Monday, June 29, 2015

One excellent day in Bath

England Day 4:  We ordered breakfast for 830am so we could have an early start on our only day in Bath.  Sue was running a little behind so by time we ate and left it was closer to 930.  We headed directly to the Abbey but it was closed to prepare for a graduation.  The staff said it would be open after 5pm.   

We planned to take the Mayor’s Voluntary Guides Tour at 1030am so with a little time to kill, we went into the Pump Room.  The host greeted us and when I asked to “take the water” he took us back to the pump and served us three glasses.  He didn’t charge us.   There were maybe 6 people at tables. 

We drank the stinky water!

It's a beautiful room, especially with the orchestra playing

Ready for all to "take the water"

View of the King's Bath

While we stood there sipping on the stinky water, husband started chatting with a reporter who was there for a story and nephew was probably bored and confused when I got tears in my eyes when the orchestra started to play.   Jane Austen had been here along with so many others.  And now I was sipping on the same stinky water that brought them all to Bath.  Priceless. We walked around to get a better view of the King’s Bath then made our way to the meeting point for the Tour.   

There were some 80 people gathered for the Tour but the guides broke us into four manageable groups.  Our guide was an energetic retired educator.  She started us off imagining the swamp that was there before even the Romans.  She explained how there have been four houses of worship on the site over the ages.  After the grand introduction, we were off for 2.5 hours of walking all around Bath.  We saw what is left of the original wall which was very cool and something we might not have noticed on our own.  

She told us about the three men that made Bath what it is: Allen, Wood Elder (and Younger), and Nash, and weaved their stories throughout the tour.  She talked about the 4 Kings named  George after whom the “Georgian Period” is named.  We all felt a little sorry for Frederick who his parents disliked so much they allowed him to be a guinea pig for untested vaccines (harsh).  No-one seemed to mourn his death.  As she explained, had he ascended to the throne, the Georgian era would have been interrupted.   

These houses show the different ways of quarrying the Bath stone

The tour took us past the Assembly Rooms, to the Circus and the Royal Crescent.  We saw the hole in the brick fences where the human waste was collected by enterprising men to sell to farmers as fertilizer.  We walked the path where Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot reaffirmed their love in Persuasion.  She showed us how home owners would brick up or reduce the size of their windows to pay less in taxes.  We ended up by the Abbey and she departed rather quickly—no tips, no further chatting.  It was a fantastic tour! 

The Circus

Afterwards we grabbed filling sandwiches at Jacob’s Coffee House then toured the super crowded Roman Baths.  We had the audio guides and did our best to understand what we were seeing but it was hard with the crowds.  Maybe an evening tour would make it come to life.  We all threw coins into the black pool so I hope that means we’ll be back in Bath one day (like the Trevi Fountain in Rome). 

The Terrace of the Roman Baths, Abbey in background

Bacteria filled water at Roman Baths

It's good for you

Next stop was #1 Royal Crescent.  I really wanted to see the Assembly Rooms but we were running out of time so I chose #1.  We were a little confused by how to tour the place until husband noticed that we had entered #1 A (for annex) and that the entrance to #1 was next door.  We went up and down the elevators and stairs a couple of times before figuring this out…  We watched the video then went next door. 

Number 1 Royal Crescent was the home of a Georgian gentleman and it is decorated faithfully to the period.  Husband and I always enjoy “house” museums because they help bring the period to life.  This was no exception.  We could see and understand how the wealthy in the Georgian era lived.  We all enjoyed the tour and talking with the nice and knowledgeable staff in each room.  We were delighted to see “New Orleans” on the antique desk map.  The display of the turnspit dog was sad.  We spent an hour there and enjoyed it. 

New Orleans represented!

The Drawing Room

The view from the Drawing Room

The lady of the house's bedroom

Turnspit dog

Since we were at the Royal Crescent, I suggested we stop at the Royal Crescent Hotel for a drink.  This was a really nice break.  The hotel gardens are gorgeous, the public rooms beautiful and quite similar in décor to #1.  The drink prices were not even extortionate.   

French 75 at Royal Crescent Hotel

The Assembly Rooms were closed by now so we made our way to the Bell Inn Pub which was recommended by Sue, the proprietor of the B&B.  My nephew is very much into music, he plays guitar (and still a little piano like at Jane Austen’s House Museum) and had worn a Led Zeppelin t-shirt to breakfast.  Sue told us that Robert Plant was one of the 500+ owners of the Bell so of course we had to go. 

We had a postcard with directions for the Bell but it was a bit hard to find, even with the help of locals.  On the way there, I noticed the Star Inn pub and we stopped there.  We were the first customers of the night!  The Star is really a cool place.  Small, intimate wood paneled rooms, little tables and benches, very old feeling.  Husband got us our beers and chatted with the barkeep who told him about the damage the building suffered during the blitz.  He showed us a book about where the bombs fell in Bath and articles about that awful time in history.  When husband returned the book, it was a different barkeep who asked him what it was.  This barkeep has worked at the Star for years and had never seen the book or heard about the war damage.  Pretty funny. 

It was still pretty early when we got to the Bell but a lot of the locals were already out.  Everyone was very welcoming to husband, who was making friends at the bar, nephew with his Led Zeppelin t-shirt, and me.  We met Jay, Richard, and several others whose names I can’t recall.  All very interesting characters who drank and joked with us all night.  We decided to get dinner before the music started at the Bell at 9pm.  We went down Walcott to Thai Basil restaurant and it was pretty good and filling.  Afterwards back to the Bell where Jay informed us that the band scheduled had to cancel because they were stuck at Glastonbury so three musicians joined up to make music.  It was not great music but kudos to them for helping out at the last minute. 

Jay, nephew and me

Richard, husband and me

This was nephews favorite pub experience (and we went to a.lot of pubs!).  He enjoyed talking to Jay who is a drummer and shared his experiences playing music in London in the 60’s and 70’s.  The Bell Inn was a place we could see ourselves hanging out regularly if we lived in Bath, and we would all like to live in Bath! 

We walked back to the B&B and crashed around midnight.  It had been a fabulous day and evening in Bath! 

Next:  Windsor Castle, it’s hot and the train keeps stopping, London

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