Been a long time since my last post, but as many of you know – in order to write, you have to be inspired. It has been a long August and not everyday was inspirational. I do hope you will enjoy it though.
There is a quote about two types of people: you are either a morning person or someone that wants to harm morning persons. I am a mixture of those, like most things in life. Some days, mornings are great and then other days I want to stay in bed till 4PM and please don’t even think of dragging me out. In any case, I recently realized that I have favourite mornings of the week, each week! It’s Tuesday and Wednesday. Why? Because I get to pick up my favourite (free!) magazines: Timeout London, and Stylist. One gives me ideas of what adventures might be waiting for me, and the latter feasts my eyes with fashion tips, books to read, and some fun facts, and its all about the women and empowering them.
Always an avid traveller (at the moment more in my thoughts that in reality), I am on a lookout for places to visit. I have to keep in mind that I have a full time job, mortgage, bills, etc. Thus, the biggest enemy in my vocabulary is BUDGET. I will confess though, sometimes (or more often than not) I try to delete that word from my dictionary, and throw caution into the wind. Experiences are priceless (or some some memes say?!).
Anyways, one of these days, Timeout kindly presented me with an idea. Great Western Trains had a sale, £10 tickets to Bath. Next thing I know I am texting my best friend Annette and inviting her and her husband to join me for an adventure. Annette and Filip have been my friends for about 11 years now. They form part of my UK family, they have been there for me through my lows, and through my highs, always providing support and entertainment. The stories we have collected are worth their own travel book. We are the three traveling musketeers.
So, the tickets were purchased in a matter of 5 minutes (spontaneity is THE WORD!), and 29th July was the date chosen for this adventure. We had few weeks of random texts: IM SOOO EXCITED!, 29th WHOOP WHOOP!
I tell you this, there was not much Whoop Whoop-ing on the day, as we had to wake up at 5am to catch the train from Paddington. And to be fair, none of us were feeling too ‘hot’; someone was nursing a hangover, and someone was recovering from tonsillitis! Trip to Padding train station was fun though. We were half asleep, deprived of coffee and rest and thus I took them to the wrong underground train! Luckily, we left with plenty of time and arrived to the right station just in time. But we missed our window of getting coffee and Annette threatened Filip and I that we might not make it to Bath in one piece if there is no coffee cart on the train. I’m here, writing this story, so of course – coffee was provided. Just as an FYI for future, do not get on the wrong side of a Polish lady.
Now, as much as 5am wakeup call was excruciatingly painful, 8:30am Bath on a Saturday was the perfect way to see the town before all the tourists invaded. There was only a handful of people on the street, walking through the beautiful Southgate Shopping Centre. You have everything there, minus the London crowds. If you read about it on Bath’s website, it is even called The Shopping Mecca of South West. Thank goodness, the shops were closed that early in the morning, otherwise I would have spent the day shopping. Instead, we enjoyed the walkthrough, the tidy streets, and millions of umbrellas hanging above our heads. These umbrellas are being shown 2nd year in a row, and is inspired by a music festival that takes place in Portugal, a town called Águeda.
Just a stone throw away is the Abbey and the Roman Baths. Both still closed, but I diligently queued up behind some tourists while my friends chose to enjoy the sunshine in the square (I cannot blame them; not everyone is a fan of old history, and not everyone in UK gets that chance to feel the sun on their faces). The Baths (that houses the remains of the Temple of Aquae Sulis, the Roman Baths, the Sacred Spring, and a well-presented museum of artefacts found at the site) opened up 9am, on the first chime of the Abbey bells. Adult ticket – £17. Is it worth it? If you have never seen roman baths before or know little about the roman history in Britain – yes. I actually really enjoyed the ticket hall. The ceiling was so beautifully crafted I wanted to spend at least half an hour inspecting that. But I was on a clock, and hat to move on. Being a bit of Roman history fan I do enjoy visiting sites like that, even if it has been made more commercial that it should have been. It is a special place to visit, and please try to come early, before it is too crowded. I enjoyed it, even though I rushed it. There was a wedding party in the baths taking pictures. Very emotional scene to watch, and even more so, it was wonderful to observe the happiness of the newlywed couple. Another exciting part of it was to stumble upon two leather workers of the Roman times, who were more than happy to offer me internship.
The baths are split into three levels, mainly because the originals baths are below the current street level, and due to many renovations and modifications in the 19th Century. The top terrace dating back to late 19th century, works almost as an overview of the location and has statues of 9 emperors adorning the square. My favourite will always be Nero (sadly he is not one of the figures there as he apparently never took interest in Britannia). Definitely a tyrant and a horrible person to be around, but when it comes to historical figure, definitely the most fun to learn about. The ones that were related to Britain, or were governors of the province of Britannia, are: Julius Ceasar, Claudius (Emperor), Vespasian (Emperor), Ostorius Scapula (Governor), Suetonius Paulinus (Governor who efeated the rebellion of Boudica), Julius Agricola (Governor), Hadrian (Emperor), and Constantine the Great (Emperor). The last statue is of Head of Roma which symbolises the Spirit or Rome.
The baths themselves are very old, 76AD. And the hot spring (Sacred Spring) still runs through the location. Unfortunately, it is not safe to take a dip here as the water runs through lead pipes constructed by Romans. Can you imagine being in that place where people stood, socialised, washed, exchanged jokes and private information etc. almost 2000 years ago?… sometimes when I think about it, my head starts spinning. If you have a strong imagination, you don’t need a fictional (so far!) time machine to see what it was like back then.
Next stop was the Abbey, and my friends were not too happy, they thought it might be a bit boring. However, they were the ones roaming the Abbey longer than me. The place has so much character and is very charming. It is an Aglican parish church founded in the 7th century. Major restoration works in the 19th century were done by the famous George Gilbert Scott and is now the largest example of perpendicular gothic architecture in the West Country. What fascinates me about traveling in England is that every place will have some major historical events or persons to find. On this site, where the Abbey stands, the first king of all England, King Edgar, was crowned in 973, and the service set an example for all future coronations for all kings and queens of England and Great Britain. Another really interesting fact to know is that there are around 8000 bodies buried under the abbey floors. The oldest one so far is dated back to 1625.
When walking around the churches I always notice memorial plaques either on the walls or the floors. This particular one has 1508 memorials in total. Not long ago I was in the St Albans, and when I visited the Cathedral there, I ended up talking to a lovely guide who also mentioned the memorials and made a comment, “well, you could have your name here if you were rich enough to pay for the plaque”. In Bath Abbey, apparently you did not have to be rich to be commemorated in the church. There are plaques for people from all walks of life, including plumbers and even plantation owners from Barbados.
There were few other places I wanted to see while in Bath and I have heard that the view of the city from Alexandra park is wonderful. I was chosen as a navigator since my phone had the most ‘juice’. And oh my goodness, we walked into a completely wrong direction! We are talking 3 km one way!!! I swear, I am not such a bad navigator, but sometimes I do have those moments and you know what, I am not afraid to admit it. The reason why I love my friends is because they enjoy a good adventure and a good story that comes with it (despite tired feet and maybe an empty stomach). We saw Pulteney Bridge, built in 1774 with beautiful architecture (following Ponte Vecchio in Florence design) and stores lining the sides of the bridge. What’s really amazing about this bridge is that it is one of four such structures remaining in the world.
Then we ended up in an abandoned churchyard which was exciting and spooky, and suddenly that wrong direction was not that wrong anymore. St Marys churchyard was opened in 1809 to serve Bathwick community. In 1818 a mortuary chapel was built instead (still standing). The community has grown substantially over 50 years and the churchyard was not used anymore, and in 1980 closed permanently due to safety reasons. I swear it could be a great filming location for some horror movie. Though there is something so charming and romantic about the location it could inspire some budding artists to create beautiful pieces of art.
After just a ‘little bit more walking’ we ended up in Royal Crescent. The place greeted us with some exciting views. More than we ever expected. What I did expect was to see a row of 30 terraced houses (Grade I listed) laid out in a sweeping crescent overlooking a beautiful green patch. What I saw was something like a scene from Back to the Future. The street was full of Georgian inhabitants. There were chambermaids and chimney sweepers, coal sellers, soldiers and ladies in wigs. Instead of modern cars there were horse drawn beautiful carriages. The only contemporary things around that area were we and other onlookers with their cameras and phones taking in the beautiful and bizarre spectacle. What transpired was that the Royal Crescent was celebrating 250th anniversary and they were showing how life was back in the day. We gladly spoke and listen to some of the characters and how they lived, the kids enjoyed the ride in the carriage or a dance with some ladies of the court.
This beautiful place was designed by John Wood the Younger, who wanted to continue his father’s legacy in creating beautiful houses for the emerging middle class. Few interesting facts about this development: the facade is the same (and all those who bought the lots had to agree to that), but the inside and the rear of the development is all different due to residents being allowed to design their interiors the way they wanted; the original name was only The Crescent and the ‘Royal’ word was added in 18th Century after a visit from Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany; some of the houses have been affected by the WWII bombings in 1942, but they were later restored to their former glory. More historical facts and stories about any important residents can be found here: Royal Crescent, Bath.
Most of our day was sunny and warm, and we managed to see great places during that time. Then suddenly the sky opened up and that was the end of our exploring. We popped into an art gallery (Adams Gallery) where Annette and Filip purchased a beautiful piece of art by Kent. And then we sat down in a pub to rest our tired feet, water our dry mouths and waited for the train back to London. It was a trip to remember for sure.
One last note: I have to mention few places to visit if you are peckish or hungry. The Whole Bagel – its a perfect quick breakfast or lunch spot. Available for takeaway or for a sit-down feast, one does not lack in different bagel choices (8 or 9!) and you can be as creative as you want with the fillings. One word – DELICIOUS!
And if you are a carnivore, don’t look any further (don’t you look no more!Sorry, had to do it… M People still one of my favourite bands, don’t judge) than The Herd Steak Restaurant. Ladies will feast their eyes on gorgeous staff members, and men will not be disappointed by delicious, juicy, well cooked steaks! Filip did not complaint at all, his belly was full and he could barely stand up afterwards.
Hope you enjoyed this little summary of our day out in Bath. See you all next time when you read all about Seven Sisters Cliffs.