Chez WW in England

Chez WW in England

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Bath, England

20 February 2011

If you are at all familiar with any of the works of Jane Austen, you will have heard of Bath. Bath serves as a backdrop for her novels and played an important part of her life. Of course, Bath also has those Roman Baths. I had longed to visit Bath for more years than I care to count. When we moved here it was high on my list to visit. There are many tourist towns in England that have just one road in which makes entry a nightmare (Stratford-Upon-Avon and Bath). We had heard that parking can been difficult in Bath. This may be in part due to the fact that the town is on a hill and most cars are standard. Mini Me Millie is an automatic so we don’t have to worry about the hills, just the crazy amount of traffic. Living just a five minute walk from the train station made taking the train an easy decision.

In just an hour and a half we would be in Bath. Aside from the high speed train that took us from Heathrow to Paddington Station in London, I had never been on a train before. It seemed the perfect way to travel to a place that held so much romance for me. I am not sure what I expected from the train. I knew that it would not be the Orient Express. Murder on the Orient Express has been playing on the telly a lot here. I did picture something with a little romance and elegance of a time gone by. Shall we say that this train was not quite the Orient Express.
After our hour and a half of zipping through the English countryside we arrived at Bath.

Buying a tourist map is the first thing we do whenever we visit a new place. We had our must-see sights (thanks to our much used Rick Steve’s Great Britain). When I looked at the map, I thought that it would take some time to get from place to place. I was wrong. Bath is a city made for walking.
Our first stop was a tour of the beautiful Bath Abbey. Bath Abbey is a 500 year old Late Perpendicular Gothic church with a stunning fan vaulted ceiling. King Edgar I was crowned at the Abbey in 973. We decided to climb the 212 steps t the tower. It was an in-depth tour which included the bells of the Abbey. Andrew got to ring one of the bells. It was a fascinating tour and ended with incredible views of Bath.

After climbing to the top of Bath Abbey and back down again, we had worked up an appetite. The cost of meals can be a concern, especially in a major tourist town. I am not sure if it is luck or not but we have been able to eat in tourist locations on the cheap. To be honest, we are not fussy. Gourmet dining, it is not. As we were walking around looking for a place to lunch, we were handed a 2 for 1 coupon for Burger King. We splurged and each had a huge Angus burger and shared a bucket of pop and a large fry. Not gourmet but it did the trick and was under £10. To be honest, I would eat porridge for a week, if it meant that I got to spend a day in Bath. I have never been one for fancy meals and I am so lucky that Andrew feels the same way. Vacations are just like life: there is a limited amount of money and you must decide what has the priority. Our time here in England is like a very long vacation. We decided that where we slept and the food we ate were not as important as the experiences we have and the sights we see. Sitting in a pub, having a great meal and getting to know the locals is a part of our travelling style. Others travel BIG: 4 star hotels, gourmet restaurants and luxury all the way. I am not saying that that is wrong. It is just not us. Before we came over here, I was talking to the wife of Andrew’s boss. She was from Scotland and had met her husband in Germany, where they lived before coming to Canada. During university, she had her penny pincher Paris and would spend long weekends staying in convents and hostels. After she met her husband, they camped and stayed in B&Bs. As the money increased, they began staying in nicer and nicer hotels. But, she informed me that her fondest memories where of the convents, hostels and penny pincher Paris. So, if you are reading this, hoping to hear all about the fancy hotels and gourmet meals, you may be disappointed.
With full bellies, we were off to explore Bath. The Parade Gardens were closed for the winter. I am looking forward to visiting Bath later in the year when the gardens are open and are in full bloom. Pulteney Bridge is at the end of this beautiful garden. The bridge has shops on both sides and has been compared with Florence.

If you have ever seen a Jane Austen movie or read a Jane Austen book, you will be familiar with the Royal Crescent. Bath is surrounded by hills. As I was walking up the hill towards the Royal Crescent. Walking on the same sidewalks, past the same buildings that Jane Austen walked by, gave me chills. I was completely star struck for this author who lived and dies so very long ago. Did she have picnics with her family at the Parade Gardens? Did she walk past a certain house and have her heart skip a beat? Did she look at the Houses of the Circus and Royal Crescent with longing? Jane Austen never married but wrote about love and marriage with incredible insight. Wandering around Bath, complete with it’s air of romance, it is easy to see how this beautiful place inspired Miss Austen.

Love is in the air everywhere in Bath. 

Bath is meant for walkers and every new turn reveals another thing of beauty. The Circus is a circle of crescent shaped homes, much like the Royal Crescent. There was a well at it’s very centre. If you stand on the well and clap your hands, it will echo around the Circus four times. I felt a little silly doing it, but others had done the same thing a few minutes before us. Standing on that spot, under a canopy of beautiful trees, it was easy to imagine what it was like to be a servant girl who had the bring water into the well each day. This well would have been like the modern water cooler. Gossip would have abounded, secrets would have been shared and crushes would have been discussed.
In modern cities, allies are usually avoided. Here, the allies lead to other streets and wonderful experiences.

We stumbled upon a glass blowing studio, Bath Aqua Glass. Andrew had never seem glass being blown and we decided to pop in. Much to our delight, we discovered that they offered glass-blowing classes once a week. These classes are booked months and months in advance. We will have to wait before we can attend a glass blowing class but it will happen. How many times in our lives will we get to blow glass? in England? in Bath?

Our last stop in Bath was the Roman Baths. It is best to go early in the day or towards the end of the day. Other times, the line-ups are huge and the place is filled with other people. We noticed that a season pass was just £10 more than a daily ticket. It seemed like a great deal. Living in England means that you will have lots of company coming to visit and there are certain sites that are a must see. The Roman Baths in Bath is one of those. We thought the season pass would last until the end of the summer. We were already sold on it and then we found out that it was a pass for THREE YEARS!!! Yelp, that is right. Just for £10 more. I have a feeling I will be going back a few times. The Baths are open later in July and August and glow under gas lights.

I have stared at images of the Roman Baths for as long as I can remember. The mystery, romance and history of the place spoke to me on a level I could not explain. I was as excited as a teenage girl going to a Justin Bieber concert. Even on a cold day in February, I was not disappointed.

You are not supposed to touch the water. The water enters the Baths through lead pipes and also contains some nasty buggies. I did put my fingers in the water. Others were doing it with bottles of hand sanitizer at the ready. I wanted to spend some time with the water so I did not clean them right away. I did make sure to wash my hands before we had supper though.

Tea time found us looking for a pub. Again, pubs will not serve you gourmet meals. During our travels, we tend to eat where the locals eat. This helps us avoid the over-priced tourist traps. Many pubs in England offer a 2 for 1 meal special. We each had a great meal and Andrew even had a pint for under £10. We got to hang out in a pub where the locals where gathering watching football. Can you get any more British than this?
We had just enough time for a quick walk around Bath at night before catching our train back.

I was ready to embrace living in a fashion forward area. As we waited for the train, we were exposed to a new fashion trend I fondly call “bum out”. Young guys were their jeans down way too low and show off very pretty old lady panties. I am not kidding; flowers and pretty colours. Shall we say that I will not be embracing this new fashion and neither will Andrew. It is amusing to see though. Enjoy this quick snap of “bum out”.

Bath was incredible and if you ever have the chance go and enjoy the romance.

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