Bathing like true Romans

ALMOST triffid-like in its stand-alone station, the stainless steel one-metre pole with drooping head stood quietly poolside, commanding a clear open air view of the Bathampton Ridge across the clay chimney pots and church spires of Somerset's Bath in western England.

But unlike John Wyndham's 1950s sci-fi tall swaying plants, the shiny pole was rigid in the sun.

Unexpectedly, it spat into life, a little like the triffids did with their blinding poisons.

I was within a metre, the closest of a dozen others, so waded forward quickly to acquaint myself with what was soon to become my new best friend.

Shooting out from the pole's narrow mouth was a strong warm water jet which was soon applying its therapeutic pressure to my head, neck, shoulders and back.

As the minutes ticked by, the force was invigoratingly blissful. I closed my eyes to (a) concentrate on the pummelling, (b) hog the pleasure and (c), appear ignorant of others nearby who might want to try the treatment themselves.

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After several sensational minutes, the spitting stops and the pole goes back to sleep. I place foam tubes under my legs and back and in the fresh air and sunshine float away from my friend across the pool to join my life partner real very best friend indulging in an air seat and bubble jet.

The three-storeys-up rooftop pool is one of three bathing experiences we enjoyed on our two-hour ticket at the New Royal Bath complex (a smart contemporary building amid Bath's uniform Georgian sandstone architecture) which is fed by the natural mineral-rich thermal waters from the springs that have made the city famous since discovered by the Celts and Romans over 2000 years ago.

Water is an optimum bathing temperature of 33.5 degrees centigrade and the baths are 1.35 metres deep.

There was another triffid massage jet in the lower Minerva Bath which is named after the Roman Goddess of Health and Wisdom.

We asked an attendant when it would come to life and he told us it was on a time cycle, "but soon".

What sprung into life then though was the whirlpool at the other end of this large pool which allowed us to "swim against the current" and so exercise instead of just pampering the body with soothing sensations.

The level between the two pools occupies three aroma steam rooms and a central scalp-pounding "waterfall" shower.

The steam rooms are infused with different aromatic vapours, so you have three "breathtaking" experiences, literally.

We found the eucalyptus-mint essence too strong for our delicate lungs (it brought back memories though of football change-rooms), but we enjoyed being steamed by lemongrass and ginger and being refreshed in between under the waterfall.

Let's go back to the fresh air on the roof. With hired (or BYO) bathrobes visitors can patronise the Spring cafe and restaurant at any time for a meal, snack and drink.

Purchases are charged to your SmartBand fitted on complex entry and paid for on exit.

Pools and triffids aside, this 2006 addition to Bath's day and night natural spa houses (others are The Hot Bath linked to the new facility and The Cross Bath, adjacent open-air small thermal spa which is often booked by small groups) offers over 50 spa treatments and packages, like Twilight-For-Two, hot stones, Aromatic Moor Mud wrap, top-to-toe massage, deep tissue bamboo massage, facials, and head and foot massages.

Thermae Bath Spa is the over-riding name of this sparklingly clean white complex, which claims to be Britain's original and only naturally warm thermal spa. We learn that the waters contain over 42 minerals, the most concentrated being sulphate, calcium and chloride.

Two-hour, four-hour or full day spa sessions are the options, but our sightseeing commitments allowed for just two hours. During that time, we were either in the waters or steaming and all the time sipping cool drinking water as recommended.

We were in the company of young couples (children under 16 not allowed), groups of friends spread across the ages, people of all shapes and sizes who were common in feel-good aspiration.

Surprisingly, at the end, we weren't waterlogged; we were though triffidly relaxed.

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