England can certainly be overwhelming with all its traditions, antiquities, literature, and ales. I mean you have the Victorian period, Georgian architecture, Roman ruins, Shakespeare (see Carrie’s last post link here), the oldest universities on the planet, hell, the whole damn island seems like an UNESCO site. Speaking of UNESCO, it seems that almost anything can become a UNESCO site anymore. Example, I just learned that Tucson, Arizona was made a UNESCO gastronomical site. Gastronomical? How is that even a category? And Tucson a culinary capital? Is it just a matter of paying UNESCO to get these designations? Geez! Oops, I’m ranting again. Once a cranky old guy, always a cranky old guy.
OK, where was I? Right, Bath, England and the cool stuff around Bath. That’s what I’m supposed to be talking about. By the way, you know England is on an island, right? Because when I say ‘stuff around Bath, that could mean almost anywhere in England. So let’s get the biggest attraction near Bath out of the way first, the famous, you guessed it, UNESCO site, Stonehenge.
No need to get into all the historical details, except to note that we learned that the Druids could not have built Stonehenge. Some Agrarian tribe built the original structure. You have to wonder what they were thinking, though. I mean they designed it so that the sun would shine through a stone setup on the solstice, however there is cloud cover/rain here 95% of the time.
I’ll bet they were disappointed a lot. Anyhow, the Park Service did an excellent job in structuring how tourists are moved around and where tourists can go within the compound. Although there were hundreds of people around, it was still possible to get clear, unobstructed photographs.
More photos of Stonehenge at the end of this post.
So let’s move on to the lesser known city of Bath. Bath, yep, another UNESCO site, but with the distinction of being the only destination in England to have the entire city declared a UNESCO site. And on this designation I agree, although I think they should just declare the entire planet a UNESCO site and be done with it.
The city is a special place with its Georgian architecture, Roman ruins, and Jane Austen’s stomping grounds.
But driving in Bath, well that’s special as well. We had heard that traffic was horrific and to make matters worse, parking was nearly impossible and since our Airbnb was a few miles out of town, we weren’t sure how to proceed. But our Airbnb hosts came to the rescue. They invited us to discuss the matter over a few pints at a pub nearby in a small village. Here’s the link for our Airbnb hosts in Bath. Lovely people and a beautiful home. Maybe if the world’s leaders would discuss issues over a few pints, there might be less war. Just a thought. Anyhow, we developed a plan. We would drive to the grocery store in Bath, Morrison’s, which has a parking garage adjacent to the store. It’s supposed to be for customers, but for 6 pounds you can park there for 4 hours. The only hurdle was driving our British Porsche (Ford Fiesta) into the heart of Bath. Bottom line; the Google Bitch did her job of guiding us in and around all the narrow, winding, sometimes one way streets. Just remember to go back before your 4 hours expires, pay and move the car to a new spot or you’ll be charged 26 pounds. We had a plan of what we wanted to see to make effective use of our time.
A visit to Bath requires a visit to the Roman baths (I wonder how many times I can use the word bath in this paragraph. Hmm…?).
Built between 70AD and 300AD by the Romans, the baths, using thermal spring waters were reported to contain healing properties. I drank a full glass of the foul tasting liquid and I don’t feel any better, so I’m skeptical.
The site, still under excavation by the way, is below street level and broken up into 4 sections: the sacred springs, the temple, the bath house, and the museum. Get there early and plan at least 3 hours to fully appreciate the site. The entrance to the bath is near the Abbey, where a university graduation ceremony was in full swing. Even the heavy rain couldn’t wipe the smiles off these happy kids or their
equally happy parents.
After traipsing around an archaeological site in cold, damp, rainy weather it was time for a proper English tea. As luck would have it, the very old, built in 1795, magnificent and elegant Pump House Restaurant is right next door to the baths.
This was our first proper tea experience, so we were a bit nervous. After all, this is a very old British tradition with defined rules. Or so we thought. Basically, you walk in, sit down, pick from a variety of teas. Then pick some kind of pastry to eat along side your tea. Carrie picked a ham and cheese scone
and I opted for the traditional crumpet. We sat there joyfully munching on delicious crumpets and scones and drinking our pot of tea while listening to classical music played beautifully on a grand piano. The British have it right here. An experience not to be missed. Tres romantique!
Warm, fed, and properly caffeinated it was time to brave the rain and explore the city. No, that’s not how it happened. Carrie drug me out of the place kicking and screaming “it’s cold and rainy out there.” But first we needed to move Le Porsche as our 4 hours were nearly up. And Bath once again lived up to its reputation as a driver’s hell. The exit from the parking garage dumps you onto a one way street. Figuring out how and when to turn to get back to the garage was a bit challenging to say the least. Even the Google bitch was confused, as we all felt like Chevy Chase stuck in a London roundabout in the movie European Vacation. By the time we were safely parked the rain had subsided and we were able to really appreciate the Georgian architecture of Bath.
Just about anywhere you walk you’ll be amazed at the architecture, but be sure to check out an area known as The Circus. Oh, and be sure to hit a few pubs. Walking is hard work.
As you walk around it’s easy to understand why Bath played such a prominent role in Jane Austen’s novels. We visited the Jane Austen Centre where you can enjoy a proper tea before touring the
museum. The Pump House was recommended to us over the Austen Centre for tea and after seeing both we concur.
The weather starting turning again so we only made a quick pass of the Bath Abbey, but it sure was impressive from the outside. We would love to hear
from anyone that toured the interior.
Bath is certainly one of my favorite spots in England and I certainly could have spent more time there. Hell, maybe I could even learn to drive in town and like it. Naw! (More pixs below)
Hike Drink Live Laugh ==>And have a spot of tea
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