I’ve always loved outdoor swimming pools.
The dream of warm waters and clear skies, is the compulsion that draws hundreds of thousands of British people into far flung corners of the world each year.
The allure of white beaches, aquamarine waters and exotic food had seduced me into spending the last few months in Thailand. A hair-raising adventure at points, I had nonetheless been pleasantly surprised by the deference and respect that I had been shown during my time away. The local people were generous, several times I was hosted for dinner round complete strangers’ homes – and the travelling Brits I met were always overjoyed to have an avuncular character, such as myself, amongst them on their nights out.
When I returned, grateful to be back in the Garden of England, I mourned the loss of the warm waters that had soothed the aches in my old body.
In need of a little adventure, I booked some trains, packed my swimming shorts and headed out to Bath.
Over 150 miles of railway track laid between my destination and my humble abode in Kent, which is why I left early – packed lunch in hand. A long train journey is a thing of beauty, at once serene and evocative. As the rolling hills of England fade in and out of urban areas, the mind can drift in and out of conscious thought and settle into the comfortable rhythm of the train.
In 3 hours, having essentially napped for the entire journey, I arrived in Bath – a city steeped in an Ancient History that has been celebrated for centuries
Having been nurtured and developed by the industrious Romans, during their brief 400 year stint as Britain’s rulers, the baths have been wonderfully looked after and are worth a visit, regardless of your interest in the History. A ticket costing around £15 will gain you entry to the Baths proper, a good few hours can be spent here learning about the place and there’s even a lovely restaurant overlooking the steaming baths that you can rest your weary feet at.
Of course, a trip to Bath wouldn’t be complete without taking a dip into the warm waters themselves.
A few years ago, when I was a more avid swimmer, I had a heated swimming pool installed in my back garden. It was an extravagant purchase at the time, made to signify the level of decadence to which I was retiring to. Sourcing all the necessary tools and equipment from Paramount Pools, the water was warm and inviting – but it was eventually neglected as I grew older and less inclined to swim. The allure of truly hot water was something that had never left me. Thailand had offered a few options, but it was the naturally heated Roman springs that I had travelled all this way for.
The Roman site is unfortunately off limits, but thankfully Thermae Spas have modernised the experience – harnessing the natural warm spring and channelling it into their flashy facility. A two hours session on a week day will cost you around £35, with an extra charge of £10 added for each hour that you decide to wallow there for. Go in the late morning on a Monday, like me, and you’ll find the Spa delightfully quiet and peaceful. Yet to be bombarded with the droves of hen parties and birthday dos that are these places bread and butter, the waters were hot and calming.
After a good couple of hours floating around the swankily set pools, I left feeling cleansed and suitably sedated.
Yearning for some exotic food to match the tropical highs my body had just experienced, I moseyed along to Chai Walla for a bite to eat.
Serving Indian Street Food in a small but relaxed cafe environment, Chai Walla is a blink and you’ll miss it establishment. A colourful, hand-painted sign sits above it’s small entrance and has just enough space for a handful of people to queue for the delicious homemade foods that are churned out at an alarming rate. Falafel wraps, samosas and hot chai tea are served along with a variety of changing specials. Although there was no official seating, the owners were kind enough to find me a seat from the back so I could sit and enjoy my meal. Tea and a couple of samosas will cost you around a fiver – transporting your mouth to another land entirely.
With my need for hot water and exotic food sated, all I had to do was return home on the train. On the way to the station, I passed the Abbey. Towering above the surrounding buildings, the structure is over 400 years old. Although it’s beauty is undeniable, the pompous arrogance of the Religious Establishment of the Middle Ages hung over it like a dark shadow.
Briefly bowing my head in reverence, I moved quickly on, leaving the warm waters of Bath and domineering weight of it’s Religious history behind me.