Monday, July 27, 2009

Day Trip to Bath

The last time I flew out of LHR T5 was over spring break on my way back to Berkeley in April. British Airways kindly upgraded me to business class! Yes, please -- thank you, BA! Once you travel in business class, it's hard to go back to Economy. It was very, very nice; you eat with real utensils, get unlimited "top-up" on champagne and premium wines, and of course, your very own flat-bed. Normally, I would fall asleep about two hours into the flight, but I forced myself to stay up to enjoy the experience of flying business. To keep myself entertained, I watched The Duchess starring Keira Knightley as the 18th century English aristocrat Georgiana Cavendish, The Duchess of Devonshire, which I thought was very fitting as I was to call England "home" in two short months. Part of the movie was filmed on location in Bath at the gorgeous Royal Crescent and I thought to myself -- "I must make a trip to Bath this summer!"

Fast-forward three months later, Keenan received a magazine called "Americans in Britain" sent to his office in Canary Wharf. As the name implies, this magazine is for us yankees living in the UK providing tips on "how to socially integrate into British society," restaurant recommendations, and adverts for tax seminars (expat taxes = tedious). The name "Americans in Britain" also lends itself for some "good fun" office jokes from his British and New Zealander colleagues. Ha, ha -- very funny! However, in this issue, there was a wonderful article on Bath -- a little reminder that I should book my train tickets soon. Even better, the next morning I got an offer on thetrainline.com for tickets to Bath for 9GBP each way -- how'd they know? It's time for Bath!




Saturday morning, we made our way up to Paddington to catch our outbound train to Bath. Zipping through the English countryside, 90 minutes later, we arrived in Bath. If I have one word to describe Bath, it would be: elegant. This beautiful little town is full of charm and gorgeous, and ranks on top as our favourite English towns. I highly recommend Bath if you are looking for a relaxing day trip outside of London. With its buff-coloured buildings and distinctive Georgian architecture, lush green hills that surround Bath, and the River Avon running through town, it is no surprise that Bath was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987.





But, before it was Bath, it was known as Aquae Sulis by the Romans, drawing its name from the only natural hot spring found in the U.K. Since it was healing powers of this famous hot spring that have drawn people here since prehistoric times, it is most appropriate to start our day at the Roman Baths Museum and Pump Room.




Among the many achievements of the Roman Empire was their advanced engineering skills. The Roman Baths, both a temple and an elaborate bathing complex, is one such example of brilliant Roman engineering. The Museum itself is quite extensive and I encourage you to spend at least an hour and half listening to the audio guide, which is free with your tickets. Of course, the highlight of the Museum was the Great Bath in the middle of the complex. You can even enjoy a meal in the famous Pump Room, and if you fancy, taste the vile mineral water for a small fee. Ummm, no, thank you.



Adjacent to the Roman Baths is the Bath Abbey, which was built in the same architectural style as London’s Westminster Abbey; that is Gothic Perpendicular with the fan vaults as its most notable feature. Stunning and beautiful.



After lunch at the Boston Tea Party, we sauntered along Barton Street up to the Bath Circus, where we stopped to admire the beautiful Georgian architecture designed by John Wood, Sr.





We continued our walk to the Royal Crescent built by John Wood, Jr. between 1767 to 1774. Like the Bath Circus designed by his father, the Royal Crescent comprises of 30 interconnected elegant townhouses fronted by 114 columns and built in perfect symmetry and proportion. Beautiful. Next to the Royal Crescent is the lovely Royal Victoria Park, where we could have spent the afternoon under the warm sun, but alas we continued on with our walking tour of Bath.





The next stop was Pulteney Bridge, an 18th century span over the River Avon, lined with shops and restaurants. The vantage point from the opposite of the river is equally stunning.




Bath is just own of those towns whose beauty and elegance you cannot forget. And, we look forward to another trip to Bath, perhaps next time with a visit to the Thermae Bath Spa. Of course, our partly sunny day turned rainy by the early evening, and that was our cue to go home. You have to love the English summer!

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