Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Can you say "thalassotherapy"

On the route up the coast through Banyuls we pass a thalassotherapy centre. Today our mission was to drive up the coast to find out just what was in the centre. Thalassotherapy is the medical use of sea water in therapy and is very popular in France, where in some cases your doctor can prescribe treatment at a centre, which is free. This particular centre is part of a hotel, which had a very full parking lot when we arrived.

We had a look around the various treatment areas tiled in lovely blue colours with white robed clients in flip flops wandering about. We went exploring and discovered a gym, a workout room, a fair sized salt water pool with an enthusiastic water aerobics class running from one end to the other. As well as this, there were two other pools, where you can use exercise bikes and various other kinds of props in the pool. Unfortunately, we didn't see the outside saltwater pool. Every kind of treatment is available from little fishes eating the skin off your feet, as well as massages, wraps, facials and  salt water hosing down of all types. There is a hamman, jacuzzi and sauna to get rid of any additional aches and pains. We decided to pick a treatment from the very extensive catalogue and return on another day.

Of course now it was time for lunch. Along the waterfront we stopped at the St. Sebastian winery restaurant. I opted for the menu of the day having a green salad with lardons in a sauce, some local fresh fish that I didn't catch the name of but which tasted like grouper, accompanied by some ratatouille and of course finished off with my favourite dessert, isles flottant. Seamus opted for a plate of salad with Catalan sausage, Serrano ham, calamari and bread with a local tapenade. On our way out we stopped to taste some of the Sebastian wines buying two bottles of the white wine. The lady kindly showed us the barrels and vats. There is a difference as some of the wines are stored in the plastic or metal vats, while others are in the barrels.

Satiated, we crossed the road and walked along the marina, eventually stopping at one of several artist's galleries. We particularly liked her work featuring traditional Catalan boats made out of wood then placed against a painted sea background. They were quite striking and very cheerful.

Back in the car and heading south we followed a sign to a beach translated from French, "under the water," which turned out to be a stony beach. At that point the name didn't make much sense to us. Then we retraced our steps to look at what we thought was an isolated hotel on the headland overlooking the water in the most fabulous  position. As we got closer we could see that it was a hospital. It was strange as there was no hospital sign and the biggest sign on it was for a restaurant. Later we found out that it was a rehabilitation hospital for muscoskeletal and nervous system diseases. What a beautiful spot.

Traveling south we stopped at the Cerbere tourist information centre. The lady was very helpful and in fact she told us about the hospital. Best of all we found out that, "under the water," or in French "le sentier sous-marin," refers to an underwater submarine trail, with information at points under the water,  that you can follow in the summer wearing mask and flippers starting at the stony beach we visited.

Our final stop was the boulangerie in Cerbere to buy a baguette. There is something about French bread. So good.

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