket to leave money to pay for the eggs you take, on an honour system. We sat in the park by the river with our eggs and our sake and had a memorable dinner!

 

A Top Ten List of Top Ten Lists

Especially with the New Year, it seems that everyone is putting out Top Ten lists! Rather than try to make another Top Ten list, I thought I would bring you a hundred ideas! So here we are, with my Top Ten list of Top Ten lists, offering you a hundred hot springs and spa vacations. Enjoy! (Yes, some of them have more than ten – bonus!)

1. Famous & Funky: http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/worlds-coolest-hot-springs
2. Undiscovered and Undeveloped: http://news.distractify.com/travel/the-waters-fine/
3. Luxury resorts: http://www.luxurytravelmagazine.com/worlds-best/hot-springs-resorts.php
4. Frommer’s always a little different: http://www.frommers.com/slideshows/817975-the-world-s-best-hot-springs#slide840737
5. On the upscale side: http://blog.spafinder.ca/readers-choice-awards-bes-spas-mineral-thermal-springs/
6. On the budget side: http://www.budgettravel.com/feature/12-hot-springs-worth-traveling-for,8261/
7. A good compendium: http://www.thrillist.com/travel/nation/healing-hot-springs-and-thermal-baths-where-to-take-a-soak-around-the-world
8. For general wellness: http://www.travelchannel.com/interests/wellness-and-renewal/photos/hot-springs-around-the-world
9. Pin it! http://www.pinterest.com/smithstorian/world-s-best-hot-springs/
10. Some that aren’t on any other list: http://www.mensjournal.com/expert-advice/the-best-hot-springs-in-america-20140210/most-scenic

Pamukkale, By Antoine Taveneaux (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

If you’re interested, the most recurring ones seem to be:
– Blue Lagoon, Iceland http://www.bluelagoon.com/
– Pammukale, Turkey http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pamukkale
– Banff, Canada http://www.hotsprings.ca/
– Ma’in, Jordan http://www.sixsenses.com/evason-resorts/ma-in/destination