Tag Archives: baths

Day out: Vindolanda

30 Sep

Another fantastical place ticked off our UK bucket list — Hadrian’s Wall and Vindolanda!  We took a break during our drive down from our Scottish trip for an overnight in Carlisle and several hours exploring the wall.  I don’t have very many photos — isn’t that crazy? — I was so busy reading my guidebook, running around shouting “look, latrines!”, and marveling at ancient shoes, that my camera stayed in my bag.  (Mostly.)

IMG_3232ed There are many places to stop along the wall and see evidence of the wall.  We decided to stop at Vindolanda so we could see a good sized outpost and for the amazing museum.  My oldest child, we has been taking Latin in school, was amazed to discover that the people he had thought were merely characters in his text book were in fact real, living people — and evidence of their life was found here, at Vindolanda.  IMG_3233ed Entry through a courtyard with a sparkling fountain.IMG_3247ed The site is still  being excavated — an excellent field trip might be signing up to volunteer with an excavation crew!  Here you can see the pre-Hadrianic military bath house.  (You know I love a good Roman bath house.  Almost as much as a good ancient latrine.)IMG_3257ed Both the military buildings and the civilian structures have left evocative remains.IMG_3258edBasically lost our mind when we got to walk in the footsteps of the guards, even inside their headquarters building.


From atop a recreated wall  sentry post, get a great view over Vindolanda.

IMG_3254edI often wonder how a soldier from Rome might have felt, sitting here in the frozen, nothernmost end of the empire (and seemingly the universe).  I tend to have a lot of sympathy for them.

20140419_154437ed The sit rambles on quite a bit.  And check out where you can sit and have a lovely sandwich or tea:


Life is no longer rough and tumble, here at the frontier.IMG_3267ed


I’d love to have the time to walk the wall.  We saw many families out walking, as we drove along the length of the wall toward Carlisle.  We contented ourselves with rummaging through Vindolanda and then joining the Legion at the Roman Army Museum.  Absolutely fabulous day out with kids.

Chedworth Roman Villa, part two

28 Apr

We’ve been here long enough that I really do have my favorite spots.  The Shakespeare Houses.  Blenheim Palace.  Bourton-on-the-Water.  Places I visit and re-visit, and after a point it seems silly to keep re-posting journeys made in the same place.  So do check out my first Chedworth visit for more of a description of the place … then hop back here for more views around the place on a sunny day.  On a sunny Mothering Day, in fact, or as we described it at Chedworth: Matronalia.  (Come on groovy Romans, let’s dance!)  My family knows exactly what I like by now!


The Helix Pomatia are still hanging around, two thousand years after the Romans brought them over — hibernating at this time of year.IMG_2806ed

The entry area of the formal baths have a looping rhythm.IMG_2809ed

An example of the curatorial work ongoing here at Chedworth.IMG_2811ed

Visitors get to have a go with their own tesserae.IMG_2816ed

Volunteers discus daily living — and FOOD!IMG_2817ed

The changing room.

On this visit, I was particularly struck by the small designs on this floor.  You could be forgiven for thinking these are hearts, but these shapes signify ivy.IMG_2827edAnd I do like the color and shape of this sweet bird.


Check out that hypocaust!  Sexy.IMG_2828ed

More baths, outside the larger, more formal bath house.IMG_2836ed

Religious artifacts in the museum on site — last time I showed you some of the Roman glass.IMG_2840ed

And one of my favorite things — yes really — the latrines.  May your spongia be ever fresh.


And after a rummage through latrines and hot tubs, what better than a full Sunday Roast, sat in a beer garden?  Best tradition ever, England!



And, as we made our way home, we found the cherry tree in our neighborhood fully, finally, in bloom.

Day out: National Roman Legion Museum, Caerleon

8 Nov

A rainy day in England sent us running for the Welsh border.  We crossed the dramatic Severn Bridge in sheets of rain, paid our toll, and suddenly rolled into sunshine.  Yay for Wales!  Our destination was the National Roman Legion Museum in Caerleon.  The Second Legion Augusta was stationed here after fighting for years in Germany, and this permanent fortress was known as “Isca Augusta” (Isca for the river Usk).  Entire families were posted here, and attempted to bring the lifestyle of Rome to this cold, northern outpost.

There’s free parking near the Barracks.  FYI – ANCIENT MONUMENT!  In case you weren’t sure.

It was terribly muddy.  I have no photos of the barracks, so check out this photo.

The museum looks small but impressive from the outside.

Once inside, I experienced one of those sinking sensations known to mothers world-wide — you know, when you promise something really cool to your kids, and then you drive an hour through a terrible rainstorm, get lost, have no cash to buy them doughnuts at the bakery next to the museum, you finally get inside the museum, and what you see in front of you is one room — this room, in fact — and the youngest starts to cry?  Yes, one of those sinking feelings.

However, I do bribery very well, and we had a good cruise through the displays and found some good books in the bookshop — an enjoyed a trip to the toilet.  No, really, the toilets were done up like a traditional Roman toilet, with a hole cut in a box (set over a proper toilet) and a basin for a sink.  Thank god paper was provided, instead of a spongia.

We strolled over to the tourist information office, which a clever friend has trained me to search out, and asked for suggestions for lunch places.  I thoroughly recommend The Lodge Coffee and Deli, right in the center of the village, for a great ploughman’s lunch with delicious local cheeses, excellent coffee and hot chocolate, and kid-pleasing ‘smarties muffins’ (basically cupcakes you can pretend are partly healthy because the name says ‘muffin’.)

Suitably renewed, we headed to the Baths.  Our day was looking up.

One of the guides at the Museum described the Fortress Baths building as “just a big barn, really.”  That doesn’t do it justice.

But where the National Museum was, frankly, not day-trip worthy, the Baths saved the trip.  Here see recreated a long outdoor swimming pool.  There isn’t any water — it’s all done with lights and sound effects — but it looks very realistic.  At the far end, the gift shop rests over the original location of a water shrine.  I don’t want to think about that too closely.

Various people are sent diving and swimming through the water.

Our guides through the baths are a Legion family — Maximus, Juno, Marcus, and Vesta.  And Davidus, the slave, who didn’t make it in to the photo.  Sorry, Davidus!

The Fortress Baths museum shows only the small section in green, above.  The rest of the bath complex is underneath the modern village.  Up to 500 Legionnaires could have bathed here at a time — women and children in the morning, soldiers in the afternoon.  Locals were not allowed — Romans only.  I found that I had an overwhelming sympathy for the cold Romans, desperately trying to re-create the warmth and sun of Rome here on the outskirts of empire.

The foundations of the Baths entry and a few of the plunge pools remain.  Speakers describe the daily life of the baths.

Informative panels on the wall describe life in the baths, in English and in Welsh.

Look, a roman drain!  I don’t know why I think this is so cool.  Probably because it is one of those daily-living details you never think about when the glory of Rome is splattered around in movies or dramatic books.  But life is in these details.  Drains.  We all need ’em.

Minds scrubbed clean at the baths, we walked over to the amphitheater.  It’s the largest excavated amphitheater in England, and estimated to have held 6,000 spectators.

Roman cows?  If ever I again visit a historic site not surrounded by cows or sheep or goats, I won’t know what to do with myself.

The amphitheater sits in a large green field.

In the arena, some local kids were playing soccer.  HOW FREAKING COOL IS THAT?

A small altar niche, possibly for Nemesis, goddess of fate and vengeance, thought to be lucky for performers.  If the performers are, like, scarf-jugglers, I think that’s a little weird.  If the performers are gladiators fighting to the death, that seems appropriate.

One of the eight entries to the arena.  Functionally, it is totally the same as any modern sports arena.  Pretty amazing.

A last view, from the top of the walls.

We spent a couple of hours in Caerleon.  On a warm summer’s day, I’d think the day could have been longer, especially with a more extensive walk through the Barracks.  On a coldish late autumn day, we left a bit early — on a sunny high note.  We had enough time to swing by a border castle along the way home (can you believe I live somewhere where I can swing by a castle on the way home???) — but I’ll let that be a post for another day.