Sunday, June 24, 2012

Bath Basics

We sojourned for a week in Bath, England.  Once the sought after holiday destination of Regency and Victorian socialites, Bath is now the perfect southwestern England location to travel around the country being within two hours of the coast, Wales, Stonehenge, London, Windsor and other historic sites.  But it has much more to offer than just a great location.

Swim Anyone?
Ancient History- The Roman Baths
After the Ancient Romans conquered the Celts, the Romans paved roads and created cities throughout Britain.  One important metropolis was that of Bath, named for the natural hot springs below the city.  The Romans built a massive temple to their goddess Minerva and attached a huge bath spa for spiritual and physical retreats.Basically, people vacationed here for two thousand years.

Touring the Ancient Roman Baths and the temple ruins are must-see activities.

The Middle Ages- Bath Abbey
Founded as a monastery in the 7th century, Bath Abbey is still an active place of worship, but open for tourists at certain times. The fan vaulted ceiling and memorials make it worth a visit inside.

Renaissance- Sally Lunn's Buns
The oldest house in Bath, located just around the corner from Bath Abbey, is Sally Lunn's.  The French Huguenot pilgrim brought her baking skills to Bath in the 17th century.  Lighter than scones, the quaint tea room's toasted buns served with cinnamon butter or clotted cream and lemon curd are the perfect treat at any time of day.

Yum, Warm Mineral Water!
Jane Austen- The Pump Room and the Jane Austen Center
A tour of the Roman Baths must conclude with taking the waters in the 18th century Pump Room.  Frequented by Austen's characters in Persuasion and Northanger Abbey, the waters, pumped straight from the hot spring, were believed to have healing, medicinal qualities and so everyone who came to Bath had to drink the water.  Today, the Pump Room is a gorgeous example of Georgian design and a relaxing way to spend the afternoon by sipping tea, eating scones and listening to live classical music.  Even our travel worn family felt refined and elegant during afternoon tea (plus we needed something to get the disgusting taste of the warm, mineral water out of our mouths.)

Jane Austen had a love/hate relationship with Bath.  She enjoyed it during her youthful visits and used the town as the setting for her first written/last published novel, Northanger Abbey.  After her family moved to Bath for five years, she did not like the society and grew to dislike the town.  Her unhappiness caused a writers block and she wrote no novels while living in Bath.  Her final book, Persuasion, reflects her distaste for the town and its crass social climbing.  With this said, the Jane Austen Center is located in Bath.  Anabel and I toured the Center and like Jane, had a love/hate reaction to our visit.  The opening lecture on Jane's family history and her life was a wonderful literary history lesson.  The self-guided tour below stairs was quite silly containing only a few pieces of clothing and furniture from the Regency time period and nothing much relating directly to Jane Austen. The Center would have been more interesting if they brought some of the historical information into a guided tour to incorporate more facts about Jane Austen.

These are the Bath Basics that every visitor should see, but Bath is so much more... like walking the Circus and the Royal Crescent... or shopping and having cream tea at an outdoor cafe... or frolicking in the Victoria Park... or....

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