blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

A variety of spas

"Mens Sana In Corpore Sano" (Bad Pyrmont)

I grew up in a spa town on the north Yorkshire coast––Scarborough––and on the seafront in South Bay was a place called The Spa. Within that palatial, Victorian building is an auditorium where international orchestras used to perform (not any more). My dad took his choir to this venue for music festivals. My uncle Frank once had a composition of his played in the adjacent, outdoor concert hall where Sunday morning concerts have been given by the resident "spa orchestra" since the early 1900s. So I am familiar with the concept of spas.

Der Heilige Born
Bad Pyrmont in Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony), Germany, south of Hannover, has been a spa town for centuries, owing to the natural springs on the side of the hill gushing out water that contains calcium, magnesium and sulphur compounds and vapours high in carbon dioxide. In the second half of the 17th century Prince Georg Friedrich von Waldeck based Bad Pyrmont's first proper spa around the spring known as Der Hyllige Born that was visited by nobles and royalty throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. Chris and I were driven to Bad Pyrmont on the 15th of last month along some pretty country roads lined with birch trees, once we had turned off the Autobahn. Chris and his colleague Karsten were on their way to a business meeting but I was free to explore.

The Fürstenhof, now a hotel, seen from the Kurpark
At the Parkhotel, situated just above one of Bad Pyrmont's springs, the Friedrichsquelle, the hotel manager sold me entrance tickets to the Kurpark, a few minutes' walk away. I found something for lunch at the Gesundheitszentrum Königin-Luise-Bad, which looked from the outside like a tropical greenhouse, but turned out to be more like a small hospital, inside. You can book consultations and treatments here, mud baths for example. It is popular amongst the ailing or aging visitors who have come for a three week health cure––eine Kur––and they all seem to go to bed early, because it was very, very quiet in Bad Pyrmont after supper. The shops in stock expensive ladies' hats and sensible shoes.

Helenenquelle, Bad Pyrmont
I suspect the cure works by simply allowing people to unwind in pleasant surroundings and persuading them to have plenty of sleep, fresh air and exercise, and drink water instead of alcohol (während der Trinkkur sollte auf Rauchen und Alkoholgenuss verzichtet werden), but I did notice rather a lot of cream cakes for sale, even in the hospital cafeteria, which may spoil the effect.

Tall trees and fountains in the Kurpark
The Kurpark with its palm tree court, fragrant azalea walk, long avenues, fountains, ornamental ponds and "Strawberry Temple" is a gorgeous, tranquil place. I got out my camera and an elderly gentleman wandered over to talk to me. He said that der alte Fritz (i.e. Prince Friedrich) had first created the park and mentioned die Tsarin from Russia who resided at the Fürstenhof to take the waters, and the great grandmother of Dutch Queen Beatrix who did likewise. In those days, he said, only the aristocracy was permitted to walk in the Grande Allée; now anyone may. I went back with Chris that evening and twice the next day. At supper time I ordered a bottle of Pyrmonter Mineralwasser. I'd tasted the water direct from the spring, but it ought only to be drunk on an empty stomach before breakfast; it tastes peculiar.

Erdbeertempel, Bad Pyrmont
In the evening we sat on our hotel room balcony and listened to the birds' evensong. That was therapeutic too.

Outside Le Nordik spa, Chelsea
Back in Ottawa a week later I joined in a group outing to the so-called "spa" in Chelsea (Quebec), Le Nordik, which has expanded and changed since I last went. There are no natural springs on this site but they have designed it to look like the environs of a Finnish sauna, with several cedar wood huts containing various types of sauna, cold freshwater plunge pools and hot saltwater pools surrounded by waterfalls and rocks. It is cleverly landscaped on the side of a steep hill. One corner of the place is a sandy "beach" with deck chairs or bean bags to lie on, where the sound of breaking waves is piped through loud speakers concealed in the trees, along with soothing mood music or recorded birdsong. We were all given white bathrobes and a rubber bracelet which could be loaded electronically with money and of course unloaded (I used it to pay for my lunch). I tried out most of what was on offer for the basic price of entry and liked the panoramic view of the Ottawa valley from the spa's Infinity Pool which is large and round with the water overlapping its rim.

Carol, Hiromi (from Japan) and I stayed at the spa for over five hours that day, which resulted in sunburnt shoulders. Most of the others left earlier but some stayed even longer. This place is conducive to lingering and relaxed us so much that we were lazy and sleepy for a good 24 hours after we'd left.

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