Gordon:  After a little internet research I am able to pose the rhetorical question: in what way can I be distinguished from George Patton, Carrie Fisher, Teddy Roosevelt and Calvin Coolidge, Paul Klee, the Shah of Iran, and Leon Trotsky?  While clearly they are all famous and I am known only to my blog audience of a dozen, and a handful of others, the distinguishing fact I am seeking is that we all celebrated a 60th birthday, but I am the only one to go on to a 61st.

Yes, today is my birthday.  And because the arc of our travels has brought us to the spa town of Velingrad, Ruth decided that we should book ourselves into a spa hotel to celebrate the event.  At several times our usual outlay, or about the cost of the most basic hotel room in Victoria, we are spending a night at the Royal Spa Hotel, accommodation so luxurious that it has its own flag.

While other guests float about the expansive premises with an air of assurance, it has been a bit of a learning curve for us.  When we first presented ourselves at the door of the spa area, the English speaking employee was noticeably uncomfortable with our attire; he kept glancing at my shoes while explaining the usual dress, access to towels, and the pools and treatments available.  We retreated to our room and returned clad in the heavy terry cloth robes and sandals that are standard dress here.

We spent the afternoon flitting from pool to pool to sauna.  There are a daunting number of them: hot pools, tepid pools, jacuzzi pools, cold shock pools, indoor pools, outdoor pools, Roman bath pools, a Russian bath, a Finnish sauna, a salt sauna, and the list goes on.  It has been a lot of fun, but I am sceptical about the health benefits claimed for our frolic.  For instance, the infrared sauna claimed we would burn 300 to 800 kcals in 30 minutes.  The lower figure is roughly the energy needed for a 5 km run, which we were not doing inside the sauna.  In any event, I will admit to starting my 62nd year in a comfortably relaxed and very clean state.

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