Travel

Across the Pond: Roman Baths and Bath

So I’m a bit of an Anglophile. I’ve been obsessed with British history/culture/fashion/food/geography/slang since I was a child. It started with the Tudors (as so many obsessions do) and PROGRESSED. So when we were thinking about what trip to take this year and since this year I turned 30, I told my husband we were going to England. We (mostly me) made the plans (hotels, sites, shopping, restaurants), bought new luggage, and tracked down our passports.

(who knew Canada looked so awesome from 35,000ish ft?)

9 hours later we landed in London! We took the train to Bath, our first port-o-call. We headed for the Apex Hotel and crashed hard. It had been 30 some odd hours of no sleep. We woke up a few hours later and headed to Sainbury’s for supplies. (btw, I really love going to grocery stores in foreign countries)

We woke up at 5:30ish the next morning; the jetlag was real. The upside was that we were at the Roman Baths before they opened!

The Baths were awesome. It was the first ancient sight I’d ever visited. To think that normal people like me used to go there to unwind and tend to their health was so cool. I can totally imagine being a Roman lady and coming here for the day to soak in the different pools, have a massage, and have my armpit hairs plucked (yeah, there were official armpit hair pluckers for the ladies, talk about living large!).

A lot of the architecture at the Baths is 18th and 19th century, which isn’t surprising since Bath exploded as a spa town during this time. It was the place gouty old men and infertile women went to “take the waters.” It was also just a popular “cool” place for people who could afford to travel.

The warm pools and steam rooms were heated by having the floors supported on these columns that were surrounded by burning (coals? wood?). Apparently the floors were so hot you HAD to wear sandals.

After the Baths were wandered around the high street for a while looking in the shops until our afternoon tea at the Pump Room. The pump room is next door to the baths and was an assembly room back in the day (Jane Austen times) were you could see and be seen. Now it functions as a restaurant.

They do a solid afternoon tea! Especially the desserts. And that devonshire clotted cream! We were  seated right next to the grand piano that was being played by a tuxedo-clad guy, nice touch. After we rolled out of there (contrary to what some may think, afternoon tea is NOT a light meal) we went to Bath Abbey.

(check out those flying buttresses!)

(Front facade showing angels climbing up Jacob’s ladder. Its all about the details!)

Bath Abbey was the first really old church I’d been in. It was so humbling to see all the memorial and burial plaques inside, made me really wonder what all those people had been like while they were alive. The architecture, as you can see, is stunning. The skill of the artisans and stone masons that built the abbey is remarkable.

Our last major stop in Bath was the Royal Crescent. This was were the creme de la creme of Bath lived. And probably still is if the prices of these houses are any indication!

We toured No. 1 which is a one of the houses turned into a museum and furnished how it would have been in the late 18th century.

The dining room. Complete with all the delicacies  (sugar, pineapple) only the wealthy could afford.

The drawing room. Check out that damask wallpaper! I wonder what they did when the wallpaper got dirty from all the candles burning and pipe smoke? The harpsichord (predecessor to the pianoforte) was especially lovely looking and sounding. One of the docents actually played us a tune on it!

The housekeeper’s room. Not as fancy, but better than the other servants’ quarters. The housekeeper during this time would have been an educated lady, and thus have a higher status that a normal servant.

All in all, Bath was the perfect start to our vacation. The city itself is large enough to have shopping and restaurants, but small enough to be walkable. There are some truly wonderful sites, especially if you are interested in history. And all the beautiful architecture! Those Georgians really knew what they were doing. Being in Bath, more than other places, feels like stepping back in time.

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