A Wonderful Day Touring Bath
Earlier this year, Dave's sister Susan kindly gave us a beautiful coffee table book with large color photos of Bath. Today those photos came alive for us on a magnificent two hour walking tour of Bath. Led by the tourist information centre and conducted by what appeared to be retired professors passionate about their town, we had a truly memorable walk through the history of this town.
Our first stop was the outside of Bath Abbey. We learned the vision of the facade was angels descending down ladders from heaven. Looking carefully, our guide pointed out how this type of carving is difficult yet was accomplished by turning their heads looking downward.
At the Roman Baths, Michael, our guide explained how the water flows into three places in the city and contains every mineral one might need. "You can pay to taste it," he said, "but let me spare you from that horror!" In Georgian times it took 48 hours to get from London to here by horse and coach. The water which was over 100 degrees was changed only once daily so those who came earliest could avoid nasty skin diseases.
Jane Austin is the most famous resident of Bath. We saw the last home where she lived. Two of her books "North Hanger" and "Persuasion" featured some rather caustic descriptions of people visiting Bath, but our guide felt she enjoyed writing about the social scene here and taking walks in the countryside. Passing a restaurant we spotted a painted sign that said, "The bestest full English breakfast I've had in town- Jane Austin." "Trust me," Michael said chuckling. "Jane Austin never said that! And for sure never ate there!" In one area of town the side of the building was pitch black. Michael explained how the whole city looked like this when he was a child in the 50's. It was caused by decades of coal burning fireplaces. Today, most buildings have been restored to their original tan stone color, but because the stone is so soft, all the carvings have to be redone.
To educate the group about the differences in Georgian and Victorian times, Michael showed us sketches from the Georgian time period. I was surprised to learn the Georgians did not like trees. Today the cobblestone courtyards he showed us in sketches have been replaced by stately trees, thanks to the Victorians.
The Royal Crescent built in1775 looks like a palace, but it was only built to look like one. It actually has houses tucked inside. Comedian John Cleese from Monty Python owns an apartment in the building that is worth over four million pounds.
After a delicious lunch of fish and chips, we visited Cath Kidston. Visiting this store is like a pilgrimage for me, but mostly I just enjoy looking at all the goods. While worth it, it's expensive. I left with a tote bag as a memento. Bath Abbey, the last great medieval church in England was built 500 years ago. The ceiling has stone fan vaulting and stained glass windows with 52 scenes from the life of Christ. The chaplain offered prayer for those affected by war and we were fortunate to hear the organist practicing for the candlelight vigil.
No trip to Bath is complete without a one hour boat ride down the canal. With trees hanging over the water's edge the water looks positively murky, but our guide pointed out there is no industry along the canal and it is clean enough to swim in. He scooped up a glass of clear water to prove it. We sailed lazily down the canal passing old boats moored by their dock that looked too old to ever sail again. "Wine?" our guide asked us and it seemed like a most civilized thing to do on a summer's day.
Tonight Dave and I felt privileged and honored to attend a candlelight vigil with 1,000 others at Bath Abbey commemorating the 100th anniversary of the beginning of WWI. It was powerful and deeply moving. I will blog about it in a separate post. For now, it's time for bed. Tomorrow we will tour the countryside and visit Stonehenge.