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The International Writers Magazine
: Healthy Lifestyle

SPA TIME - Arnoia Caldaria - Spain
James Skinner

James takes his wife to the famous Spanish Health Spa and gets more than he bargained for

‘I’ve done a great deal of things in my time. Travelled around the world, practised dangerous sports, got married and produced a few offspring, attended, late in life, a course in professional writing, yet curiously enough, one pleasure I have never indulged in has been that of a visit to a health clinic. I don’t mean a hospital or a quack’s office. I refer to those where a group of ‘beautiful people’ dressed in Tai Kwondo outfits subject you to all kinds of tortures that are intended to transform you into a cloned Schwanzenegger. Because of my wife’s ailment the doctor suggested a few days in one of these joints. Naturally, I went along for the ride.

Galicia happens to be one of those parts of Spain that, contrary to the beach and lager lout areas, has a great deal to offer in the form of green and lush scenery, complete with mountains, and housing some of the most beautiful rivers and natural springs in Europe. Most foreigners relate this region to Santiago de Compostela, the famous XVI century cathedral city. But if one travels a few miles south one will come across villages with exotic names like Cuntis or Caldas de Reis with hidden pleasures such as geysers and hot springs oozing recklessly out of the ground that are captured and offered to the welcomed tourist. Turn east and one will reach the Grand Hotel at Mondariz on the River Tea with added extras such as golf and ‘real’ free flowing mineral water. Carry on south east and one comes across another group of rare human cluster spots such as the Mediaeval town of Ribadavia, the only known Jewish settlement in Galicia, or the Abbey of Caldaria some 15 miles away. Every place is gifted by nature with spas and other goodies all eager to greet those adventurous and decrepit humans who wish to leave behind the madding crowded cities, full of carbon monoxide and the sound of 1000 decibels of urban machinery, in order to relax and forget about the world’s ills.

We chose a place off the beaten track known as Arnoia Caldaria, on the banks of the Miño, a river that ends up flowing along the border between Spain and Portugal. Although the hotel is barely 10 years old with all the modern facilities, the rest is pure nature. I made the original booking through a local travel agent. Most packages are also sold over the Internet, but being an untrustworthy sod, I wasn’t going to leave my credit card number floating around the universe simply because my wife had to have her back scrubbed!

The brochure was full of added and incomprehensible ‘treatments’ that accompanied the normal hot baths that came with the deal. Anti-stress, rheumatic recuperation, facial aesthetics, rehabilitation and dozens of other unpronounceable technical terms that in my books all spelled the same thing: recluse. Or so I thought! My wife and I put our names down for one of the programs called ‘Relax and beauty’. Asked what it was, the agent just said, ‘you’ll find out!’
Oh well! In for a penny in for a pound.
Apart from all the check in procedures, unpacking, having the first argument with your spouse and all that, the immediate desire is to get wet. Yes, I know! A great deal of you out there knows all about this form of entertainment. The do’s and don’ts before you even dream of entering the oversize Jacuzzi, like being given what looked like two squashed tampax that turned out to be a pair of ‘pull out’ flip flops and an oversized ‘skull cap’ to cover your head to make sure your Christian Dior shampoo left over didn’t infect the pool. Well I haven’t. It was all new to me.

My first step was to dive into the overheated pool to acclimatise my body before the next set of ordeals. ‘Can’t do that,’ says the pool supervisor. ‘You must flow in gracefully!’ First yellow card. I moved towards the side, gently, until I found them. I let my aching back slide up and down the powerful underwater squirts and forget that the dear Pope had passed away and that Monaco was without a prince. Two hours of bliss and it was already lunchtime. Our paid for meal consisted of typical Galician nosh; octopus as entree followed by ‘hot pot’ and pancake dessert swilled down with a bottle of white Alvariño. A coffee, brandy and cigar as an aftermath rounded off my first midday meal. An hour’s siesta and back down to the water. Only this time it was ‘Spa time’.

‘Follow me,’ said a warden-like young Mae West. Sheepishly I did. The next thing I knew was that I was set up against a wall, ordered to take up a photographic pose and then fired upon by one of Shindler’s water hoses powerful enough to blow over a horse. After ten minutes of purgatory I was laid down on what appeared to be an ‘out patients’ casualty stretcher with a hole in the middle. I wondered, ‘for head or other parts of the anatomy?’ From the ridiculous to the sublime I began to be massaged into ecstatic bliss. I fell asleep. I woke up in a bubble bath, stinking of sulphur. Tickles at first, thanks to the multitude of minuscule jets, followed by a burst of mini tsunamis under my bum. Twenty minutes later, I was back in my room, flat out on bed waiting for the next session the following day.

This one was even bolder. Locked into a steam chamber I began to recall ‘The day of the Jackal’ when Edward Fox meets up with ‘Jules’ in a Turkish bath and later murders him. In and out with a cold shower in between, I continued my so-called re-constitution treatment. The best was yet to come. ‘Ready for your ‘peeling’?’ asked yet another strong built warden. Onto the ‘torture’ stretcher, eyes closed and an invisible hand began to sandpaper my body. It felt great. After another twenty minutes, it was into the shower to flush off my dead body cells. Back on the stretcher for a mud session. Now this is really something else. Slowly and seductively a soft hand began to smear me with goo. Once complete, I was wrapped up in what seemed like plastic tinsel. ‘Now I know what a Kentucky fried chicken feels like,’ I thought. For twenty more minutes I laid out, motionless. When I finally woke up, yet again, and told to shower, yet again, I looked down at my body. It was a brownish grey. I looked like ‘the Creature from the Deep’. By 9 o’clock that evening I had had it!
And then they came!

The following morning, two busloads carrying dozens of handicapped human beings of all shapes and sizes arrived at the establishment. They all came to be treated as humanely as possible and to be offered a small and beneficial comfort for their agonising ailments. If they had to go through the ordeal that I did, then ‘they’re better humans than I am Gungha Din!’ God bless them!
I finally left this pseudo clinic with a different frame of mind. Human frailty is above and beyond all the other problems in this wretched and wicked world we live in. Visit Arnoia Caldaria and you’ll find out!
© James Skinner April 2005

James is a regular writer for Hackwriters and the Honary Consul in Vigo Spain

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