Saturday, 23 August 2008

Warm lemonade

Aargh, sorry, neglect of blog for almost a month very bad. In my defence, for at least the final week of that month I have been ignoring all modern technology in favour of the decorous delights of Bath.

The Thermae Bath Spa is one of those projects that went on far too long, costing far too much money, so that it's a real surprise to find that it is finally with us. I've been twice now, and struggle with my feelings towards it. The problem is this:

1. It is GROSSLY overpriced. Or rather, in market terms obviously they are pricing it just right but in any kind of philosophical sense £22 for two hours swim and steam + £9 for hire of robe, towel and slippers is just a massive rip-off. Residents of Bath do at least get £4 off - which they can then sacrifice to obtain a towel (robe be damned).

2. The design of the place is... problematic. It's tall and narrow, meaning that you have to walk up and down an inordinate amount of stairs to get anywhere (there are lifts - well, two - but I just feel wrong taking a lift in my bikini). And changing is a total nightmare. I can see how their high-tech, unisex changing room plan seemed excellent on paper but it's just no fun in real life. You can only reach the lockers or leave at the end through a changing cubicle, severely restricting your ability to see where you are or find your companions. The lever to open the cubicle doors is subtle enough that several people a day must lose fingernails trying to pry the doors open before they find it. The space between cubicles and lockers is too narrow for people to pass freely up and down, but pass you must because there never seems to be a locker free close by. You then have to move again to find the magic pad that locks and unlocks your locker using your wristband... which remembers your precise locker number but woe betide you if you can't remember at least the rough area it was in. The showers are on a different floor and have shampoo but no conditioner. The whole thing is bizarre and nightmareish.

3. I use the word 'swim' above loosely. One bathes here. There is no room for anything more active. The minerva pool indoors is just a bit dull - the currents that float you in gentle circles are fun for about five minutes but there are two many pillars, stairs etc for any meaningful movement.

BUT - then you get to the rooftop pool. The water is a glorious body-temperature. The long blue floats are like the arms of your favourite chair. The patch of bubbles like warm lemonade is heaven to float in. The views of Bath are spectacular. And so all is forgiven.

The four very large steam rooms are nice too (though the foot spas are pathetic). To the roof! Always to the roof.

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