The other day, it was so cold that I convinced my husband and sons to go with me to a nearby hot spring. We have a lot of them here in the Mountain West of the United States. This is only the second time I’ve gone, but each time I’ve found it very therapeutic. I have Seasonal Affective Disorder, which means I need to get out in the sun more often during the winter months, and soaking in the hot water makes it possible to sunbathe even in twenty degree weather. On my last visit, I also had some sore muscles in my legs. After an hour and a half of soaking, the pain disappeared and didn’t bother me again.
A lot of people like to find secluded hot springs out in nature, which sounds heavenly until you consider that someone else may already be in your chosen hot spring, and these people may be naked. To avoid that kind of awkwardness, we like a public hot spring near us called Crystal Hot Springs.
There’s always an interesting crowd at the hot springs–people of all ages and walks of life come together. As my husband says, it’s a great place for people watching. It’s also a great place for eavesdropping. (That’s what we do as authors, right?) While I was listening in on a group nearby, the conversation turned to Bath, England because it had one of the first public hot springs. Granted, I already knew about Bath, but when I got home I had to look up the history again. The baths there date back to 836 B.C. when King Blalud built a Moorish Bath. Later, the Romans improved on his design. They built an entire complex of baths between 60 and 360 A.D.. These included a hot bath, warm bath, and cold bath.Over the centuries, the English have repaired and remodeled them.
By the time of Jane Austen, Bath was a hopping town, which included the restored Roman baths as well as a neoclassical pump room, where visitors drank the mineral-rich water. Women wore long, colored gowns to bathe. Men wore short trunks. Men and women could bathe together, but there were also times available for just men, women, or children. The water at Bath contains high concentrations of calcium, sodium, magnesium, chloride, and sulphate. The hot springs where I bathe still tout the benefit of these minerals, especially for those with skin disorders.
Currently, the Roman Baths are not considered safe for bathing because of the risk of infectious diseases and possible radioactivity. However, visitors to Bath can bathe in the new Thermae Bath Spa, which pumps in its water from a new set of bore holes and pipes.
If, like me, you live in another country, you can enjoy a similar experience closer to home. Hot springs exist on every continent. I even found a couple in my home state of Virginia. Here is a great list for your reference. You might be surprised that you have hot springs closer than you think.