Anglotopia Day 16 – A dip into Bath
I found my second favorite city in England because of a rainy day, a Cornish pasty, and the suddenly emergence of sun on a well-known curve of Georgian style houses.
Bath. A simple name for a glorious town. Home of the Jane Austen museum and a must for any Jane Austen fan. Excellent for literally taking a dip in a thermal spa.
I fell in love with Bath because it was a typically chilly, rainy day in the city when we visited. I didn’t fall in love because of the chill and rain, but because I discovered a lamb-and-mint Cornish pasty in a tiny, oven-steamy shop, and the scenery was so beautiful from the window that it didn’t matter how cold and wet it was outside. When we left on the bus, curving around a hilltop, the sun suddenly broke through the heavy clouds, beaming its light on the Bath Crescent. The buildings turned gold against the thick blue of the hills and steel skies, and the slightest hint of a rainbow shivered over their roofs.
How could I not be moved by that? This was the view which poets write about and glorify with their words. I still very much remembered Bath like this, eleven years later.
When I arrived in Bath this time, the weather could not have been more glorious. The sun was out in full-force, skies absolutely brilliant, and warmth glowing on my skin. It was the kind of English summer day that makes one love England.
After wandering through town, a visit to the Jane Austen Museum was in order, taking a tour through the house where Jane had stayed, learning perhaps a bit more about her novels.
I love the doorman dressed in Regency clothes, greeting guests very formally, and I hadn’t realized he had spoken to me until the last second. My ungraceful American response was, “Oh, what?”
He repeated himself in a very nice manner, “Good morning, m’um.”
I said, rather surprised, “Oh! Thank you.”
I thought I saw him smile.
From the Austen museum, I popped into the Roman Baths, which, to its credit, was even more interesting than I remembered it from years ago. The audio tour, included with the ticket, was extremely valuable, and I loved the additional commentary from my favorite travel writer, Bill Bryson. #lifegoals to be featured on a museum’s audioguide.
It was difficult not to be awed by the technology of the Romans at the time. Bath was a far outpost for the military-heavy Roman Empire, but at least the advantage was having a thermal spa in which to chillax your ancient civilization cares away. The sculptures, temple pieces to Minerva, and the curses tossed into the waters were so well-preserved, and the audio-commentary explained the artifacts quite well. Though I had about an hour and a half to make it through the extensive exhibit, I did it, but I would highly recommend, at minimum, two hours to three hours to really listen to the commentary and take your time in walking through the museum and bathhouse.
I flew through the Roman Baths because I really wanted to take advantage of the free walking tours in Bath. The tours, given by the Mayor of Bath Honorary Guides, came highly recommended and were not to be missed. They begin in the Bath Abbey churchyard and take about two to two and half hours total, and the guides are extremely knowledgeable and quite charismatic. We walked from the Baths, to the new thermal spas, around some very fashionable streets and addresses, and on to the beautiful and grand Bath Crescent and the equally posh Bath Circus.
Along the way, I learned a great deal about Georgian England life, Beau Nash – the “King” of Bath, Jane Austen, and the Window Tax. Perhaps the most silly bit was the Window Tax, which taxed people on, of course, the number of windows facing out, so people wised up, bricked up some of their windows, and moved them over, as two windows in close proximity of each other counted as one window, not two. Very, very sneaky, Sirs.
Queen Victoria wasn’t much fond of Bath, as, according to legend, a resident once hated on the size of her ankles (or, perhaps, cankles?) when she was a mere princess, and Her Majesty brushed the dirt of Bath off her slippers and never returned. I suppose not everyone can love the city like I do.
I rounded out my visit with a jaunt through the magnificent Bath Cathedral, a walk along the River Avon to famous Pulteney Bridge, and tea and amazing caramel chocolate cake at a cafe on the bridge.
I certainly would not be sad to know Bath more and spend more time there, especially when the skies burst with blue, the flowers seemed to bloom everywhere, and the sun kept me warm as I looked upon the lovely River Avon.