It is often said that when you live and work in an area you tend to overlook the things that attract many other people to where you are based. And that is why I decided last week to pay a return visit to the Thermae Bath Spa – my first trip for at least three years – and one which I decided I really ought to make to familiarise myself again with this iconic city attraction.
I arrived in Bath in September 2005 when you couldn’t say the word spa without putting the word ‘troubled’ in front of it. It struck me that local people had been following the financial shenanigans to do with the spa for so many years that many of them had probably lost sight of what it was there for and why.
I won’t pretend that all the costs involved and the subsequent legal battles weren’t important and serious but now they are all (for the most part) behind us, I hope people can now just look at the spa for what it is – which is what I did last week.
And I’m delighted to say, that I loved every minute of my somewhat delayed visit.
We decided to go on the night of the opening of the Christmas Market which turned out to be the first of the very cold nights we have all experienced this week. In many ways that was perfect because to be on the rooftop pool in the freezing air at around 5pm as you watched Bath turn from day to night was a truly magical experience.
The contrast between the cold air on your face and the warm waters below was a sensual delight and I can genuinely say that by the time we left we felt as relaxed as if we’d been in a deep, deep sleep for many hours.
What was also impressive was to see just how busy the place was. Even at what I thought was a relatively unfashionable time, the place was buzzing – but not in such a way as we ever felt like sardines in a particularly well-lubricated tin.
The range of people also impressed me. Yes, it is still very female orientated but there were still plenty of men and all adult ages were well represented. Young romantic couples, groups of students, older couples with friends as well as partners and a high number of single people all contributed to a lovely, friendly mix and an atmosphere where no one seemed stressed, no one was moaning and the only fear anybody had was how they could get from the rooftop pool to their dressing gown without catching a severe chill.
Of course, I accept that for some people the whole mess about the spa’s finances will mean they will never be able to fully enjoy the experience as I did – and that, I think, is a shame.
To not use the spa because of these sorts of objections is like not going to see your favourite club at the new Wembley stadium because it cost too much to build. I just wish those people who still feel that way could try to put it behind them and just enjoy what thousands of people from all around the world are now discovering – that the Thermae Bath Spa truly is a jewel in Bath’s crown.
Troubled spa? No, I’ll go with ‘glorious spa’ instead, thank you.