Bath, England was one of the first locations I visited in my travels. Last week I returned to do the activities I missed in my last trip, namely a visit to the Thermae Spa. What a luxurious experience!
Thermae Spa is a unique experience, up there with the Blue Lagoon in Iceland (at the top of my bucket list). The waters are fed by the thermal springs beneath the city of Bath, from which the town gets its name. For nearly 3000 years, the waters from the hot springs have been used for curative purposes. With 42 different minerals in the water, there’s probably some truth as to its efficacy. But that’s getting into the details of the spa, which I already wrote about here.
My own interest in Bath started many years ago, when I saw a photo of it on someone’s bucket list. Oddly enough, the town doesn’t look anything like what I remember of that photo, but I’m not complaining. In my original visit in February 2015, I took the local bus in from Bristol and spent the morning on the walking tour. After the tour, I walked around the town with Lynda (the second traveler I met in my journeys) and saw the places the tour mentioned but didn’t visit. At the time, I stopped by the Thermae Spa and grabbed one of their leaflets, deciding someday I would go back to enjoy the baths.
Fast forward to December 2016. Not much in the town has changed. The temperature is about the same as I remember – freezing! At least this time it wasn’t raining like it was last time, but the lack of clouds did make it a couple degrees colder. The one thing that was different was the large Christmas Market surrounding the Bath Abbey. I recently published an article on the Edinburgh Christmas Market for another site, and I have to say that while the market in Bath is a tad smaller, there were some things I really liked about it. First of all, it wasn’t as crowded. There were several more individual stalls, rather than copy and paste company stalls, and a lot more samples to try as well. Best of all, there was a Chai tea stall serving the best Chai I’ve had outside of Asia.
While the tea was nice, it was far from the highlight of this trip. I was invited for a tour of the Thermae Spa, followed by luxuriating in the pools and saunas for a couple hours.
I was met by Mary and Sam, who gave me a tour of the facilities. Unfortunately the Hot Bath had a private therapy session in it, but the rest was impressive enough for me. I got to see the exclusive Cross Bath, the Minerva Bath and the Rooftop Pool. Mary was very helpful with all the information about the construction of the spa, its history, etc. From what I’ve found in my travels to compare it to, this is definitely a world-class spa. The state-of-the-art facilities are on par with those at the Blue Lagoon. Perhaps the only drawback was the unisex changing and shower facilities, due to the lack of space in which to build. However, the areas still provide plenty of privacy, and this is a spa after all. If you’re worried about seeing some skin, you shouldn’t be going to a pool!
After getting the tour, I changed into my trunks and head straight for the Rooftop Pool. As you know, I like extremes, such as the sauna in Sweden and swimming in the Baltic Sea. Thus the idea of a thermal pool outside in the freezing weather, with a stunning view of Bath and the surrounding countryside, appealed to me greatly. It was with great reluctance that I finally pulled myself out of the waters and head to the next floor down, where the saunas were located.
There are four saunas, each with a different oil infused in the steam. My favorite was the eucalyptus and menthol, and the other three were lemongrass, lotus and sandalwood. I was also fond of the sandalwood, only because the door sealed better and it was significantly hotter. I might have found a pod without anyone else in it, and snapped a selfie, but don’t tell anyone or show anyone the picture, since it’s not allowed in the spa. After all, you can’t really tell it’s me through all the steam. Update: The four saunas have been replaced by the Wellness Suite.
Then it was down to the Minerva Bath on the ground floor, where I stayed under the water jet for some time getting a neck massage. That pool has a circular current you can ride while floating on pool spaghetti, and it was some time before I moved on from that. But I did, and it was back up to the roof to repeat the cycle again. In truth I could have spent the whole day there, but it was getting late and I had already lost an hour just trying to find parking.
As a warning to anyone else headed to Bath during the holiday season, don’t arrive right when you’re tour begins. Parking is a nightmare, and the main parking lot was closed when I went. The other parking lot would only take coins, which I didn’t have, and had to run to three different shops before I found one who would give me change. Ah well, at least it was worth it.
By the time I finished my visit, it was already getting late. The sun doesn’t stay up too long in the UK in winter, and I only had a bit of time to see the Christmas Market and a couple other landmarks I wanted to see again. It was also nice to get some better pictures with my Samsung S7 phone, which is infinitely better than the Canon Powershot I was using last year when I came.
One last point of interest was lunch. Last year, I was directed to get a Cornish pastie, and this time I went back to the same shop. The meat pies were just as good as I remembered, which is saying something since I’ve now got two years of sampling different cuisines under my belt. Yep, traveling doesn’t get any less spectacular the farther I go, only more so.
While there are so many more places in the world I want to visit, I have to say I still plan to return to Bath again someday, at least one more time. For one thing, I want to see Bristol again which is just down the road. And I really want to do one of the massage therapies offered by the spa, preferably with someone I’m traveling with. But that will be another story, or perhaps several stories.
Planning to Visit Bath?
Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.