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Thermae (2)

You may remember that I mentioned a little while back (*clicky*) about visiting the only natural hot spa in the UK, mainly out of curiosity as to whether the complex would have any similarity to Japanese Onsen culture. Well, I've been now - and it was an interesting visit, so read on....

The place is relatively easy to get to, because it's right in the centre of Bath - so head for the City Centre and you'll be fine. As a pedestrian, you'll see signs to "Thermae" everywhere, so I defy anyone not to find it.

As you enter, you get the distinct impression that money has been spent. This is not just some jumped-up swimming pool, it's architecturally much more. The stonework is something to behold. Everything is curvy and smooth and impressive, even down to the welcome sign behind reception.

The prices are on their website (*clicky*), but at the time of writing, a two-hour session cost £19. For a spa in the UK, this is cheap (although when in Japan, most Onsen entry-fees are more in the order of 200 yen / 1 pound) and a session such as this is a good way to get familiar with the place.

When you enter, you're given an armband. The armband has a chip in it, which is too damn smart for its own good. It knows when you came to the place. It knows your locker number. It knows if you ate at the restaurant. In short, everything is charged back to the armband - you then settle up for anything outstanding as you leave.

Changing is in a unisex area, which is full of little cubicles. Facilities exist for families and the disabled.

The building has five (I think) floors. Probably the best way to start, though, is at the top and work your way down. The rooftop pool is great. It gives you a view across the top of Bath and over to the countryside. Here's a shot of the pool. (It's OK to use these images - they're on the PR section of the website).

That rooftop pool is awesome at night...

I have to say it's much more fun sitting in the pool if the weather isn't sunny. When it's raining, it's great. It's probably great by moonlight. It's also probably great on a freezing icy day. It was certainly interesting during the rain, mainly because of the cold rain on your face contrasting with the 40+ degree water temperature.

Anyway, head downstairs and you enter the steam room, which looks a bit like something from Doctor Who, but it's sooooooo cool.

Like being in the tardis?

The steam room has four separate sections, each with their own distinct smell. For example - floral in one, wood in another. It's worth going to all four to experience the difference. The steam room also has individual foot spas, so you can soak/bubble your feet away. Nice. Finally, there's the central shower, which makes you feel like you're being pelted with pebbles. It works a treat at removing dead skin from every pore of you, but that's probably a thought you don't want to linger over.

There are other treatment rooms on the next floor down and by the time you've got to the ground floor, you're in a place called the Minerva Bath, which is more akin to something swimming pool-esque, but it's not - if that makes any sense at all.

All the pools seems to have this random controller built in to them, so bubbling spas pop up in places you didn't expect, along with water cannons operating from the side of the bath, which work a treat at leaving your back squeaky clean, combined with some nice lighting and high pressure pumps, which make you feel as though you're getting a massage. The surface of all the baths is covered in a paint that can only be likened to a sandstone with bits of pumice in it. It's like all the time you're in there, the nasty dead skin is being removed. You do come out squeaky clean - and you feel great.

I was in there for just two hours, but want to go back. I'll probably do a four-hour session next time. This place is a distinctly British affair and is nothing like the Japanese spas I've been in before - this is much more grand. The water quality here is great. There are drinking stations around the building and the water is exceedingly soft and pleasant to drink. The place has had so much money spent on it, that I hope it doesn't go under. It deserves to do well. Some of the layout is occasionally non-sensical, but being such a unique building which has been so tastefully renovated, it deserves to be supported.

Go. Go now. You won't regret it.
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