We did an overnight in Bath, where the town offers free walking tours every day. We saw the Abbey and the Royal Crescent and learned some history about this ancient town, which was most fashionable in the winter season of the Georgian and Victorian ages. At dawn, rich people would be carried to the baths in sedan chairs to ‘take the waters’ then just hang out all day eating before going out at night. They didn’t wash their hair though, and all the lard and whatever else the women used to make their hair really stiff and high became very smelly and dripped down their necks while in the steamy baths. Children were not allowed on these vacations until they were teenagers and in need of marrying off. The season ran from September to May.
The Romans came to Bath around 45 A.D. and stayed for 400 years. It struck me as strange that they would all pack up and leave at once after all that time; one would think they would have developed some ties to the region after several centuries. However, Rome was falling and the military men there were needed elsewhere. Our tour guide said that the Romans had tried to integrate themselves into the society, but the tribe in the region saw them as occupiers and also found it bizarre that they were so into bathing. So, even though the natives, who were basically living in mud huts before the Romans arrived, worked for their occupiers and learned a lot about engineering and architecture from them, they were not sad to see them go.
At the baths, which were co-ed until Hadrian ordered the sexes separated, you would strip in a tepid room to get used to the temperature. Your slaves would guard your clothes and rub you down with oil and lavender. You would then go into a scalding hot room—so hot you’d blister your feet if you weren’t wearing sandals—and then to a cold room to refresh and open your pores. At some point, someone would scrape off your dead, oiled skin and you’d save it in a jar for a beauty treatment. After the Romans left, the main bath fell into ruin and was buried in an earthquake. It was rediscovered in the 1700s and people were allowed to swim in the rediscovered waters until 1978, when it was deemed too gross.
However, we drank some of this hot water after our tour. It’s an acquired taste. The water we see in the baths fell from the sky 10,000 years ago!
Tea at Sally Lunn’s.