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taking the cures: curia

Right out in the middle of nowhere there is this Great Grand Hotel,  newly restored to its former 1920’s glory. By great, I mean huge, and middle of nowhere –  there’s not a beach or a mountain or a swinging casino nearby, only a few other medium sized hotels, less glamourous, but intriguing nonetheless. There’s a train station, hardly used, for they are no houses around.


Build it Big And They Will Come, the architects must have thought. Or else, the Termas da Curia were pulling healthy enough and wealthy enough crowds to warrant such an extravagant hotel as this. Welcome to Curia, the almost forgotton spa-resort town near Mealhada in Central Portugal.


Spas and hot springs have been used since prehistoric times for treatment of ailments via mineral-infused spring waters. The curative properties of natural waters were believed in by the ancient Greeks and Romans and baths continued to be used throughout the middle ages. Only notable is the time (in the western world) when bathing was thought to be unhealthy, for periods during the more religious middle ages and briefly in the mid 19th century. Otherwise we’ve liked a good hot bath, a massage, a steam, a scrub and good clean drink since time immemorial. It’s a global phenomenon too – from the Onsen in Japan to the great baths of Bucharest and the Hammams from Turkey to Morocco.


The modern spa epoch came in the 18th and 19th centuries, when spas were built across Europe in the classical style, following the Roman design. By the 20th century the spa had been thoroughly adopted by the leisurely wealthy and resort style spas included charming recreational sidelines to their quasi-medical regimes. Tennis, fine wines and caviar came alongside some liver cleansing or treating your rheumatism.


Hence, this rather classy megalith of a hotel next to the Termas da Curia. It has its own pool, gorgeous french gardens and plenty of grounds for say a spot of coits after you’ve had your sinuses drained. Smashing.


Today Portuguese people are still sent by their family doctor to the springs to receive treatment. Every spa has a specific remedy and the Termas da Curia’s waters are good for gallstones, so I’m reliably informed by the staff. There were people there young and old, who were on a 7 day course of water massage. What do I have to do to get gallstones, I’d like to know.


I love the Termas’ menu of treatments. Scottish bath, Vichy, Leque, Bertholet; I had to ask what each of them were in detail so I might avoid a colonic irrigation by mistake. Plus I was sending my sister in for a number 8 and had to check for her as well. She was up for a Vichy shower, a massage with water jets. I assured her that given how prudish and traditional the Portuguese are (say, compared to the Swedes) she would most likely have a female masseuse. We had planned to go nude – not in bikinis as in the brochure. Just to prove how much I know, she got a hairy giant of a man, about 50 kilos overweight who grunted as he worked on her shoulders and wore only a tiny modesty towel. It was I who was massaged by the comely nursey professional. Ah.. another adventure in Portugal she won’t forget. My younger-sister credibility goes down the drain again.



  1. Richard Edwards January 29, 2011 1:53 am Reply

    There was a RTP2 programme about a millionaire Jewish family from Slovakia (?) rescued from a Nazi prison camp ( very rare) who were put on a train to Portugal and given accommodation at this hotel. From hell to luxury!!

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  2. Helder January 29, 2011 2:31 am Reply
  3. António January 29, 2011 5:33 am Reply

    You don’t have to be worried with your sister’s credibility cuz she is not a politician. 🙂
    You are right about the Hotel.
    It’s overwhelming.
    There were many like this that were bought and converted into Pousadas or “Charm” Hotels as they are also known.
    My guess is this Hotel was never used in its full capacity maybe cuz it was too expensive or was a little out of hand.
    The feeling that I have when I look at this pictures is of emptyness; It could get better maybe if the owners spent some money in advertising the benefits of being treated here.

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  4. Gary Oaks January 29, 2011 10:03 am Reply

    “… plenty of grounds for say a spot of coits …” What is/are coits?
    If you had said “a spot of coitus,” I would have understood, but I do not know this word, coits. (I am not trying to be funny.)

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    Emma   Reply: February 1st, 2011 at 1:58 am

    But the best comedians are the ones that don’t have to try. Perhaps I should’ve wiki-linked coits, donuts made of rigid twisted rope which you throw to land on a vertical target (ie a stick coming out of the ground) now I’ll have to check it on wiki myself… 🙂

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  5. Jaime January 29, 2011 11:24 am Reply

    Portugal is like this…you can find the most fantastic things right from no where… I remember when I found Vidago Termas, with the magnific Hotel Bilding, which I didn´t even know that existed. Curia I have already heard about..never been there though, seems beautiful!

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  6. Cristina January 31, 2011 3:50 am Reply

    I’ve never been to Curia–seems lovely. We had a family friend (who lived well into her 90s) that would visit the termas (can’t recall which at the moment) every year. I’m not even suggesting a correlation between longevity and the spa–but it doesn’t seem to hurt things does it? Wonderful photos btw.

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  7. pamela February 1, 2011 3:42 pm Reply

    Hi – sounds and looks great, if a bit lonely – but maybe it was early in the day when you took the photos?

    I think the game might be called quoits (or used to be). Maybe coits is an alternative spelling. What I remember about the quoits is that they are darned heavy because the rope has to be quite solidly woven to allow the rings to be thrown successfully.

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    Emma   Reply: February 2nd, 2011 at 4:23 am

    Oh my goodness me you are right! It’s Quoits! (slap on wrist) naughty blogger should check her factoids!

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  8. Emma August 27, 2011 5:02 am Reply

    FYI – guys I was at the Termas da Curia in late July and it was heaving. Lots of women of a certain age taking the waters for what not and some beautiful people there just because. Freezing jet showers for the cellulite. Warm, yummy vichy shower massage which sent me to sleep, fab lunch, dips in the pool that was occupied by young, tanned, Poles in not-very-much. A fab day!

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  9. Valerie Da-Silva Curtiss November 2, 2012 3:52 am Reply

    This brings back memories of Mealhada area, where we ate the most fabulous Leitao assado a bairrada, roasted suckling pig at the Restaurante Tipico da Bairrada!! I guess I am basically at heart a foodie!! How far is Curia from Mealhada?

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    Emma   Reply: November 19th, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    oh, it’s very close… 5-10 minutes?

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  10. Valerie Da-Silva Curtiss November 19, 2012 5:10 pm Reply

    OOH, Lucky you!!!!!! I drool at the computer thinking of being so close to that area restaurants! There is nothing better than suckling pig roasted until the skin is crackling and salty….

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