A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about baths

A bus, a bath, a bethel and a bar.

"Welcome to Bath... The jewel of England!"

semi-overcast 20 °C

Almost overslept this morning!! Had gone out last night and an awful headache accompanied me home, however had thankfully departed when i awoke this morning. I got up just before 7am and was on the bus to Victoria at 7.25am... Not bad for someone notoriously bad in the mornings!! I made it to Victoria with 20 minutes before my coach departure so immediately bought a large (but not large enough) cup of tea and a croissant, ten minutes later I was happily ensconced in my seat, kindle in hand.
The trip itself was quite uneventful... Except for the couple noisily kissing at every opportunity who were sitting directly behind me. Every so often they'd come up for air and engage in conversation, before they were once again playing tonsil tennis. It was on one of these opportunities of taking a breath that the fellow stated that little gem in my subheading!! In his posh totty accent it was all I could do to immortalize it here. Nonetheless, they did provide me with a certain amount of entertainment on the trip and I still managed to get a bit of a nap in. The scenery was absolutely magnificent, all the shades of green you can imagine and the phrase "rolling hills" sprung to mind.

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Bath itself is so beautiful - very easy to get around and my BnB is only a 15 minute (if that) walk from the town center. I went straight there when I arrived as I wanted to drop off my bags before I set off and luckily my room was ready, I was led up two flights upstairs by a very friendly member of staff and shown my room, all the rules explained and told that breakfast was downstairs from 8am till 9am. My room is TINY, but at least it has a proper bathroom (unlike Paris!!) and I'm certainly not complaining, it suits me perfectly. I quickly charged my phone a bit more and made a rough day plan, then set off.

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I wandered up the River Avon until Pulteney Bridge then crossed over and found a Cafe au Laite where I sat at the window, people watching and eating home-made scones with jam and cream and a pot of Earl Grey. Was a rather tranquil experience, especially when I notice the antique map shop over the road...

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7pm and I've just ordered dinner - am in a pub just off the high street called "The Grapes",a very comfortable hole-in-the-wall and very much a locals pub. There's a quote on the wall that says "there has always been a building on this site since circa 1302. The present facade was added in around the 17th Century." The place has an amazing vibe to it, I just met a guy called Dermott who has traveled all over the place and the staff here are the most friendly I've ever encountered in a bar - it's like being back in Ballycastle!!
They also boast the "best fish and chips in town", so I decided I would be the judge of that... I can safely say they're very close... I would have them in my top 5 fish and chips. I wasn't sure where to start when it came out though...

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Am now contemplating the merits of an ice cream sundae. But back to what I got up to today!! I got distracted when I left the cafe by the aforementioned map shop so I wandered over for a look - all the maps were original and I didn't see very many for less than £500, some of them were so detailed!! After I'd had my fill I headed over to Bath Abbey, an imposing bit of architecture that reminded me of Notre Dame, though the Abbey's beginnings are much older.
I saw that there were tours to go up the top of the Abbey (all 212 steps) and as luck would have it, there was one departing within ten minutes!! I was the 11th and final person on the tour, and the only Australian. I was accompanied by several Americans, a few Brits and one charming Scotsman. We climbed increasingly narrow staircases with increasingly smaller stairs, going through tiny doorways (I am now convinced people back then were hobbits) until we reached the "Ringing Room".

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Here it was explained how the bells are and were rung, and how balance and precision play an extremely important part in being able to move a bell weighing just over a tonne. We then went behind the clock face (ultra cool - I was reminded of the scene in Basil, the Great Mouse Detective when they're inside Big Ben) and into an alcove inside the ceiling where you could look down a small scaffolding hole to the pews below. It was also explained there how the bath stone block were put into place first, and then carved into the fan ceiling you see today.

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We then climbed some more, were told to watch out heads (I watched, saw, and bumped my head anyway - Curse of the Sims) and we came into the room that houses all the bells. We got to ring a few (very loud) and were told an amusing story of how the tenor bell once fell off its bearings and no-one went into the abbey for 2 weeks because they were scared it would fall down around them... Then the city conned several of their strongest men to LIFT THE BELL WITH THEIR BARE HANDS AND RIPPLING MUSCLES BACK INTO PLACE. Afterwards, they swore to never volunteer for a "church project" ever again. After this little interlude, we were taken to the roof.
It was like the Sacre Coeur in Paris, in that once you got there, you could see all of Bath stretched out before you - I spotted the BnB. Rather windy, but the views were just breathtaking, it was amazing. Me and a few others pointed and gleefully giggled at those in the open-air spa below, wandering about in bikinis just across the way - we decided unanimously they could keep that to themselves for the moment!!

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After we went all the way back down (infinitely easier), we each got a piece of paper recognizing the effort expended in getting to the top and back again, and then each went our separate ways. I myself headed straight to the baths, as they're right next door and I think I spent about 3 hours ambling through with my audio guide, dutifully pushing in the assigned numbers for each section and listening to the history of the baths. It was really good actually, we had options of either the factual and historic accounts, or a Bill Bryson option, which was a more personal take on each section, so really we were getting both sides of the story, making it much more enjoyable to listen to.

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We were told not to drink or touch the water as it was untreated, but in the pump room there's a section of purified water you can drink... I tried some, it was awful!! Warm and a really strong flavor, like extremely mineraly. Like it, I did not. But all the drains the Romans built are still in use today, in perfect working order, you can feel the heat coming off the water and you can touch most of the ruins, none of it is behind glass or sealed off (except for bits where you're standing at the end of a pit) - it's truly amazing. Apparently modern Bath is about 4 meters above Roman Bath.

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I got out at around 5pm and headed back to the BnB, charged my phone yet again then headed out for dinner... And that was where this blog began!! Now I'm back in the BnB, about to make a final cup of tea then I'm heading to bed. Not a hugely exhausting day, but being up early and having a late one last night has taken its toll. Tomorrow I'm aiming to see the Jane Austen museum, the Royal Crescent and do a bus tour (which I'll probably start with and rejoin as it goes around).

A bientôt!!

Oh and for the record, I had the ice cream sundae.
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Posted by PrincessFiona 13:48 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged england roman abbey bath baths somerset drains Comments (0)

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