Beautiful Bath (England)

Cherrio, mates! (said in my best British accent).  Ha!  I’ve always wanted to visit the quaint town of Bath.  I was up on Monday morning before 6am (1am US time — London is 5 hours ahead) to catch a train to Bath for the day.  The trains are really nice and convenient!

I arrived in Bath then pulled out my map and headed to the Roman Baths for my first tour.  Bath, England was known as “Aquae Sulis” when inhabited by the Romans.  Two hundred years ago, this city of 85K was the trendsetting Hollywood of Britain. 

The Roman Bath tour was very interesting (and it was a good thing that I took that tour so I wouldn’t be too shocked by what was to come later).  Apparently, back in the day, men and women would go to the baths to hang out with each other & socialize.  It was like a community center of sorts. 

After the tour, I had breakfast at The Pump Room which is a high-class restaurant where you can listen to a classical trio play music while you eat.  I had a traditional “Bath bun” (which is basically a sticky bun with sugar and currants on the top) and some coffee.  I also tried the curative Bath water (pumped up from the springs hundreds of miles below ground…not all that tasty) but hopefully it’ll kick in and cure me of this bug I’ve picked up. 

After breakfast, I pulled out my map and made my way over to the Fashion Museum.  I take the scenic walk past Queen’s Park and the Royal Crescent & Circus towards the Fashion Museum.  I have to say that the Fashion Museum has been my favorite place so far and a must see if you love fashion!  They had displays for all fashions (both men and women) from the 1500’s to present.  The museum offered audio guides to assist putting everything in context. 


After leaving the Fashion Museum, I went to Bath Abbey.  Bath Abbey is a 500-year-old Gothic church that has a huge stained glass window which depict 56 scenes from the life of Christ.  It also has a bell tower so I took that tour and climbed 212 steps to the top.  Once the tour was complete, I attended Mass. 


After I got my soul right (smile), I went back outside into the freezing weather to take the 2 hour walking tour of Bath that is lead by a member of the Mayor’s council.  I lasted 38 minutes because Old Man Winter was like, “Read Rick Steve’s and get the highlights.  You know it’s too cold for you to stay out here”.  I decided to walk quickly over to Pultney Bridge then the Bath Market before picking up a late snack (it’s almost 4pm at this point).  That is when I discovered Cornish Pasties!  They are the BEST things ever.  Basically, it is some sort of meat (whatever you choose…I picked spicy chicken) baked in dough — kind of like an apple turnover but with meat instead.  LOVE IT. 

After my snack, I decide to go to the Thermae Bath Spa to unwind.  Now, here is where things get interesting.  See, I thought this spa was like the spas in the US.  I mean, they have spa treatments and everything.  So, in my mind, this is supposed to be a relaxing place to unwind while soaking in the hot, curative waters.   The first sign that this wasn’t what I thought came when I noticed there was a line that extended outside the entrance door!  Like we are at the club.  Seriously.  I explain that away with the thought that many others must have the same idea as I do since it’s cold outside so they want to go inside and soak in some hot water.  They let people into the spa in groups (just like at the club).  Keep the “club” reference in mind, k?  Once inside, you go through the line and pay for your 2 hour session (they also offer 4 hours but really, that is just too much time in the spa to relax — or so I thought…this is the club so there might be bottle service).  Anyway, once I pay for my session and receive my robe, towel and slippers, I am directed to the changing room.  I see men and think, this is the wrong place.  Before I could turn to ask the attendant, I see a couple of women emerge and realize that this is co-ed.  I was like, “I have to change in the same room as men???  Oh hecks naw!”  I didn’t want to be an ugly American or seem like a prude so I just took my stuff into one of the changing stalls and closed the door. 

Once I was changed and covered up (one of the few), I head down to my relaxing soak.  I get down to the hot “bath” and it really was like a club on water!  First, people were wearing almost nothing (even the fat folks and let me tell you, I felt like Amy Winehouse because there was some big folks around).  Second, I guess that is where you take your boo to get freaky because people were all over each other.  It was like a scene from the HBO series “Rome”.  I mean, call me a prude, but dang…get a room!  All that was missing was a DJ playing Rick James’ “Superfreak”.  I mean, there were couples in their 60s making out!  I don’t need to see that y’all!  t’s loud and people are getting it on in the “healing waters”.  I decide to go to the “steam room” as maybe this is where the relaxing section is.  Wrong.  The steam room is a huge area with 4 different circular steam rooms that have varying degrees of steam and different aromatherapy scents.  There are foot baths along 2 walls (where you can sit and soak your feet) and showers along the other 2 walls.  I take off my robe and go into the steam room.  Well, this is co-ed as well and while not as bad as the Minerva bath downstairs, it wasn’t tame and it wasn’t quiet.  After about 30 minutes, I decide to head to the rooftop hot bath to see the sunset.  Now, it is seriously cold but I decide to sit in the hot bath OUTSIDE and not look at lust bunnies.  Then, some guy kept staring and getting closer to me but trying to play it off on the current of the water.  Uh huh.  This ain’t the ocean, buddy.  Keep it moving!  As I watch the sun set, I realize something…I’m having a great time at the spa/club!  While it’s not a quiet relaxation, it is actually pretty neat.  It’s more social in nature and is a more unique experience than anything I’ve encountered in the U.S.  I can’t wait to go back!

After I leave the spa, I head over to a coffee spot and have a slice of chocolate cake and a latte before heading to the train station.

Crazy at the train station — There was some crazy man at the train station.  Apparently, British crazy doesn’t look the same as American crazy.  He seemed normal.  But, while I was waiting in the lounge, he decided to “perform”.  I mean, he was seriously ‘flicted.  I don’t think that people knew what to do with him.  He started clucking like a chicken then got loud (he was sitting 2 seats away from me) and said that he wanted to “represent my hood” (as he looked at me).  Okay, I am from Atlanta and deal with crazy on MARTA regularly.  He has to do better than that to rattle me.  Then, he started messing with some woman next to him and playing with his face.  Strange.


What to Wear When Travelling Abroad

Coco1One of the most popular questions asked when getting ready for a trip overseas is “What should I wear?”  I always suggest researching what the locals are wearing (with a few exceptions notated below).  Not solely for aesthetic reasons, but also for safety.  Most pickpockets target tourists.  Looking like you belong goes a long way.  Here are a few suggestions to help you look like a local on your travels abroad.

1.       Dress for the Country/Culture.  Each country has its own style.  Some countries are more lax (the U.S., England, Ireland, Scotland) while others take their fashion seriously (France & Italy).  With the exceptions that I have noted below, you can usually get away with a nice pair of jeans/black pants/skirt and plain shirts/sweaters.  Don’t wear anything outrageous or loud (leave the catsuit at home).

  • Middle East/Egypt/Morocco (& other Islamic countries) = First and foremost, you want to respect the culture of the country you are visiting.  Which means no Daisy Dukes while visiting the Pyramids of Giza in Cairo (and, yes, I have seen it).  Make sure you dress conservatively (covering most of your skin).  Yeah, it may be hot, but you can find breathable and dry-wick fabrics pretty easily.  Trust me; you do not want to stand out in a conservative country.  Women from western countries are viewed as being “loose”, which can invite sexual harassment from the local male population.  By keeping your goodies covered up, you take the attention off of you (and your valuables).  In Morocco, most women (and quite a few men) wear djellabas (a hooded robe).  These can be either heavy or light weight in fabric (according to season).  I didn’t wear one when I was there, but it is definitely an option which will reduce the amount of stares you get.  I tend to buy breathable tunics from Old Navy (most are 3/4 length sleeves), long flowing skirts, loose capris and convertible cargo pants.
  • France/Italy = These 2 fabulous countries are homes to the most famous fashion houses around.  This means they take their fashion seriously.  While the Italians are a bit more accepting, the French will turn their nose up if you walk past them wearing any of the items listed below in #3.
  • You can never go wrong with basic black.  It’s easy to coordinate and you can interchange with stylish accessories (like a scarf or costume jewelry).
  • The French love black, navy and brown.  I suggest using those as your base colors.  You will notice that most of the French will pair up their dark wardrobe with a colorful scarf.  Don’t have one?  Buy one when you get there…it’s a souvenir & fashion accessory all in one.
  • The Italians love color and you can get away with a lot more.  Most of all, it is attitude.
  • Quick everyday tip = Get your clothes tailored.  I noticed that many people look better in clothes that are altered to fit their shape.  I picked this tip up while visiting Paris.  Everybody there looks like a million bucks (or euros) and it really is because their clothes fit impeccably.
  • Spain = The Spanish love color & flowing maxi dresses/skirts.  I also noticed some ladies wearing cowboy boots with shorts but we will pretend like I didn’t see that because I don’t think that’s a good look personally (I like to call that seasonal dyslexia).
  • England/Ireland/Scotland/Holland/Czech Republic/Switzerland/Scandinavia = Pretty much anything goes.  I can’t say that I have seen a huge difference in what they wear vs. the U.S. (with the exception of the “don’ts” listed below).  A popular look during the summer of 2011 was shorts with tights & Chuck Taylors (*shudders*).  Don’t emulate that.  Hopefully that was a 1 season only look.LBD

2.      Dress for the Season.  Be sure to check the weather before you go.  Weather Underground is a good resource.  I have typically found that you will need to dress in layers no matter when you travel abroad.  A light jacket, colorful scarves, stylish cardigans/sweater coats are a must for spring, summer & fall.  Going in the winter?  Bring along a warm coat, some snazzy boots & a cute hat/scarf/glove combo.   I had left my puffer coat at home during a winter trip to Milan…only to realize that everybody (and I do mean everybody) was wearing one.  First and foremost, you want to be warm.  Don’t take an unlined peacoat when visiting Finland in the dead of winter.  Your health trumps fashion.  Plus, you will stand out as not knowing how to dress properly for cold weather 🙂  ExOfficio is now offering a snazzy sweater jacket that doubles as a travel pillow when folded.  This jacket is so cozy & warm!  I recently wore it during a winter trip and fell in love with it.  The jacket packs very easily, is super soft AND rain-resistant as well as keeping you warm & toasty.  This is now my go-to jacket both here and abroad!


3.       DO NOT WEAR…

  • Baseball caps!  If you want to protect your head & face from the harsh sun, opt for a stylish wide-brimmed hat (during the summer) or cloche/fedora (during the winter). Baseball caps scream tourist. Don’t bring your favorite sporting team to France unless you are actually on the team, k?
  • Baseball/Football Jerseys, High School/College T-shirts, etc.  Do I really even to explain why wearing a baseball or football jersey is a no-no? Again, you don’t want to stand out as a tourist for pickpockets. T-shirts are fine if they are plain or have a cool graphic. Bottom line, you want to look nice…not like you are getting ready to workout. If you just don’t think you can survive without wearing sporting apparel, buy a soccer/rugby jersey. You can fit in and it will be a conversation starter.
  • Fanny-packs!  Seriously…just no.  It’s not cute.  Tell your mother to leave it at home with the rest of the 80’s attire.  I don’t even know how this item became popular.  Never carry your money and valuables in a waist contraption that is easily seen.  You are begging a pickpocket to take a knife, cut the strap and steal it from you.  Use a money belt instead.  It’s similar to your beloved fanny-pack; it just goes under your shirt/waist of your pants instead so it will not be seen.  This protects your valuables from curious onlookers.
  • Expensive jewelry/bags!  A pickpocket will tackle you to steal your Rolex or Louis Vuitton.  Leave your valuables at home.
  • White sneakers???  I have actually seen quite a few locals wearing sneakers (though not usually white) around London & Paris.  My preference is to bring a pair of running shoes (as I like to workout during my trips abroad…even running races like the Paris-Versailles 10K) as well as a comfortable & stylish walking shoe (i.e. Hush Puppies, Mephisto, Clarks) that can transition into an evening shoe. I highly recommend walking shoes that have a rubber sole to minimize the impact of walking on cobblestones.  I love the Hush Puppies Sonnet flat which you can buy at Macy’s for almost half of what it retails for at other locations as well as the Makena Ballerina shoe.  Bottom line is to wear a shoe that you will be comfortable walking in for hours at a time.


4.       Must Haves.

  • Light jacket/cardigan/wrap = If you plan to wear tanks or sleeveless tops during the summer, be sure to bring something to cover your shoulders when visiting a place of worship.  You will not be allowed to enter with shoulders (and sometimes legs) exposed.  I bought Magellan’s Sun Protection Wrap for my recent trip to Morocco and fell in love.  So soft and it provides the necessary protection (both arms and head) when you enter places of worship.  I even wear it around at home.
  • Secure purse/money belt = I have been using a PacSafe purse (stylish & secure) to carry around my valuables, guidebook, umbrella & bottled water for a couple of years now and it is awesome.  Highly recommend!  The shoulder straps are reinforced with steel so it cannot be cut and the zippers lock into place.  It will take a pickpocket a few minutes to figure out how to gain access to your valuables.
  • Comfortable walking shoes = As I stated above, cobblestones can be harsh on your feet.  A stylish rubber-soled shoe will save your tootsies!
  • Dark colored pants & skirt = Use these as your base pieces.  Dark colors camouflage stains & are great to pair with funky accessories.


5.     Handy resources.  Here are a few websites that focus on travel-related items:  While ExOfficio & Magellans offer stylish options, you can certainly find great travel clothing from cheaper stores (i.e. Old Navy, Target, etc.).

While these tips may not prevent you from being identified as a tourist, it will keep your bag lighter and you safer.  Hope it helps!  Safe travels.  Do you have any travel fashion tips?  If so, please comment as I’m always looking for a fresh perspective!

Also check out my posts on Nikki’s Favorite Things: Fashion Accessories and Essentials for Stress-Free Travel.