We met in the kitchen around 1 am for midnight snack intermission and spoke briefly about the next day’s itinerary. We fleshed it out later that morning at 6:30 with the light of a day which will greet early as it does when approaching the solstice. We had a leisurely breakfast and firmed up the plans.
Starting off with a hop on, hop off bus, we got our bearings and a quick introduction to the layout of Bath and some of its buildings, and became acquainted with the walkable city. We started at the Roman Baths first. Designated a UNESCO world heritage city, Bath first became popular with ancient people who happened upon its hot springs. The Romans arrived and built their pools, saunas, massage rooms, and therapy rooms all around the hot springs. When Rome fell, so did the architecture, and for many, many years, the collapsed roofs sunk into the earth and became indistinguishable, unknown, or unimportant by the then contemporary builders, who built houses right on top of these Roman made baths. One year, a homeowner discovered green water leaking into his basement, and city inspections and surveyors later, discovered a vast network of baths, pipes, drainage systems all preserved in archaeological ruins. By the 1700s, the houses over the baths came down, the digs began, and the treasures revealed. When Queen Victoria came to visit, the city of Bath became a renaissance city, with new Roman architecture going up where the original was, mimicking what it once looked like; by the 1800s, it seems nearly every notable figure in England and abroad at that time had visited or stayed in Bath for any length of time, reaping its therapeutic, warm, sulphuric healing benefits. Recognizing this summer’s particularly cold and wet weather, I understood its appeal.
Once inside the Roman Baths, which operates now as an indoor/outdoor museum an audio guide and sign posts inform visitors of each room’s purpose and identification. The Roman Baths are a complex compound, and even as late as the 1960s admitted only a select few (aka famous people) into their baths. However, since then and the discovery of a linked meningitis case and other random bacteria, swimming or bathing in the pools is not allowed. Every few months the pools are drained and then slowly refilled, as the spring from the ground still emits its water as faithfully as it has millennia ago.
After drinking a complimentary cup of war, sulphuric, spring water, we left the warm, underground baths, testament to its still healing and still functioning system. It remains another Roman architectural wonder, a feat of engineering and health awareness.
Walking next door to the Pump Room, where Jane Austen and notable society people came for tea and recognition, we made reservations for tomorrow at 3:45. We were hungry and needed to relax for a bit. With choices tantalizing along every street and a different ethnic place around every corner, along every alley, it was a tough choice. We settled on a Greek takeaway and found the closest seats available: back at the apartment.
Newly fortified with hummus and falafel and eggplant wraps, we set off to hop on the bus to take us to the Jane Austin Center. Not her true residence, but a close-by lookalike, we chose not to do the costumed tour, and instead had tea and cake in the tea room, listening to a soft Edwardian playlist of Austen movie scores. Following tea and pictures with a portrait of Mr. Darcy, we walked along stately streets, whose townhomes and houses are kept to UNESCO regulations, requiring that any remodeling must conform to the original design and sandstone material. We returned to the apartment after a stroll by the Circus (a circular row of townhomes), through Victoria Gardens, along the River Avon (one of several river avons in England, from the Celtic word which means, of all things “river”), and a visit to inside the Abbey, undergoing remodeling to pipe in heat from the underground springs, and then finally conceding to the enticement of fudge everywhere, a fudge shop (hands down the Welsh honey pecan fudge won). Returning once again to the apartment just five minutes north of the Abbey, we put our feet up on the extended sofa bed, picnicking in front of a Netflix show, and called it a day.