Friday Lauren and I went to Bath for a day trip. I LOVED it, it’s such a beautiful, quaint little city with lots of people around.
The morning was a little rough, because we got to the train station and missed our 9:04 train to Clapham Junction. The guy working at the desk wasn’t the most helpful of people either (typical of the english though, apparently). After a lot of worried looks and questions, he finally told us we could take the 9:13 train and still make our connection (at 9:27) by seven minutes if we run to platform 9. (The 9:27 train at Clapham was the only train going to bath that morning, so if we missed it we were screwed) It kind of sucked that he didn’t tell us that in the first place, but whatever. We hopped on that train and leapt off the second it stopped, running amazing race style towards the platform. We probably didn’t need to run, as once we got there we had plenty of time to stand, and even pick out drinks from the vending machines. We both agreed that it would have been much cooler if we ran straight onto the train as the doors were closing.
The train ride was almost 2 hours long, and we both fell asleep for a little bit; riding trains here is so relaxing! We got there around 11:30 and went to Pret-A-Manger to get some lunch. We walked around for an hour-ish through the center of town, looking at everything. After that, we met up in the abbey churchyard to take a free 2 hour tour. The tour guide was pretty boring, and went off on tangents while telling his stories (“…and so the King got dressed in the morning and he put on a red – no was it blue? – i think red – or blue – well, he put on what i think was a red shirt” … I made that up, but it was that kind of thing) but we got to see some cool sights that I wouldn’t have known about if we wandered around alone.
Quick History. Bath was first treated as a religious shrine by the Celts, the main spring (of three total) was dedicated to their God Sulis (whom the Romans called Minerva). The Romans invaded and renamed the area Aquae Sulis. They constructed at temple around 60 AD and built walls around the springs. They also added a defensive wall surrounding the city. The Romans left and the buildings and city fell into disrepair. The Anglo-Saxons moved in around 675 AD, building a monastery & abbey. Then, around 1100, a Bishop moved in and planned to build a huge cathedral with a Bishop’s palace next to it. He also rebuilt the buildings around the three springs. In the 1500s the Cathedral was falling apart and Henry VIII decided to rebuild a smaller version. The baths were improved and attracted the aristocracy for it’s reputation as a spa. Our tour guide described three people most notable for bath during the Georgian Period: The architect, John Wood; Ralph Allen, the owner of the limestone quarry; and Beau Nash, who was pretty much in charge of all of the social events (cool job!). During this time, the Crescent, featured in Jane Austin books, was built, as was the Grand Pump Room, and Royal Theatre.
This was an abbey built in the late 1500s, on the site of a church built in the 8th century that was apparently massive – our tour guide said that you could fit this cathedral in the nave of the previous cathedral. The previous cathedral was destroyed by the Normans when they invaded.
The abbey is actually called the Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, who are outside the front doors. Funny story, some iconoclast whacked Saint Peter’s head off, and they carved him a new head out of his superlong beard. He’s the one on the left:
During our walk, the tour guide was talking about the local man who was in charge of the stone quarry nearby. Bath has it’s own kind of stone (like how Blacksburg has hokie stone) But he erected a castle on the hill as a way to advertise bath stone.. according to our tour guide, it’s only a meter-long façade. You can see it – realllllly small right smack dab in the middle of this picture:
This archway is part of the original wall surrounding the city. Notice it’s below ground level because that’s how old it is! – the Roman Baths are below ground level as well.
In the 1730s, this Hospital was founded for the poor and sick. It claimed that the mineral water from the Baths had healing powers. In actuality, the water contains a lot of minerals and it gives you the runs. Unless they had a more serious disease, many people were “healed” because their diet consisted only of water – which flushed everything out of your system- & crackers.
A panorama of the Royal Crescent, designed by John Wood. The residents bought a façade and built a house to their liking behind it. It’s also mentioned in Jane Austin’s Persuasion.
Apparently the Georgians were picky about having symmetry in their Palladian style architecture – so if a window on the outside didn’t work with the floorplan on the inside, they painted a window in a blank frame.
Speaking of windows, at one point there were a bunch of taxes happening to homeowners in bath. First, there was a tax on fireplaces, the more you had, the more you had to pay.. so people would connect all their fireplaces into one chimney, which is what the inspector would check. The city realized that wasn’t working, so they decided to tax windows. Homeowners retaliated against this by blocking them up (below) or like this creative house (second picture): move the windows closer together, as the definition stated that if the seam between the window panes was smaller than 18 inches, it would be counted as one window.
Finally, the Baths!
There are three natural springs – one hot, one medium, and one cold. How convenient. The main one is the hot one, it gets really hot! I think they said around 40˚C, which is over 100˚ Fahrenheit. The Medium and Hot baths are still filled with water, and the pool for the cold one still exists, and is undergoing some archaeological excavations. You can’t go in them obviously, but one reason is because the edges are lined with lead. There is a real spa next door, inside one of the old buildings, probably much nicer than this lead & algae infested water.
Lauren & I had some fun in the gift shop before we left:
After all that, we went to grab some food at a pub. I tried beer made locally in Bath, it was alright. We waited for an hour and our food still hadn’t come! When we asked about it, our server had apparently forgotten to hit the “complete” button on the computer and never sent it up to the kitchen! They apologized a bunch, and we got our burgers really quickly after that – and they were delicious, by the way. The manager even gave us free desserts.
Then, we still had time to kill, so we went to a little tea room that was still open. I tried the Bath House Blend, which was really good, and Lauren got Darjeeling. Then, all of a sudden we had to leave so I chugged down the rest of my tea and we walked toward the train to get home. It was a loooong ride home, especially bcecause we were so tired. But, I had a fantastic day and can’t wait to go back!