Bath, Stonehenge, and a Secret Place - Part 2
This post is Part 2 of our group tour in the English countryside. Be sure to read Part 1 here.
We pulled up to The Royal Crescent in Bath just as the wind and rain began to pick up. This impressive crescent of terraced houses was built in the late 1700s and is still considered one of the most exclusive residential areas in England. Our tour guide Chris would later tell us the story of resident Miss Amabel Wellesley-Colley who upset the neighbors by painting her door yellow. The case went to the highest courts until it was finally determined that she did, in fact, have the freedom to paint her own door however she saw fit.
That was back in the 1970s, and her door remains yellow to this day.
After jumping back into the minibus, we drove around the lovely streets of Bath in the rain while Chris talked about the history of the town and its notable residents like Jane Austen.
We even got to see a small bomb crater in the center of an upscale residential area called The Circus, which had been left from the Blitz. By the time he pulled into the town centre to let us go our separate ways for a couple of hours, the skies had cleared and it was the perfect day to experience the Georgian architecture and old-world surroundings.
Although we should have just grabbed a couple of pasties and strolled about town, the guys had a pretty big appetite.
Ty, in particular, was ready for his next meal of fish and chips (I lost count of how often he ate that dish while we were in England), so we opted to dine at The Roman Baths Kitchen across from Bath Abbey. I was a little nervous because English service is notorious for being slow. Not only did we experience that fact while were in London, but our tour guide joked about it a couple of times, saying that the Brits are finally starting to learn from American food service, so maybe they’ll see some vast improvements over the coming decade.
Luckily, we were served fairly quickly at this bistro-style restaurant and finished eating just in time to rejoin Chris and other members of our tour group for an optional walking tour.
We learned the basic history of the Roman Baths complex, which isn’t actually Roman despite the name.
The Romans originally had baths on the site of the hot springs, but the existing complex is Georgian architecture and more modern than most people assume. The original Roman baths (the ones actually used by Romans) were likely destroyed in the 6th century.
But the iconic Georgian-style Roman Baths are no longer in use either. The town went without any kind of baths at all when they were shut down in the late 1970s after a girl contracted meningitis from swimming in contaminated water. They eventually built the current facilities on another site, which we got to see on the walking tour.
The modern baths are essentially a thermal spa with an open-air rooftop pool. Very classy. I’d love to go back with Ty and stay in Bath for a week because it seems like the perfect romantic getaway.
After Chris had concluded our walking tour, we were free to explore once again before having to meet back up with the bus.
We wandered into the Pump Room where we got to actually taste the water from the hot springs. Brandon drank his full glass and declared, "it's all right!" Ty and I, however, turned our noses up after the first sip and said no thanks. It’s not unbearable, but it’s warm and has a strong metallic flavor. If you like drinking liquid iron laced with rust, it would be a real treat.
We also got to walk out on the balcony and take pictures of the Roman Baths (the ones that had been shut down in the 70s).
After a quick pop into the loo, we wandered back outside to make the most of our remaining half hour in Bath. I had hoped to make it to the Jane Austen Centre, but we were running out of time and Ty needed to find some headache pills. Not wanting to wait for us while we bought some paracetamol (the British equivalent of Tylenol), Brandon decided to head off his own to Bath Abbey. It’s a small town centre and there’s really no way you can get lost in the area we were in, so we said we’d meet back up at the bus as scheduled despite the fact that our mom repeatedly told us to “stay together!”
He’s a big boy, after all.
Bath has some amazing little gift shops and I actually enjoyed them more than any I had found in London. I had planned on buying a Paddington Bear before heading home since we were staying in a B&B close to Paddington Station, and one of the shops in Bath had them – so I am now the proud owner of a Paddington Bear I purchased in Bath meant to mark the area we stayed in whilst in London. haha! I also got a Bath magnet (we collect magnets everywhere we travel) and Ty found a Mr. Bean bobble head. Yes, we really are kids at heart.
So now it was time to meet back up with the tour group.
Ty and I made it back on time, as did everyone else in the group . . . except for my brother. Chris had stated beforehand how crucial it was to be back at the bus on time so we could make it to Stonehenge at the scheduled hour, and he had even given us maps of Bath and a card with his phone number in case we had any issues. I was embarrassed by Brandon’s tardiness as I watched the minutes tick by – as realization about why my mother had been so insistent that we all stay together dawned. The one time – the ONE time – we had let Brandon wander off on his own, he’d gone and gotten himself lost.
It felt like forever, but in reality it was only about four minutes before Brandon called Chris to figure out how to navigate his way around Bath Abbey and back to the bus on the other side. I’ll never let him live that one down.