Destinations Magazine

Bath, England: From the Romans to Jane Austen

By Carolinearnoldtravel @CarolineSArnold

Bath, England:  From the Romans to Jane Austen

The Royal Crescent, Bath.  Typical Georgian architecture.

(Excerpt from my London diary, September 7, 1998)
Last night we got back from our first weekend outside the city and our first experience driving and negotiating traffic circles and all the other peculiarities of the English road system.  (Not to mention that virtually all the rental cars here are manual shift and, of course, the driver is on the right hand side of the car!)
We began on Friday by heading west out of the city toward Bath.  We stayed in a charming bed and breakfast on a small 16th century farm outside Bath. The whole setting, with the gracious stone house (updated in the 18th century), the  tree lined drive, and the large gardens made us feel as if we were living a Jane Austen novel. At our bed and breakfast we made friends with a cat. That night we left our window open for some fresh air.  Suddenly I woke up in the middle of the night to discover that the cat had apparently jumped in the window and was getting ready to settle down on the pillow next to my head!

Bath, England:  From the Romans to Jane Austen

The Ancient Roman Baths of Bath

On Saturday, we drove into Bath to see the sights and to meet friends from LA.  Underneath Bath there is a natural hot spring, which is one of the reasons that people have lived there since ancient times, and the main tourist attraction is the ruins of the ancient Roman baths.  They are extensive and include statuary, mosaics, inscriptions, and everything that the Romans needed to reproduce what they knew from Italy in their new land.

Bath, England:  From the Romans to Jane Austen

Taking the waters in Bath

In the late 18th century, it became fashionable to drink the waters of the hot spring as a cure, or just as a tonic, and people flocked to the elegant pump room that was built above the ruins to drink the water and parade in their finery.  (Here’s where you can really imagine Jane Austen’s characters.)  You can still have lunch or tea in the pump room and have a drink from the fountain served to you by a  gentleman in a powdered wig and velvet frock coat.  I tried a glass and wouldn’t have minded the metallic taste if the water hadn’t been so warm.  We walked around Bath a bit to see some of the Georgian architecture for which the city is famous and then we took a scenic boat ride along the Avon river that flows through the city. 

Bath, England:  From the Romans to Jane Austen

Rugby Match in Bath

It turns out that this is not Shakespeare’s Avon and that, in fact, there are four Avon rivers in England! The boat landing happened to be adjacent to the city rugby stadium and Saturday afternoon was the opening match of the season.  Every time the Bath team scored you could hear a roar of cheering all over town. At the end of the day we went back with our friends to their B and B in Midsomer Norton, formerly a 12th century priory, and had dinner there.
(continued next week with visits to Glastonbury, Salisbury, Stonehenge, and Avebury)

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