Saturday, October 13, 2012

More modern

Fortunate fame
Forming the border between north Portugal and Galicia, Spain, the Rio Miño (Minho) flows through a depression which sees many hot springs. Deeper in Galicia, the city of Ourense, on the upper banks of the Miño, seems a magnet for Spain’s hot springs with 8 hot springs surrounding the city. Furthermore there are possibly hot springs Os Baños.

The Portuguese side have fared less fortunate in the possible soaking section. However the two towns of Monção and Melgaço are known throughout Portugal for their hot spring fame.

Monção is a former rampart town, set on a cliff just south of the river. Through the centuries it served to exist in turning away the northern invaders, hoping to maintain it’s allegiance to Lisbon. The town is now a commercial center in the surprisingly green rolling hills, jam-packed with vineyards producing the light white wine which is the famed Vinho Verde. Eastwards of the village however a thermal center has existed for some time.

On my visit it seemed to be a more public facility, but still entrance requires a doctors' visit. This rules a recreational visit for 2 over-expensive. Despite this though we could observe other visitors (patients?) visiting the facilities. 
For a moment we are hoping that towards the Rio Minho is a more public and inexpensive facility. But no, the kids jumping in this pool are jumping in a normal swim pool, not fed from any spring. Surrounding the facilities is an extensive park with café, playground and fitness park. Lots of visitors here.

The termas themselves, are run by the Spanish wellness company Tesal which claim that they are possibly the most modern spa of Portugal. Opposite the soak is the hotel, called Bienestar. Tripadvisor gives it a meagre 3 stars, while offers 7.4.

There is a youtube intro film of the hot spring facilities themselves. 

 One of Melgaço's springs

Twenty km upstream of Monção is the smaller town of Melgaço, set at the foot of the mountains of Serra de Peneda. Just outside the town, actually part of the village of Peso, is a fin-de-siecle park complete with buildings forming the thermal station. As is customary in other Portugese soaking sites, there is a huge building with the the opportunity to sample the waters by consuming a plastic cup fill. 

Opulent constructions for a plastic cup of pure water.

Seeking the soaking building it becomes apparent that these are being rebuilt / refurbished and as such closed. The action was in full swing, so expect these to open up, in the near future. Termas de Portugal suggest 2013. And then these will be the most modern soaking facilities of Portugal (?).

Entrance to the buvette.
More info is available from the Portuguese wikipedia website for the Melgaço, facts which include that the development of the site started from 1884. This website adds that the termas are situated on a 2 ha park which includes a campsite. 

The main soaking building (under reconstruction)

Jornal de Noticas mentions in an article (18/05/2012) writes the following:
´In this first phase was invested one million euros in landscaping and in the recovery of sources, plus the installation of a mini-golf and rehabilitation of a small stream.The remaining investment, over 3.7 million, is reserved for the contest that the management of the Northern Regional Operational Programme - "ON2" - opened in April, with 80% of this money will be supported by EU funds."It involves the recovery and expansion of the resort, now in ruins, but keeping its architectural as well as the construction of a Museum Thermal," explained the mayor of Melgaço, Rui Solheiro, Lusa.The complex is owned by Unicer group, which also operates the capturing and bottling that water, but that has delivered management space, with an approximate area of ​​59,600 meters square, to the municipality.All these works are the responsibility of the municipal company formed by the local authority and private, that after the investments will be in managing the Thermal Park Melgaço for 25 years´.

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