Bathing Just Like the Romans

Just as you all are getting your hopes up for another Grunderpants blog post of the UK excursions from the female perspective, here comes an added bonus. You have a surprise author in this week’s blog as I (Jay, in case you hadn’t figured it out) have managed to watch Kayla type in her password last week, and am now storming into the 21st century and taking over the Grunderpants blog posting.

It has now been about 3 and a half weeks with this being our fourth weekend here. Although Kayla has done a rather impressive job covering our time so far, here goes a quick summary of the weeks that have been and some thoughts of my own:

Week 1 – Arrival, Jet Lag, Henley-on-Thames

If this trip has taught me anything about international flights, it has been to look into the marvels of modern medicine. I’m not sure what it is about flights, but I can’t get any sleep at all on them. Period. From here on out I will be looking to put myself into a state slightly above comatose before entering a flight over 5 hours. I’ll just have to wear a shirt that won’t show the drool. Doc Garvin, do you have any horse tranquilizers that would work???

I won’t go too much in-depth about the Regatta as Kayla hit that one up pretty well. Just one interesting observation from me is that the range of people there was fascinating. From society’s elite (Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge, Princeton past and present alum) where elitism just oozes with each goofy looky suit, to the train wrecks that required a cozy spot right on the curb at 5 PM as it had been a full 8 hour day of drinking already. Having Henley be our first weekend there was a great way to see some of the British culture and not have to travel far at only a 20 minute train ride.

Authors note: I may have been one of the train wrecks if it wasn’t for the better half making sure I behave.

Week 2 – Work, London, Footy, Ale

With the start of week 2 came the start of my assignment in Reading. There isn’t a ton of material there to keep you all at the edge of your seats. It has been an uneventful few weeks at work and I’m rather happy about that. The more it can stay that way, the more we will be able to sneak out of the office and do some traveling, which (keep this a secret to my boss) is really why we wanted to come. One noticeable office activity is making sure that when you are going to the break room to make sure to ask EVERYONE in the office if they would want a drink of any kind from there. I actually have a hard time with this one because it isn’t like asking a co-worker or two because you have a free hand. It is customary to ask all 15 or 20 people in the office whether or not they want something. This scared me for the first couple of weeks for a few reasons. First is that we have a tray to help carry everything out, but we also have security doors that require a badge and a code to be typed in. I’m not sure that I have the grace to hold a tray, scan my badge, type in my code, and open the door without spilling all over myself. I’d almost for certain end up with everyone’s piping hot beverages on the front of my shirt if I had to do that on my own. The other thing I worry about is making sure to ask the tea drinkers how they take their tea. This is all assumptions (so far anyway), but if Kayla is a food snob and pilates snob, than the English may be tea snobs and I wouldn’t want to ruin their afternoon tea by not preparing it a certain way. I can make my own and Kayla’s pretty well, but we are still at amateur tea drinking status compared to our hosts over here.

Lucky for me, I’ve only had one tea order and at most, only 4 people accepting my proposal for drinks. They must already be able to tell my clumsiness and know that I won’t be able to make them a proper cup of tea.

Also with my first week of work, came the first week of footy (Soccer to you dumb Americans). I play pick up games on Tuesdays with people at work. It’s great to be playing again and I’m not used to being in an area of the world where soccer is the biggest sport. It makes for pretty good competition. My first week I was told that I must not have learned how to play in America. I took it as a compliment.

It was also this week where I got my first real taste of a British pub. On Friday night prior going to London, we met a co-worker of mine for a few pints. We started at a pub called the Alehouse. My co-worker did the ordering and I ended up with a beer called Hextor and one called Mr. Chubb. Both served room temp. Strange thing is, they taste like they are supposed to be served room temp. I actually am enjoying the beers here so I am going to go for gaining a few “soft” pounds around my mid-section like I did when I came home from Australia. Kayla will be one lucky bride.

Again, Kayla discussed our activities pretty well in London. However, I’ve got to say that I am proud of her. She tried Indian food. Unfortunately, I’m probably never going to get Indian food again as long as she is with me. I’m happy with her for trying. Good thing I don’t love Indian food that much.

Week 3 – Bath

Last week Kayla and I decided to venture west to a town in England called Bath. This town was originally founded by the Romans sometime around the first century B.C. when they found the only natural hot springs in the UK. The Romans believed the waters in Bath contained healing powers and therefore Roman soldiers would vacation to Bath or injured ones would come to bathe in the healing waters. I’m not sure when Walcott or Wilton were founded, but I’m guessing it was only a couple of years after Bath.

Again, we traveled by train out of Reading early on Saturday and got into Bath around 9 or 10 in the morning. We weren’t exactly sure what we wanted to accomplish during the day, so I stopped in a tourist center and found out that there was a free walking tour of the city starting shortly. Being here only a few weeks, I was surprised to hear the word “free,” so we took advantage of it to decide what we wanted to do the with the rest of our time. The walking tour took us to to the city attractions including but not limited to, the original Roman Baths, the Crescent house, The Circus, the Bath Abbey, Queen’s Square, today’s version of the Roman Baths (Thermae Spa), among other stops. Without entering each, of course. You have to pay for these luxuries. In all it was 2 hours and although quite good and informative, could have been an hour and half because I think for the last half hour both of us were looking for potential restaurants and not paying too much mind to the tour guide. All in all, it was a good way for us to start out touring the city as neither of us knew where to go/what to expect.

The rest of the afternoon was spent going back to the places we noted that we wanted a more in-depth view of from the tour. I won’t be able to do the history of any of the places justice, so I will allow any of you who are interested in the sights to google them and bone up on your history on the internet. Specifically, we went back to the Crescent House, which is an 18th century large estate built for the UK’s elite which comprised of several Georgian style homes connected, and the Bath Abbey, which was the church that was re-built in the 15th century in the town center.  Pictures will be posted, but the interesting thing to note is that the Abbey was re-built and according to our guide the tower of the rebuilt version would have fit completely in the original Abbey. Hard to picture that because the re-built Abbey is pretty large.

Saturday night we got tickets to a comedy club called Komedia. The humor here is very witty and quite crude, I enjoyed it thoroughly. I did, however, feel slightly out-of-place because there were about 7 hen parties (bachelorette) going on there to only 1 stag party (bachelor). My assumption here is that most of the stag parties must occur at much higher class establishments such as the symphony, where I will most likely be having mine in the near future.

Sunday can be summed up by Roman bathing. Both past and present. We went back into the Roman Baths Museum and walked through the bath house. They had artifacts there dating all the back to at least 1 AD. In one of the wishing wells, they had coins that spanned through 400 years of Roman Emperors (1 AD to 400)! Walking through the baths, you can’t help but feel a little awestruck thinking about how long ago when they were in use and how they have pieced the history together using the artifacts left behind. I’m going to have to watch Gladiator again. After the museum, we decided that since we will likely never be in Bath again to indulge in the Thermae Spa, or today’s version of bathing in the natural hot springs. The spa was a swanky place where for the small fee of 30 pounds each (45 dollars), we could go in and use the rooftop pool, indoor pool, and steam rooms. For a small fortune, you could get extras typical of any spa. Good thing the walking tour was free. The water was pretty warm (all from the hot springs, although maybe not as warm as Brenda has the pool at the Grunder house) and I would sum it up as an adults only pool. A lot of people go to Bath from the UK and I think the spa is a big draw. Especially for the women. I think it had to be about 3 women to each guy. Good thing I’m happily taken or else I would have noticed all the women in their tiny bikinis running around. The steam room was actually pretty neat. It was in a large room and in each corner there were round chambers you could go in and out, with a “waterfall” style shower in the middle. Each chamber had a different scent or flavor. They were eucalyptus mint, lemongrass and ginger, lotus flower, and sandalwood. I’ve only been in eucalyptus steam rooms before so the other ones were really different and pretty nice. The steam rooms made the spa trip worth it. We spent most of our time in the steam rooms and the rooftop pool which actually had a fairly nice view of the city and county side. Problem was, we didn’t need to full 2 hours. We stayed for only about an hour and half because yours truly was already pretty pruny and we were hungry. All in all, probably worth doing just to say we did it.

Well, I think I’ve covered at least a few things from the first few weeks that I wanted to comment on. I’ll let Kayla cover what we did this weekend and I’ll add in thoughts on a more regular basis. I think I have to be a little bit more proactive about posting or my mom is going to keep nagging me on it. Love you Mom.

We miss you all and hope these posts find you well.

j

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