Swimmers do leisurely lengths while sunbathers relax on the waterside sipping Prosecco, nibbling tapas and basking in the sunshine; this might sound like a lazy afternoon on a Spanish summer holiday, but it is actually the scene that greeted us when we arrived at the Lido, the renovated Victorian swimming baths tucked away on an unassuming street in the exclusive suburb of Clifton.
We were lucky enough to visit on a gloriously sunny day – I can imagine taking a dip in the outdoor pool isn’t quite so idyllic in the depths of winter, even if it is heated – and took advantage of their Swim, Tapas & Wine package, which included full use of the spa facilities from noon until 3pm, followed by a sumptuous lunch of three tapas dishes and a glass of wine each.
Although there were quite a few ‘serious’ swimmers there (i.e. people there to actually swim rather than splash about aimlessly like us) there was enough space to accommodate those of us who just fancied floating about by the side and chatting as well – we had to book a few weeks in advance, so they obviously limit the numbers to ensure everyone has enough room to fully enjoy the facilities. And enjoy them, we certainly did.
I’d never been in a steam room or sauna before and never really got why people love them so much, but I definitely understand the appeal now. I’ve never felt more relaxed or refreshed, especially after braving the post-sauna ice bucket, which basically involves you voluntarily tipping a bucket of cold water on yourself. It sounds hideous, but it was actually quite addictive and felt rather invigorating after sweating it out in the steam room and sauna.
As if our day of spa-based loveliness wasn’t already enough, we then headed to the restaurant for some delicious tapas and wine. I cynically thought the dishes might be a little on the small side, seeing as they were part of a package, but I couldn’t have been more wrong – portions were ample and bread and olives were even included in the price.
From the wide selection, we plumped for rich and spicy chorizo and morcilla; classic patatas bravas; crisp cabbage and Parmesan salad; tasty Syrian lentils; and succulent wood-roast scallops served in the shell in herb and garlic butter. Even though we’d been at the Lido for about six hours by this point, we decided to stay just a little longer and indulge in coffee and cake too. I wish I could justify spending the money on a Lido membership, but, for now, I’ll settle for the occasional day of indulgence at this urban oasis.