Bath, England

Roman Bath photo from Google

Bath, England

Roman Bath (Photo from Google)

The first time I travelled internationally by myself, I was lucky enough to be going to England where I could read the signs and converse easily.   I had a busy work schedule planned where I would be in 3 countries in 4 days.  I knew I would be going at a breakneck pace so I decided to leave on Thursday so I would arrive on Friday and have the weekend to catch up with my jet lag.  I was going to the city of Bristol on the eastern coast of the UK, but before I started to work I wanted to spend time in the quaint city of Bath, a popular vacation destination for the British famous for the mineral water and spas and historical aristrotic charm. The Roman’s had built elaborate bath houses here and they have been excavated and restored.  It is quite a fascinating walking tour that allows you to see the original fire pits and pools and is well worth the time. I had toured the baths with my sisters on a previous trip and this time I wanted to go to a real spa and spend a little time poking around the city.  I also knew Stonehenge was about an hour from Bath by bus and they had tours that left daily.  That would be my weekend agenda.

I arrived in London early Friday morning and caught the train for the ninety minute ride to Bath.  I was tired when I arrived but I wanted to see if I could stay up the rest of the day to get on UK time. After arriving at my B&B I grabbed my swim suit and was anxious to get to the state-of-the-art Thermae Bath Spa I had heard so much about.  It is a conglomeration of old and new buildings, melding traditional architecture with modern steel and glass. There is no doubt the architecture had to be controversial as it sits among a city of primarily old world buildings.   Even the spa treatments are combination of tradition and modernism.  The traditional mud wraps and massages are available but so are some unique services like water shiatsu.    I wasn’t interested in any treatments I wanted to spend my time swimming in the enormous natural thermal heated mineral water pools as well as visit the steam rooms. The spa features two huge swimming pools on two different levels.  The Minerva pool is on the ground floor and has a very large curvaceous mineral whirlpool that gently keeps everyone moving in a large circle pattern.  The other pool sits on the roof overlooking the entire city. Both pools were completely soothing.  After spending an hour or so in the pools, I wanted to experience the state of the art steam room.  As you enter the room you first see several circular glass steam pods.  These dot the enormous room and are sometimes obscured by the ever present seamy fog. Despite the fog inside the pods, you can always see the circular neon light under the white benches.  This gives the illusion that the seats are floating on a sea of blue. In the center of the pods is a very large overhead waterfall shower with fiber optic lighting.  It goes through a series of sensations from gentle misting to an outright downpour as the lighted water pours down.   This was without question the ultimate jet lag treatment.   

I left after two hours completely relaxed and hungry.  I stopped for a light dinner in one of oldest cafes in Bath, Sally Lunn’s.  I had to taste the regional specialty known the world over as the “Bath bun”.  A nice cup tea and a small salad to completed my meal.  I took a view down the stairs to see the original kitchen and a small excavated site detailing layers of the city dating back to mediaeval times.  The town just kept re- building layer on top of layer.

In my haste to get to the spa I had forgotten to take a copy of the address of my bed and breakfast. Dazed and confused I desperately tried to remember how to get back to the B&B.  After a few heart pounding minutes of trying to figure out where to catch my bus, I finally remembered my way. I got on the bus and headed back to the B& B for a good night’s sleep.  I was so tired and relived to be there I immediately fell asleep only to be awakened a few hours later by the innkeeper opening my door. You left your key in the door dear.  I thanked her and silently chastised myself for being so forgetful. It was a good lesson and I would not let it happen again.

I had read that city of Bath featured a Fashion Museum that was touted as one best museum gems in Europe.  It featured three centuries of fashion starting with the time of Queen Elizabeth I, and was a fun trip through time revisiting the decades of fashion changes and viewing all those beautiful hats, gloves and fabrics. I had completely forgotten Britain was such a fashion trendsetter in the 1960’s until I was faced with the iconic fashions worn by the likes of Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton. The dress-up rooms were undoubtedly the most fun interactive parts of the museum.  The walls were lined with corsets and crinoline hoop skirts.  These were available to try on to get the feel of what it had been like to wear those tortures fashions. I could not actually put a corset on myself and I wished I had been with some girlfriends and been able to experience of art of lacing and pulling.   There were plenty of costume and dressing rooms for children as well making the experience fun for all ages. 

After a full day playing in the city of Bath it was time to get on to Bristol and hook up with the first of three colleagues that would be arriving over the next few days.  I knew the first would be coming in on Saturday and we planned to meet for dinner and plan our trip to Stonehenge the following day. 

Thermaes spa steam rooms (Photo from Thermaes Spa webpage.)

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Mark Justycky | Reply 18.03.2013 18.48

I've been to Bath twice myself. And have gone to Sally Lunn's twice, too. Took my English cousins to Bath. It was their first time there and they loved it.

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