Three trains and two buses later, I arrived at my B&B in Bath. It's a lovely Georgian townhouse owned by a sweet elderly couple. The expected floral décor and a bit dated, but very nice and breakfast is included. That’s good since I’ve been flying through money since I left London. Before I left, I had bought a London Pass, which included admission to all the sights and free bus/train/tube. It was really great. Plus it’s easy to forget that 1 English pound = $1.52 US and not make the conversion. Now every time I go anywhere or do anything I have to pay and it’s starting to feel like real money. Luckily, England is the most expensive leg of the trip, so it’ll get cheaper from here.
I am intending on taking it a bit easier here, as I’ve just about worn myself out the past 3 weeks. And I’m here for 5 nights so I’ve actually unpacked! I just hope it all fits back in again when I leave.
At the local pub now drinking a new ale -Bath Gem. I am loving the beer here (but really, who am I kidding? Have I ever gone anywhere and not loved the beer?!)
The next day I took the bus into town as it was cold and rainy. The town center is nice and walkable so it may be possible to actually find my way around without getting lost. This is first UK town that seemed a bit dirty, but I’ve only had a glimpse. Got sidetracked for an extra hour in the Bath Abbey by a choir recital from a New Mexico group joined by an English choir- I love listening to music in these old churches- the acoustics are amazing. The abbey is not huge, but is quite beautiful.
Stopped for tea and a ginger butter bun (yum!) at Sally Lunn’s, a famous tea room here in Bath from the 1600’s. Loving the tea over here, it’s served in a teapot and you drink it with cream. It is really the thing on a rainy day.
Took an excellent free walking tour, the sun came out and my impression of the city is much nicer, though I do think it could do with a pressure cleaning. The buildings are made of a light colored stone that must be hard to keep clean. Anyway, Bath was really popular in the 1700-1800’s when people came here to bathe in the natural thermal spa waters. The ladies were transported to and from the spa ( and everywhere else) in sedan chairs supported on 12 foot poles carried by 2 men. If the guys weren’t paid the price they wanted, they’d take their customers a few blocks further down and drop them off and make them walk back -hence the expression "taken for a ride". Also, at the end of a dance, the sedan chairs were waiting outside the ballroom to transport everyone home. To hire a chair, you would call out “chair ho!” which later became “cheerio!”. I haven’t actually heard anyone say that, but they do say “cheers” instead of thank you or goodbye. Bath has a great Fashion Museum, wonderful clothes from all eras- Valentino, Chanel, Pucci.... J Lo's famous plunging green dress is there too.
Had an awesome dinner at Jaimie Oliver’s Italian restaurant here. Really delicious fish sampler- smoked salmon, fish dip, caviar, fish fingers and cockles, which are like teeny tiny little clams. Everything was so good I may have to eat there again.
Today was a day trip to Glastonbury and Wells. They’re not that far, but you have to take a local bus with lots of stops, so it takes about an hour. The weather looked really nice, but that didn’t last long- another cold rainy day was ahead. Glastonbury is full of shops specializing in all things magic, wiccan, new age/spiritual and faery. The Glastonbury abbey was destroyed by Henry VII. He confiscated the abbey’s wealth and had the abbot hanged, drawn and quartered at Glastonbury Tor in 1539. The ruins of the abbey were hauntingly beautiful and the surrounding park was lovely as well. It would have been a nice place to hang out for a couple more hours if it was a nicer day. So now I’ve visited Tintagel, where King Arthur was born, and Glastonbury, the place where he and Guinevere were supposedly buried.
Despite the weather I decided to walk up to the top of the Tor, which is a huge hill in the middle of the Somerset plain. The first residents of the Tor were supposedly Faeries and their King, Gwyn ap Nudd. Fairy hills were thought of as hollow, in the sense that there was another realm within them, making the hill seem bigger inside than out. This inner realm was called Annwn or Avalon. A persistent ancient belief says there’s an entrance to Avalon somewhere on the Tor, which was known as a strange, magical place. Another book I love is Mists of Avalon, so again, fun to visit the place in which it is set.
It was a really long hike to the base of the Tor and a steep climb up, but the views were well worth it. The remains of St Michael’s church built in the 1300’s are at the top. Just the restored tower is left.
Next I went to a small town called Wells which is famous for its Cathedral. The church really is beautiful and has an unusual architectural feature in the nave called scissor arches. I couldn’t take photos in the church, but here’s a link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Wells.cathedral.inverted.arch.arp.jpg. Surrounding the Bishop’s Palace was a moat with more camera shy swans. On the grounds of the palace were people dressed all in white playing croquet – at first I thought they were statues!
The next day I went to visit the Roman baths, which were very cool. The Romans had a temple to the goddess Minerva there and they made offerings to her by throwing stuff in the waters, so there a lot of great artifacts. My favorites were these pewter squares engraved with curses. For instance one was a compliant about the theft of a female slave named Vilbia and names some possible culprits. Apparently the gods were charged with the implementation of the curse.
Last day in Bath I really did like this town. It’s big enough to have lots to do, small enough that I didn’t get lost once and close enough to do day trips to other towns.
This day I took the bus to Lacock, or rather, I took the bus past Lacock. Buses usually stop on the outskirts of a town and then again in what is the obvious town center. Well not this one. The town is so small there’s only one stop and I missed it. Got out a few miles down the road and got the next bus back to the town. This place was used in some Harry Potter films and is known for half timbered houses and is very picturesque.
It was turning out to be decent day for a change. I had downloaded a pdf map of a 2 mile walk in the nearby countryside and set off. Everything was going well until I got to this set of directions:
“Walk over the bridge, keeping the weir to your right. Walk up the hill, past the allotments on your left”. There are several problems here: 1. What’s a weir? 2. What’s an allotment? 3. I can’t tell my right from my left so #1 & #2 don’t really matter anyway. I saw footpath and I took it. It was a nice walk, saw some sweet sheep, got to a road and walked along it thinking “I haven’t really gone that far, if I get lost I can just turn around and retrace my steps. Plus, I think I’m probably going in right direction, the sun was out, it was really nice, so I kept going. 15 minutes later I consult the map again: “walk down the path, past Wicket Gate Cottage. Continue along the path then turn right and then right again over Stone Bridge, then thru a gate. Take the footpath diagonally thru the field”. I happened to be standing in front of a cute thatched roof cottage. There was no name- was this Wicker Cottage? Here’s a bridge nearby made of stone, could this be Stone Bridge? Let’s say yes. I go thru the gate and head into the field.
Twenty minutes later, I’m thinking I could quite possibly be lost and start thinking of James Franco in 128 Hours. For no reason really, it’s like 9 hours until dark and my arm is certainly not trapped by a boulder. I figure I’m sure to see a farmhouse or someone sooner or later. Sure enough after 10 or so minutes 3 big friendly wet dogs run up to me, their owners not far behind. “Hello! I may or may not be lost. Am I headed to Lacock?” They tell me I can either turn around and go back the way I came (easier) or keep going thru pasture veering to the right (harder). Well, I didn’t come all this way to wimp out, so I keep going thru the field. About twenty minutes and another field later, I come across 2 more dogs and their owners. “Hello! I may or may not be lost…”. They send me to the path to the right and straight into a herd of cows. I’m thinking these are very large animals, but they are just laying around, so I’m sure it’s fine. As I start walking among them, they all start standing up and I got just a little concerned but it seem they were just interested, not mean. By this time I can see the town ahead, so I hit the pub for a lovely beer trio sampler of Henry IPA, Horizon and Bishop’s Tipple. Great way to end the day and my adventures in England. I really enjoyed my time here and hope I can make it back some day. Cheers!
Next stop Paris! What a life!!!