In praise of hot water

I’m catching up on baths.

Yes, my wonderful hosts at San Francisco (who were very sweet about their front room being turned into a slum) did have a bathtub, but I was too tired every night to do anything but wade through my belongings strewn all over the floor and drop into bed. I was also inspired by Elena’s post yesterday about her visit to Monticello to remember a well-kept secret in Bath County, Virginia–Thomas Jefferson’s warm springs. Elena, you must go there!

In the accurately, if unimaginatively named town (I think it’s a town) of Warm Springs, VA, a couple of hours southwest of the Washington, DC metro area, you can bathe in true Regency (or federal) era style in natural 98-degree mineral water. Jefferson built the original men’s bathhouse in 1818–since it’s of wood, who knows how many times timbers have been replaced–and a women’s bathhouse was added, chastely next door, in 1836.

Now the baths are owned by a huge, luxurious resort up the road in Hot Springs, the Homestead, which has a rather different sort of bath (and all sorts of decadent goodies) and offers full spa services.

But if you want the historical experience, go to Jefferson’s pools. The buildings are round wooden structures, open to the sky, and although they were probably used year-round in his time, now they’re only open in the summer. It’s very relaxing to float in the water–you can also ask the bath attendant to open the sluice while you sit in a sort of wooden channel and receive a water massage (there’s a continual flow of water in and out). According to this article, you can also have a natural ginseng massage.

Bathing suits are optional–my husband reported that all the guys were stark naked (of course). In the women’s house, lithe young things in bathing suits looked on in horror as women of a certain age flaunted their scars, stretchmarks, flab etc.

Here’s more information on Bath County, Virginia.

Do you have any hot water, natural, au naturel, or other, experiences you’d like to share? Your favorite, hidden-away spot somewhere?

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Keira Soleore
14 years ago

Yeah. That’s what I need to do. Flaunt my flab, scar, and stretchmarks. Sure to raise my flagging ego to new heights. NOT! Bathing suit would be essential, a muumuu exceptional.

Do the minerals of the hot springs really aid health?

Amanda McCabe
14 years ago

LOL! No au naturel for me, either, but the springs do look wonderful, Janet (especially since I am in the midst of watching “John Adams” on DVD, and am in a colonial mood)

My favorite hot springs are a place called Ojo Caliente, about an hour from Taos in New Mexico. I’m not sure if they really aid health, but I do feel a lot more stress-free when I’m there. 🙂

Denise Patrick
14 years ago

In, you guessed it, Hot Springs, South Dakota, their ‘hot spring’ is a swimming pool called Evans Plunge. I don’t know how therapeutic it is, but I found it very unusual when I was there last summer. Swimming suits, however, are mandatory as this place is open to the public.

Linda Banche
14 years ago

If you want a humorous read about bathing through the ages in the Western world, including bath houses from Roman times to the present, try “The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History” by Katherine Ashenburg.

There’s a chapter on the Regency, too, mainly a lot about Beau Brummel, but no Regency hot springs.

Kalen Hughes
14 years ago

I love going to Mono Hot Springs here in CA. There’s even picture of me there on the internet . . . and though I’m starkers, you can only see me from the shoulders up (I’m the blur in the middle with my arm up, LOL!).

Kalen Hughes
14 years ago

blogger won’t take my link. *grumble*

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

Second try….

I’ve never been to Warm Springs, even though I’ve lived in Virginia for a brazillion years. Worse, I’ve never visited Monticello either. It is one of the places I’d like to go.

I came close once. My husband and I stayed in a Bed and Breakfast near Monticello on our way South….It was the day I accepted Mills & Boon’s offer to buy my first book. I had to phone the UK from a pay phone at a convenience store while trucks whizzed by.

Michelle Styles
14 years ago

HOt springs in Regency times — Bath has thermal waters. It is why people went there in the first place — to take the waters.
Taking the waters was big business in Regency times. I know in North East — there was Gilsland Spa and also Shotley Bridge. Harrogate was famous as well.
Further south, you have Leamington Spa in Warwickshire. Bathing was supposed to be good for you…hence the reason for the proliferation of bathing machines etc.

If you go to Iceland, all the hot water is natural. It has that wonderful sulphuric smell… The Blue Lagoon is noted for its benefits to skin disease sufferers…

Janet Mullany
14 years ago

I loved the John Adams series, Amanda. Who else has seen it? I hope it may be a Regency movie club topic at some point (Cara, hint hint).

I’m not sure whether hot water has any healthful benefits–it would probably help if you have arthritis. One of the baths at Bath may still be used for water therapy treatments; there was a bacteria scare a decade or so ago but it may have reopened since.

Amanda McCabe
14 years ago

“I loved the John Adams series, Amanda. Who else has seen it? I hope it may be a Regency movie club topic at some point (Cara, hint hint)”

I hope so, too!! I would love to discuss it with other people. 🙂

All this talk of hot springs makes me sure I need a vacation immediately…

Elena Greene
14 years ago

Very cool, Janet! I doubt we’ll have time this trip but maybe some other time.

Cara King
14 years ago

I loved the John Adams series, Amanda. Who else has seen it? I hope it may be a Regency movie club topic at some point

I just got back from Worldcon, so I’ve only just seen this comment! (Sorry for being so slow.)

I’m not sure how well it would work…the last time I tried something a little outside the box (Cranford) we had very few comments on it….

But who knows…it’s certainly top of my netflix queue!