Bath - Romans to Aristocrats
We begin our exploration of Bath with a walking tour and to get to it was a bit of a walking tour on its own. Inevitably we are told it is just a short walk and it always is longer.
“Just around the corner you’ll come to a park with lots of children’s playthings, yah? You’ll want to take the foot path though that park. It’s easy to get to all the attractions from there – isn’t it? (like we’d know) It’s about a 20 minute walk, I’d say.” says the B&B owner. We kept walking and walking thinking we’d missed the corner because we hadn’t come to a park after 10 minutes of walking. The park he was talking about was several blocks down the road. Through the park, past the “Crescent”, and winding our way through the streets we only had to ask once to get pointed in the right direction.
Forty minutes later we find the meeting place for the 2 hour walking tour. We are greeted by a volunteer tour guide who does this out of love for the city and its history. He guides us around the streets of Bath telling us of the uniqueness of its architecture, its importance, its high times and low. The old areas of Bath were designed around getting the aristocracy to visit and stay awhile. Squares and curved blocks of townhomes were designed as temporary housing for the rich and famous and made as places to see and be seen. Georgian and Palladian architecture with its symmetry and balance make up most of the city buildings. Our tour takes us back in time to glimpse Bath in its Roman heyday and jumps to present day to see a modern rooftop thermal heated pool/spa.
Next we take the Bell Tower tour in Bath Abbey to see the scenic views of Bath. It sounded like a great idea until I hit the 110th step but I did make it up the last twenty to the first level. Mind you that this was a straight up climb on a narrow stone circular stairway. However, I think I was huffing and puffing and struggling more than Judy (she is 76 years young). At this level we catch our breath, see how the bells are operated, go behind the giant clock face, and look at the top of the arches in the vaulted ceiling. There are holes in the ceiling so the bell ringers can watch for their cues to when to ring the bells during ceremonies. Another flight of stairs takes us to see the eight bells. There is a full octave so they can actually play many song/hymns. Final flight of steps brings us to the top of the tower and the view was great. Now to go down.
Across the square is the old Roman baths. They have created a comprehensive presentation of the open bathes that have been used since the 2nd or 3rd centuries. At one time it was a large thriving Roman city built around the baths and a temple to Solis-Minerva. Rediscovered in the 1700’s the baths were spruced up and became the rage for aristocrats and royalty. Doctors prescribed drinking and bathing in the waters for any illness they didn’t know how to cure. It worked sometimes.
Dinner was interesting; we go in a funny little pub where the owner, a woman, told us we could have anything we wanted on our “jacket potato” (baked potato) and she would make the cook serve it that way. She said he was getting too lazy and needed a challenge. Then she went into the kitchen area and grabbed a tablet to write down what we wanted. The cook came out and asked for his tablet back because it was his personal notes in it. So she starts looking through the notes…we’re eyeing each other…he protests they are his personal property and she shouldn’t take them…she responds that it shouldn’t matter and he shouldn’t be acting like this in front of customers…we aren’t really very sure whether we should stay and are exchanging quizzical glances…he protests and she excuses the both of them and chases him into the kitchen. No shouting but I’ll bet she gave him a tongue lashing so to speak. Then she comes back out with the tablet and takes our order. The cook did a good job and dinner was very good however when he brought it he looked very sheepish We gave him lots of compliments on our way out because we felt sorry for him.
The Crescent House Museum is on the end of the great Georgian semi-circular housing complex called the “Crescent” and was developed for the rich and famous to spend the season in Bath. Colorful and elegant these rooms show us what life would have been like for those fortunate enough to be able to have that lifestyle during those days. Did you know that they would lock up the tea to keep the servants from stealing it? Once used the leaves were often given to the servants who would dry and use them again. After that the servants would sell them to tea merchants who would add something to the leaves to get them darker again and sell the tea as a cheaper grade to the common people. Usually that substance wasn’t so good for you, like lead. Oh and “upper crust” came from the fact that the bread would be too crusty, hard, or even burnt on the bottom so it would be cut off before serving so the aristocrats would be served only the upper crust. Servants got the lower crust and the dog got the burnt bits.
Wow, your pictures are so beautiful... I am glad you are having a wonderful time and it's so fun to read about your adventures! My favorite is trying to get the car out of the car park!
Drink some tea for me...
Are you thinking of when you have your tea?
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