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Courtesy Bains Saint Thomas
Bains Saint Thomas
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Courtesy Bains Saint Thomas
Bains Saint Thomas
The naturally heated waters at this Pyrenees spot make it an ideal getaway destination any time of the year
The Catalan landscape is a panoramic paradise filled with hidden gems and undiscovered get-aways that extend to the Pyrenees and beyond. Only an hour or two away from the busy life of Barcelona lie many peaceful places to enjoy a weekend break—we’ve chosen a few that are ideal for a visit this month, offering you a great start to the new year with luxurious hideaways, outdoor activities and relaxing experiences.
HOTEL HUSA SANT MARÇAL + MAS VILARMAU
Viladrau is a tranquil town located in the county of Osona, which sits on the northern face of the scenic Montseny mountain range. It was home to the famous Catalan outlaw Joan Sala i Ferrer, more commonly known as Serrallonga (1594–1634), who was depicted in contemporary ballads as a Robin Hood-style figure who robbed the rich and distributed their money to the poor, in response to the tyranny of Spanish king Felipe III.
The town itself is just one of many Romanesque places to be found in the Montseny Natural Park, which is also home to an assembly of Mediterranean flora and fauna as well as a host of woodland creatures. Its healthy air and almost-year-round bright, sunny days make the park a special spot for walking and enjoying nature.
Hotel Husa Sant Marçal is an old-fashioned guesthouse in Viladrau that still retains the grandiose decor of the ancient monastery that preceded it. Surrounded by stunning gardens and evergreen trees on the slopes of the natural park, the hotel has 12 rooms (which were once the cells of the monks), each furnished differently to give them all an individual character.
While facilities like the outdoor jacuzzi and swimming pool are better suited to a summertime visit, the hotel also has a games room for all ages, a large fireplace and a massage service that can all help make a mid-winter trip here truly relaxing. The hotel also offers the chance to take a hot air balloon ride, giving you the chance to see some of Catalunya’s finest scenery from a privileged position or, for a more down-to-earth experience, go trekking on GR trails or hire mountain bikes to explore the nearby countryside.
Mas Vilarmau is another inviting place to stay for those who wish to enjoy Viladrau’s natural beauty. Built in the 18th century as a farmhouse, Mas Vilarmau has been transformed into a family-friendly, affordable lodging. The guesthouse has eight double or triple rooms and several function rooms. On the same floor as the bedrooms is a reading room with a large open fireplace, while downstairs both the old kitchen and library also have fires, giving you different options for kicking back and enjoying a book in the warmth. The Whip Room offers the opportunity for activities such as meditation and yoga and there’s a selection of games available to guests, including cards, chess and dominoes. For those who prefer to be outdoors, the huge garden offers various sports facilities and a nature trail.
Mas Vilarmau also provides their guests with excursions to nearby attractions or hikes through the countryside. For those feeling more adventurous, why not take a horse ride along the winding country paths and take in the quintessential tranquility of the Montseny.
HOTEL TORRE MARTÍ
A little further afield, at the foot of the Guilleries mountain range, is the village of Sant Julià de Vilatorta. Amid its architecture, one building in particular stands out: the shining orange exterior of the Hotel Torre Martí, constructed by the architect Riera Clariana in 1945. Their motto ‘elegant and tranquil’ couldn’t be more accurate as this family-run hotel provides both the location and facilities to enjoy a short break. The cosy leather armchairs in front of the fireplace in the library look like an appealing place to read a novel or take an afternoon nap while in the dining-room, decorated in the Catalan Art Nouveau style, you can enjoy rich and filling dishes at lunchtime and in the evening. It’s also where breakfast is served, when you can see the morning sun soar above the snowy peaks of the Pyrenees.
If you do actually want to leave Torre Martí during your stay, the hotel has teamed up with three local companies in order to give guests a wide range of fun and interesting activities, from hot-air ballooning to golfing, raft-building and hiking.
BAINS SAINT THOMAS
Just across the French border, around a two-and-a-half hour drive from Barcelona, lie the baths of Saint Thomas, an impressive thermal spa hidden amongst the Pyrenees. As one heads down the valley in Fontpédrouse—the nearest town—surrounded by the lush mountain scenery, a path opens up to reveal this sunny oasis located at an altitude of 1,150 metres. Built around a large stone amphitheatre set in the mountainside, Saint Thomas is an ideal spot to lie back and soak in the rays of the Mediterranean sun even in January. Supplied by water that comes out of the ground at 58 degrees Celsius are a series of hot pools, jacuzzis, sulphur showers and massage jets, making Saint Thomas a great place to enjoy a spa day at any time of the year. There is also a children’s pool to keep the younger ones occupied; however, only guests over the age of 12 are permitted to use the hammam baths which provide analgesic, soothing and healing effects for the skin, aiding muscle recovery and ligament damage. Prices start at €5.50 for adults (€12 for hammam baths) and €4 for children. The company, in true French style, forbids the wearing of loose bathing suits or trunks so make sure to bring suitable swimwear or be prepared to pay for rentable clothing. For those who don’t want to drive, trains run from Sants Estació to Puigcerdà (approximately 2.5 hours) from where one can walk to the French village Bourg-Madame to catch the ‘Petit Train Jaune’—the highest electrified train in Europe—to Fontpédrouse, whose station is about 1.5 kilometres from the baths.
Hotel Sant Marçal - average nightly rate for a double room for two adults is €100. www.hotelhusasantmarcal.com
Mas Vilarmau - €48.61 per person per night (approx.), www.masvilarmau.com
Hotel Torre Martí - room prices range from €89-€280. www.hoteltorremarti.com
Bains Saint Thomas - www.bains-saint-thomas.fr