Where Does a Travel Writer Spend her Money? On Spas

It’s 4:30 in the morning and I’ve got jet lag bad. No, I’ve never found a remedy for it except time. And I’ve tried everything. Right now I just rummaged through my cupboard to find some melatonin, the sleep hormone, and am waiting for it to kick in. If it kicks in. And while I wait I’ll just pretend I’m back in Switzerland, because I did not want to leave. And so I didn’t.

At the Grand Resort Bad Ragaz, I took one look at the thermal pools, the spa facilities, the crystal chandelier over my tub, the Belle Époque swimming pool (okay, it was rebuilt, but still), the surrounding Alps, the hip new decor of the resort, and that was it. I handed over my credit card and said, “Book me in for three more days.”

My chromotherapy tub - so chic

“You’re so lucky you get free trips!” People say this to me all the time. It’s true. It’s wonderful and I don’t take it for granted. But I also think giving a travel writer a free night or two at a good resort is like giving out free crack to create an addict. One hit of a good spa and I’m hooked.

Hooked on this pool!

Mainly my own vacation dollars go towards European spas. This year it was a week in Montegrotto Terme, an Italian spa town. Last year it was five days at the Grand Hotel Pupp (my Czech friend, Lenka, swears it’s pronounced ‘poop’) in the Czech spa town of Karlovy Vary, and before that I spent two weeks in Marianske Lazne, a historic spa town also in the Czech Republic. Oh, there was that week at the Grand Hotel Margitszigit in Budapest, as well. And that week in Heviz, a small Hungarian town with a whole thermal lake full of lilies and retired Germans.

I like the European tradition of spas as slow quiet healing places, often with gorgeous architecture, lovely landscape and fresh air. Not that I have anything against a week in Paris or New York, but I tend to want at least one quiet vacation a year. Or ten. This is because most of my trips are for work and are crazy, with packed itineraries and lots of shmoozing.

My first criteria for a spa vacation is  thermal water (hot springs) or at least mineral water (spring water full of  minerals but not necessarily hot, like at Mariansky Lazne). Other than that, cheaper is better, but I think Bad Ragaz has spoiled me for life because now I want to live like a sheikh.

Hot Springs - So hot! So cool!

Ah, well. You can’t spa everyday (says who?) and Toronto is a good place to be. Now if only I could sleep …


4 Responses

  1. Hello Carol,

    with a pleasure and interest I have read your latest article on Spa’s…….great information!!!!!

    Many special thanks for remembering the Czech Republic and the Spa resort in Karlovy Vary with Grand Hotel “Poop” . I have been happy to read about your 2 week stay in Marianske Lazne – I hope you had a great time – let us know!!!

    • Hi Mirjana,
      Out of all my spa vacations Marianske Lazne was the most renewing – giving me a boost of energy that lasted for the rest of the year. It’s a beautiful place with neoclassical architecture, and great paths through the woods, and you can bathe in the private cabin preferred by King Edward VII. It takes awhile to get used to the fact that unlike in Hungary, spas don’t have big thermal pools, but instead have private thermal baths. Although, I believe the newer Castle Spa in Karlovy Vary has a pool. I stayed at Marianske Lazne for two weeks rather than a few days, which I believe made a huge difference. Some time I’d love to do a real spa ‘cure’ of three weeks.

  2. Hi Carol:

    I enjoyed your article in the Star re: applie pie tour. I’m a coordinator of a senior’s tour group at Mississauga Senior’s Center. I’m wondering if it’s possible to get a more detailed information so we could consider a day trip with apple pie as the subject. I think they would really enjoy it, but I’m not sure what the next steps would be. We would really like to go to the Collingwood/Blue Mountain area, any information you can provide or a contact that would be very helpful.

    Joan Haldane

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