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Spa Travels

Visiting Historic UNESCO Bath Spa UK Heritage Site


The ruins and spa at Bath are worth a day trip from London.

Historic Bath is an easy day trip from London. Visitors can tour ancient Roman ruins or indulge in a modern spa treatment. Bath is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Head out to Bath in the morning by train or bus. As the office towers and red brick houses of London gradually give way to rolling green fields lined with hedgerows and dotted with country homes, a sense of relaxation sets in.

The original Roman Baths were constructed between AD 65 and 75. Rebuilt in the 1700s, they reached the height of their popularity when Queen Anne’s regular visits to Bath made the spa fashionable amongst society’s elite. People bathed in and drank Bath’s foul smelling thermal water. Amazingly, the spring still pumps out 240,000 gallons daily.

UNESCO World Heritage Site at Bath

Visitors arriving in Bath will be charmed by curved rows of late 18th century townhouses. Elegant in their Georgian simplicity, the mellow patina of the facades contrasts sharply with the polished brass hardware and high gloss paint on the front doors. A popular door colour is oxblood red. These houses are one of the reasons Bath was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987.

The River Avon runs through the heart of town, and defines Bath almost as much as its Georgian architecture or fine Roman ruins. The Pulteney Bridge is reminiscent of Italy, not surprising since its unusual shop-lined design was based on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence.

Ancient Treasures at Bath

The baths are an archaeological treasure, with an excavated temple, saunas and massage rooms. A trove of antique coins, mosaics, stone carvings and a fabulous gilt-bronze head of Minerva are well displayed. The Great Bath, an enormous swimming pool, impresses with its classic eighteenth century design. You can imagine lords and ladies cavorting around the columns and in the steaming, greenish-grey water.

Thermal Spa Treatment at Bath

Today’s visitors to Bath can enjoy the best of the old and the new with The Spas Ancient and Modern package, which includes admission to the historic Roman Baths, a two-hour session at the new Thermae Bath Spa and lunch or Champagne tea in the Pump Room Restaurant.

Taste Bath’s Water at the Grand Pump Room

Along with lunches and afternoon teas, the Pump Room sells a souvenir of a different kind. Visitors can buy a taste of the spa’s water. Sniff, sip and gag. The murky brew of 43 malodorous minerals is absolutely vile. But what else would you expect from ‘Bath water?’

Historic Sites in London

Visitors to the Roman Baths might also enjoy a tour of historic Fenton House or the Wallace Collection in London.

For more information on how to enjoy any trip, download my eBook Travel Like a Flight Attendant. It’s filled with money-saving travel tips and advice I learned from my thirty years (and twenty million air miles) as a crew member.

Happy travels!


Jet Lag Remedy at Japanese Stone Spa

I’m always looking for ways to overcome jet lag symptoms. One of the best ways I’ve found is by visiting Ishi No Yu Stone Spa near Tokyo for ganbanyoku, a spa treatment that involves lying on a hot stone bed and sweating.

Ganbanyoku translates as “bedrock bath” or “rock bathing” and is reputed to improve circulation and skin tone as well as relieving muscle fatigue and tension. Many Japanese flight attendants believe it is an excellent way to detox after a long-haul flight. I have to agree with them.

The Ishi No Yu Stone Spa is a short walk from the Aeon Center, a shopping plaza in Narita. Most of the major hotels close to Narita International Airport, the airport that serves Tokyo, have shuttle buses to downtown Narita and nearby shopping malls.

Japanese protocol prevails as you enter the spa foyer. Courteous staff members will bow to greet visitors and request that shoes are removed and placed in a special locker. Shopping bags and parcels can also be stored here.

In the lobby, guests can be found enjoying typical Japanese beverages after their treatment. Complimentary hot or cold tea is offered and you will pay in advance for other drinks and for the spa service. Noni juice is highly recommended for detox though it has a slightly bitter taste.

Ganbanyoku Spa Instructions without Speaking Japanese

It’s not necessary to speak Japanese in order to visit the spa as there is often an English-speaking staff member available and instructions are simple to follow.

  • The attendant will offer a locker key, a stack of terry towels, a pair of cotton pyjamas, a bottle of water and a large laminated card with instruction for the stone spa written in Japanese alongside simple descriptive drawings.
  • The small towel, or face cloth is used for brow wiping when sweating, the large towel is used as a mat on the stone bed and the mid-sized towel is rolled up and used as a pillow.
  • In the powder room, a demonstration will be given on how to create a rich lather by rubbing soap through a mesh cloth. The resulting mound of foam can then be used to remove makeup.
  • Each guest is given a small bottle of water conveniently marked with the time the treatment must be finished. Three bottles should be consumed during the visit tto the stone spa bed to replenish fluids lost while sweating. Refill the bottle from a cooler in the spa’s inner lounge.

Day Visits to the Stone Spa

Surprisingly, many Japanese women say the sweat produced while at the stone spa is like lotion, and not sticky or smelly like regular perspiration. They suggest showering before, not after ganbanyoku.

Enter the private change room and store clothing in the locker. Shower, pull on the two-piece cotton pyjama and enter the stone spa. The entire facility is very clean and even modest women will feel comfortable during their visit.

Inside the Ganbanyoku Stone Spa

The spa room is as hot as a sauna, but without the typical dryness. Temperatures on the stone beds average 42 – 44 degrees Celsius. Classical music piped softly into the dimly lit room creates a serene, retreat-like atmosphere.

The spa beds are separated by low wooden barriers to create private cubicles. There are clocks everywhere and an hourglass timer by the bed.

  • Lie face up for five minutes and face down for another five. Leave the two larger towels on the bed and return to the inner lounge for ten minutes to fill up the water bottle. Continue to drink the required amount of water while in the lounge and after returning to the spa.

Repeat this routine three times and the treatment is complete. Many flight attendants find that the amount of sweat produced after a flight is less than normal due to the dehydration that occurs onboard an aircraft. However, this can be the best time for releasing toxins.

After Ganbanyoku

Cool off and get changed or shower again if desired. Drop the used towels and pyjamas into one of the wire baskets. Use the powder room to freshen up and then return to the spa lobby for juice or Japanese tea.

A membership card will be offered upon check-out which can be used on the next visit to the stone spa. Shoes and parcels can be retrieved and goodbyes, “Sayonara” and thank yous, “Arigato” offered.

Find a Stone Spa at Home or in Japan

According an October 27, 2006 article in Japanese Market News, there are over 2,000 stone spas in Japan. If you can’t visit the land of the rising sun, you might be able to find a stone spa closer to home, though online searches and local magazine and newspaper stories or ads.

For more information on how to enjoy any trip, download my eBook Travel Like a Flight Attendant. It’s filled with money-saving travel tips and advice I learned from my thirty years (and twenty million air miles) as a crew member.

Happy travels!