A Magical Land
Trip Start Jun 21, 2010
4Trip End Aug 06, 2010
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This was my first full day in Bath and I fell in love. A very cliche line, love at first sight, but it completely applies. Bath and the surrounding area is just magical. I love it here so much I would be willing to live in a city apartment, and everyone who knows me also knows apartments aren't my thing.
I started the day by grabbing some Starbucks, pathetic I know, then hopping on a tour bus. Now usually I avoid guided tours like the plague (which coincidentally did wipe out Bath in history) but from now on, whenever I see a Hop-on-Hop-off bus in an unknown city, I shall hop on.
The tour cost £10.50 for 24 hours and both the city and skyline tours (each about an hour). A great deal! I first took the city tour and learned a lot about the city of bath. A short list follows:
-Everything in Bath and its surrounding area must be built of Bathstone (a limestone from Bath quarries). You can therefore tell the new buildings from the old depending on the brightness of the stone.
-The original Bath Abbey was demolished when a King, not sure which one, visited Bath and found the city in disrepair with extremely wealthy and lustful monks.
-Historically, Bath was just a winter getaway for the extremely wealthy.
-Parade Gardens is a very beautiful park, that costs a £1 to enter :(
-Like Seattle, Bath was originally at a lower level then it is now. Therefore, most of the buildings have two levels below the ground floor.
-Pulteney Bridge crosses the river Avon, and is extremely famous for being lined with shops.
-The river name "Avon" is common in England because when the Romans moved in and asked for the local names of rivers, the locals all said "Avon" which in their language meant "River".
-The bus station is the only building not made of Bathstone.
-The new shopping centre is concrete with thin bricks of Bathstone on the outside, very controversial.
-There is a hot spring spa that uses the same springs originally used by the Romans. The water is quite hot and must be cooled before use. It is also very expensive but still very popular with the ill.
-I may have lost track, but I think Jane Austin had four homes in Bath.
-Great Pulteney Street is as long and wide as the Titanic. It is also very grand and very expensive.
-The Royal Crescent is composed of 30 units made by 30 different architects. Each unit looks the same in the front but different on the inside and back.
-Many lodgings in Bath have hanging loos (quite literally a hole cut into the back of the house with a little room containing a toilet) because they were built before indoor plumbing.
-Queen's Square was built when Prince Frederick came to visit Bath.
-Milsom Street is Bath's main shopping district.
Haha, I apologize, that was not a short list.
When the tour was over I went and caught the skyline tour. Not all about the stops like the city tour, but more about the view of Bath. Bath is just as beautiful at a distance as it is up close. There were a couple stops on the tour, but the only one I'm interested in is the American Museum. It is supposed to be very nice but unfortunately was closed today. I'll go back tomorrow.
When I got off the skyline tour a young American woman, who had also been on the tour, started conversation with me as we walked back to main Bath. We hit it off and tried to board a Stonehenge tour bus that we happened to pass. They were full but saved us each a spot on the 1630 tour. We split up for the couple of hours we had, with plans to meet back up for the tour.
I spent the next couple of hours on the computer and getting lost trying to find the bus station. I should have known how to get there but ended up down where Bath meets the River Avon to the south. Everything turned out okay though and I had plenty of time to hit Starbucks again before the tour.
Laura (the young American) and I loaded the tour bus with about ten other people. Unfortunately I cannot give a description of the people like I have been, because I spent the trip talking to Laura rather than people watching. Our tour guide was and Australian named Jon, and he was really nice. Jon told us a lot about the area between Bath and Stonehenge, and it was very entertaining. At one point he was talking about the Celtic people and how they would live on hills so they could see all around, he didn't just leave it there though, he added that they would not of course expect to see a purple tour bus. It was little things like that which made the hour drive enjoyable.
Along with listening to Jon, Laura and I talked the entire time and learned quite a bit about one another. Laura is from Pennsylvania and in her mid-twenties I think. Her life story, that I know, starts when she was 16. Laura went to a private high school because her father was a minister (which religion I'm not sure). The school she went to has a sister school in Bath called Kingswood. Each year a student from America would go to Kingswood for fall semester then a student from Kingswood would come to America for spring semester. Laura was the lucky student of her year, and is back now to visit friends. Once graduated, Laura went to school for PR. PR lasted a little while, then Laura moved on to being a substitute teacher (eww), and now she is an EMT. She loves being a paramedic and is currently trying to get a position on the emergency helicopter.
After learning all about Laura we finally made it to Stonehenge. I was happily surprised to find that Stonehenge really is in the middle of nowhere, not surrounded by city like the La Brea Tar Pits.
Stonehenge is very cool and I took about a million photos (my camera is near full now :( ). We had about an hour to see Stonehenge, which was about the perfect amount of time. I went all the way around it and learned a lot via the audio guide, then headed back to the bus. I was one of the first people back to the bus and got in a little conversation with Jon.
Jon asked me where I'm from and I had to explain how when I left, Washington was home, but when I get back I will be living in Texas. I can already tell that explaining that will get very old very fast. Our conversation ended as more people arrived at the bus, and he finished it off by saying I will be a great Marine Biologist. Haha, I'm glad a near stranger has faith in me.
On the way back to Bath, Laura and I didn't talk much other than laughing at how Jon was raging back. We made great time. When we got to Bath Laura invited me to dinner with her and a mom of one of her friends, Kate. I wasn't sure if I wanted to at first but in the end I decided I had to because I hadn't been to a pub yet and it would be best to go with friends.
We met Kate at a Pub called The Bear, it was delicious. I got a half pint of local beer (don't worry mom), as recommended by Kate, and some fish n chips. This was the first time I think I have ever had fish n chips and yum. We stayed at the pub for a couple of hours and it was really nice just chatting with people. Laura told us some stories from her paramedic work and one really stuck with me. Apparently one of her last calls was a car of students about to graduate. They had gone off a ravine and rolled, a lot like me. The difference is that none of the four passengers were wearing seat belts and all were thrown from the car. Only one girl survived and she was coherent enough to know she was the only one. Wow, I haven't been in any cars for a couple weeks now but I still have to get reminders of my accident. Yay :(
Moving on to a happier note again. After dinner Kate brought Laura and I home for a tour of her Bath style Georgian home. The house was beautiful, like everything else in Bath. It is on one of those stretches where all the houses are together and therefore tall and narrow. There were five floors each wide enough for two rooms. Kate had restored the house so it still had some of the original molding and paint and the entire place is Bathstone, including the stairs. Kate also made it very efficient. She collects rain water for her veggie garden, has big original windows to catch the sun, and has about ten solar panels.
As we got our grand tour of Kate's house, the sun was setting which made everything even more amazing. From the back of the house, where most of the windows are, you get an amazing view of the sun setting over Bath. The house made me think of both 101 Dalmations and Finding Neverland. I just can't stop raving over it's amazingness.
Eventually I left to go back to the YMCA. Kate's house is in a neighborhood called the first flat, which is a block that is the first terrace on the hill above Bath. It was getting dark at this point and the walk would have taken at least half and hour so I wimped out and called a cab. I was worried it would cost me a ton but all the way back cost me only £5. Nice.
When I got back to my dorm some of my roommates were already asleep so I decided to call it a day. A very good day.