Friday, 12 September 2014

Getting into hot water

--> Lucie wanted to try out the thermal springs which grace the city of Ourense on the wonderful river Miño - far south of here - it forms the border between Galicia and Portugal. Of course the Romans were great enthusiasts for the thermals, but the various hot waters and springs have been developed and promoted ever since…  It's a long way to get there from here - 2 hours by car, and longer if you go the scenic route, which is really beautiful. …. hills and valleys, dale and field and all the craggy mountains yield…. (however that goes).
No wonder people have enjoyed coming here on pilgrimages. It is all just goddam lovely.
We slipped from the maize-growing area into a more viniferous district, where the plants all look more Mediterranean, hot. But of course everything is green because of the rains….
In Ourense, the signage for cars to get you to the springs is a bit thin - we found the way to As Burgas in the city centre, which is supposed to have a good tourist information place, but that had long since closed down. Instead we wandered round the pretty, shaded, hillside market area and found our first hot spring - 67 degrees!!! Jolly hot! A man was drinking the water very decorously.  We didn't see the little bathing area behind the wall - not signposted, though not really hard to find. 
We went back up to find lunch - chose a café right next to the underground car-park and the excellent Turkish style loos, and had a really grand little lunch.  Asking the man for directions on how to get to one of the bigger, paying thermal springs, he said it was easy for him to tell us but difficult for us to understand, so he would pilot us there on his motorbike, which he duly did. Thank you!

We were looking for the springs at Chavasqueira, but in fact the ones he led us to are called Termas de Outariz, which are free, open-air and right beside the river which flows fast and dark at the bottom of its steep canyon. 

You park, walk down a sandy lane, across a modernish bridge and down into the grassy complex. There are various suites of pools, lined with boulders and with handrails on the steps and seats around the edge.  All this was designed and laid out by a Japanese architect a few years ago. You change into your togs in a simple hut, have a shower (warm or cold is your choice) right beside the springs. The temperature in each pool is slightly different, and you sit about getting drowsier and more relaxed by the minute. The water is at most 70cm deep, and completely clean. You are not supposed to get in if you are contagious.  We were among a lot of very tranquil older people, all unselfconscious, chatting away. You can get a coffee or a bocadillo, or ice-cream. The whole thing is very relaxing, said to be best by starlight. The source of the heat is some sort of geological fault far beneath, so that rainwater, percolating into the rock, is heated by the fiery ovens beneath the local granite, and trickles up for human delight. 

Heading home, we saw beautiful vineyards between the road and the river. These grapes make the local wines - Ribeira, Albariño which are not known much in England but worth seeking out.

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