Sunday, 8 May 2011

Day #41 & #42: The one with the Bath

Let's just say this morning started off much more pleasantly than the one before.  With Will and Kate off to their honeymoon, we were able to get back to our normal routine.  The hotel Le Mecure, offered a full English style buffet breakfast and, to make it more amazing, they gave us a 2 for 1 coupon - how could we turn that down?  We had a delicious meal and went back to the room to pack our belongings.  We headed over to the train station to await our departure to the glorious town of Bath.  

The walk to the train station was brisk; however, we certainly weren't sprinting.  Our overall body temperature had more to do with the 80 degree weather than the 25 min. trip to the station.  We were looking forward to getting in our seats and taking a load off.  Much to our surprise, our car was not what you could call 'refreshing.'  What genius train conductor thought that flipping on the central heat was a good idea in that weather?  The vents were blowing hard and Jake's hair was tussling in the blasting heated blow-dryer that was our car.  Fun.

After a short hour we arrived in Bath and journeyed through the ancient city toward our hotel.  Now, we usually try to find smaller local hotels to further enhance the traveling experience.  For this trip we found a small little place in the heart of city center.  You may have heard of it, there are a few other locations! But let us tell you...this was the most quaint and authentic Best Western that you could find.  So it wasn't exactly the local flare we were hoping for, but the price was right, and the location was fantastic.  They didn't call it the Best Western Abbey Hotel for nothing.  It was literally at the base of one of the biggest tourist attractions in the city.  It would do just fine.  We dropped off our bags, and were off to see all that Bath had to offer.

We didn't have a top 10 list for Bath, but there were a few key landmarks in the city that were 'must see' attractions. Some of these included:
Jolly's - The oldest department store in the entire world (it even beat out Harrod's).
Sally Lunn's Bun House - The oldest house in the city, and maker of the world famous Bath Bun.  Do click on the video from the link for a brief snippet.
Royal Crescent - An architectural anomaly, complete with all three styles of greek columns.  Let's hear it for the Doric (woot woot!).
Pulteney Bridge - This bridge spans the river Avon, sans Mute Swans (yes, the same river Avon from our nature walk in Salisbury), and is one of the 4 bridges in the world with shops lining the full span on both sides.

After taking in a few of the sights and sounds, it was time for the main show.  The abbey was only open for visitor viewing from 1:30-2:30 so, of course, we were waiting at the door at 1:30 SHARP.  Yes, we know that you are all surprised that we were on time, but WE WERE, and were 2 of the first 10 people in the door.  Another amazing example of the time, care, and love that went into early gothic architecture. No matter how many times we walk into one of these cathedrals, they all leave us speechless and astounded.  Not only are the buildings massive, huge, and ornate, but it's mind-boggling to think that they built these structures with medieval tools.  A church has been on this particular site since 675 AD and the current structure was constructed in the 12th century.  By far the crowning jewel of this particular abbey was the ceiling!  WOW!

After that, we went next door.  Honestly, all of 25 feet from the abbey, was one of the largest Roman bath complexes in all the world.  This museum was so special because it was built on the site of the baths.  Basically, they built a structure that allowed you to walk through the bath houses, see the actual stones and pools, but explore the objects, history, and culture of the bath houses as well.  The bubbling hot spring, which was originally thought to be a gift from the gods, still bubbles up through the water today.  Perhaps not sent from a glowing female god in a toga, but still a pretty awe-inspiring natural wonder.  The bath houses, for sure, are the most touristy landmark we have been to since arriving in the UK.  But, on a positive note, they offer free self-guided audio tours to everyone.  Therefore, while travelers wanting to get the first glimpse of something can be pushy and lack the acknowledgment of personal space, the museum was at least quiet while people listened to, "#47: Hear about the life of a Roman citizen in 65AD!"  

Fun Fact:  In the early days of the Roman baths, men and women would bathe together in the nude.  Something tells us this wouldn't fly at the local Y.M.C.A these days.  We will let you dwell on this idea.  Enjoy.  

What trip to a natural hot-spring would be complete without sampling the natural water?  On our way out of the museum we swung by the hot spring tasting fountain and got to try our first (and probably last) sip of pure underground H2O.  This, however, is a nice way of saying, warm, metal, dirt muck.  Yum!

After a few hours in the bath house, an ancient Roman dining experience only seemed, we had Spanish tapas!  Ole!  While it may not have been Roman inspired, it was certainly a nice change of pace and we were glad to add some new and different flavors to our palate.  As great as fried cod and chips are, nothing says 'yum' like a little spicy sauce.

After our dinner on toothpicks, we walked down the road to find a pub.  What do you know, we had some luck!  The Pig and Fiddle - yes, you heard correctly - beckoned us from down the road.  We walked in, ordered a couple of pints, and saw a magical mirage gleaming in the back.  That's right readers, an American dart board awaited us in all of its black, green, and red felt glory.  Victory.  While Shayne worked on her form, Jake kicked her ass.  Boom.  We could add details to this 3 hour long tournament, but let's just say Shayne chalked up more holes in the wall than victories on the board.  Nostalgic - yes.  Competitive - Shayne would like to think so.  Great night in Bath - for sure.  

We went and visited the Best Western for a few hours while we slept.  We got up for yet another bus ride back to the city.  Although we couldn't call it another, "Bus ride of doom,"  as previously described - buses just aren't our thing.  We arrived back in London, hung out for a few hours, and splurged on McDonald's for dinner.  It was a good ol' American meal after a bloody great British weekend.  Cheers!

Lessons Learned:  1) The Romans were kind of perverted (by perverted we mean: great at conquering foreign lands, not so great at private bathing), 2) Jake is really good at darts.   
Shayne in front of Sally Lunn's bun house.

 The ornate door at the Bath Abbey.

We're ready for a plunge!  

Jake said, "This is how the romans would have lounged!"

Notice the audio tour guide still clutched in Shayne's hand.  "Never let go...never let go."

Hot spring water from the fountain in the background.  It sure looks clean, but tasted like mud. 

In front of the royal crescent.


Shayne showing her tough dart face. Jake was so intimated.

The Bath Abbey at night.  Gorgeous!

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