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A breather, a brunch, a break and a banquet.

“They arrived in Bath. Catherine was all eager delight; her eyes were here, there, everywhere, as they approached its fine and striking environs..."

semi-overcast 17 °C

What an interesting morning!! My alarm went off at 7.45am and I headed down to breakfast about 8.30. I was presented with a menu and had the full English breakfast, though tailored it so it was vegetarian (veggo sausages, mushrooms, beans, toast and tomato) and of course a pot of tea before heading back upstairs to get ready for my second day in the lovely city of Bath.
After cruising about a bit on the net trying to decide what to do today, I was all full of plans to see the Jane Austen museum and maybe take a boat tour, however neither were to be. Both boat tours operating in Bath do not cater for the individual (very annoying and I think rather discriminatory) and on my way to the museum I got distracted by a bench in the sun, when I next stood up an hour had passed and I was hungry!! I'd previously organized a 2-hour walk for 2pm, which took in all the places I wanted to see along with fun historical facts so I had time for a bite to eat before heading to the tourist center.
I found an amazing little pub on Queen Street called "The Raven", which is half bookstore, half pub and I wouldn't have been surprised if I didn't make the walk either... The place was amazing!! Comfortable chairs, friendly staff, a nice selection of local ales and small enough to make it cosy, but not uncomfortable. Apparently they're famous for their pies, as I saw when I was handed a menu. I had the "Pietanic", consisting of haddock, salmon and pollock along with mashed potatoes and mushy green peas - it was simply amazing. And huge.

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They also make their own ales - Raven and Raven Gold.

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On the way to the pub I'd gotten terrifically lost in the shopping precinct, a massive outdoor area that believe it or not, I stumbled into by accident, so I was glad the food was a good portion and a comfortable place to sit for a while. But anyway - onto my walk!!

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Have just sat down to dinner again, this time at Cafe du Globe, just off the North Parade. It serves traditional Moroccan cuisine, so I thought I'd have something different!! To start, I'm having chickpea hummus with olive oil and pita bread, followed by a slice of Scottish salmon cooked i traditional herbs and spices with a side salad and diced potatoes, along with a small glass of Moroccan sauvignon... Which deserves its own special mention.
The nose is quite fruity and sweet, though not overpowering and the taste is magnificent!! Smooth and rolling, very light and refreshing, hints of citrus and a long aftertaste... Not at all dry. It's called Guerouane Blanc Sauvignon, if any one of you ever sees this wine, I suggest you treat yourself.

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But the walk. The walk was actually quite fantastic, it took me all over Bath as I'd hoped!! Our group was quite small, consisting of myself, two French girls, a German couple and an English couple, and one American girl. Our guide, Sue was very friendly and knowledgeable, telling us interesting tales about the history of Bath and its inhabitants (past and present - Nicholas Cage was a long time resident), along with so many years and dates I don't know how she remembered them all!!
It was raining on and off throughout the day, but thankfully it held off for the majority of the walk - I think the best part was at the Royal Crescent (where John Cleese lives!!). They have the "crescent lawn" that, from the windows of the residences looks infinite, thanks to a strategically placed ditch, and the "commoners lawn", where everyone else is allowed to go. And ne'er the twain shall meet!!

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After that we headed to the second most famous crescent, the Circus. This was where Nicholas Cage once had a house, but his current monetary issues forced him to sell that and his other two houses in Bath... We also got to see some of the remaining Georgian streets, where modern traffic isn't allowed (the streets were so much wider then!!) and we had a look in the very posh Pump House restaurant and tea room, where we were offered the special Bath water (ha ha), but I politely declined.We also went into the NAB bank and saw an authentic Wedgewood ceiling, the oldest house in Bath (also known as the dwelling of Sally Lumis - maker of the buns. Apparently her buns are famous - Charles Dickens had himself a few!! *wink*) and also the narrowest house in Bath!!

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A fun fact - there were holes in the roofs of the houses called "owl holes", where the owners encouraged owls to roost so they would eat the rats and mice that lived on the streets below. They now have super-cute little ceramic owls living in there!!

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It was tremendously fun, Sue then dropped us off at Pulteney Bridge where I had a cup of ear grey at the Riverside Cafe, then headed back to my BnB for a little while before coming out for dinner. I'm now waiting on my afters - traditional Moroccan mint tea and a selection of baklava. I'm definitely sticking with this theme, I chose this over a mouth watering, tempting, divine-sounding chocolate cake!! But it's my last night in Bath, so why not get a little out of your comfort zone... And if the entree and main were anything to go by, this will be impressive.

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It was impressive. The manager poured it from a great height into this tiny little glass cup, without spilling ANY or burning himself, then handed it to me with a bow. The little baklava were fantastic, and his name was Mustafa. Am now back in the hotel watching the end of In Her Majesty's Secret Service, then Iron Man is on!! Hooray for Bath, but back home to London tomorrow!!

Posted by PrincessFiona 14:15 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged england pub raven roman bath somerset royal_crescent moroccan_cuisine Comments (0)

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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