I don’t remember Bath being quite so…posh. I remember the incredible Georgian architecture and the ancient bathhouse and museum, but I don’t remember all the sophisticated shops and renowned eating establishments. Then again, it has been 10 years.
Although we still have a lot of Britain to see, we returned to Bath to meet some friends from Denmark and to attend a charity ball. We dropped the girls off at my sister’s house, in Malvern, which had us back-tracking slightly, but in our minds it was practically on the way! We feel so fortunately to be living near family members again, that I don’t think any distance on this small-island-of-a-country would be too far to go.
We started off by attending our first (ever) rugby match. The Bath rugby team is apparently very good! The club has won England’s domestic competition, the Anglo-Welsh Cup, the Heineken Cup and European Challenge Cup. I had to look all that up…I know nothing about rugby (really, nothing). One might think that it’s a little like American football (which I also know nothing about) but they are quite different (I think). Basically, I should not even be writing about these sports, except to say that I found rugby to be fascinating. So much tackling…so little protective gear…and unlike American football, the game never seems to stop.
I’ve also heard this quote several times since living here: “Football (soccer) is a gentleman’s game played by hooligans, while rugby is a hooligan’s game, played by gentlemen.”
The rugby stadium is just across the river from the main part of town, so it’s very convenient and we were lucky to have a clear, crisp evening.
We stayed at the Hilton Bath City Hotel, which was a fantastic location, right on the River Avon and in walking distance of everything. I’m sure the rooms with a river view are lovely, but I was quite partial to our more mysterious view of besmirched buildings.
Desperately trying to avoid the chain coffee establishments, we had breakfast at The Bridge Coffee Shop, on the Pulteney Bridge. This bridge is one of four in the world, to have shops spanning the entire length, similar to the Ponte Vecchio, in Florence. Starting off with coffee, looking out over a gorgeous view, is my idea of a perfect way to start the day.
If we visited every cathedral in all the towns we pass through in England, we’d spend little time doing much else. But when a cathedral dominates the sky, as the Bath Abbey does, it is difficult not to be tempted to go inside. I read that it was the last medieval church built in England (finished in 1616). The stained glass and fan-vaulted ceiling are stunning. When were inside, the sun was breaking in and out of the clouds, which caused everything to glow intermittently.
This is where this post becomes a rather unconventional tour of the must-visit locations in Bath – although I suppose I never claimed it to be that, did I. We had been to see the Roman Baths before and spent HOURS in the museum. Wonderful things are to be found there and I would recommend it to anyone visiting Bath for the first time, but we opted not to do it again. So we did what we like to do, yet can never do quite the same way with kids in tow…we wandered. We walked up and down the streets until it was time for a tea break.
We heard that Sally Lunn’s Buns are good…somewhat famous, actually. So we went there to check it out. Located in the oldest house in Bath, it was quite cute, but we decided not to buy any melon-sized balls of bread. According to Brett, they looked like a bloated hamburger bun…but maybe we missed out, I don’t know. (If you’ve ever tried one, let me know!)
We also heard that the Pump Room serves a fantastic high tea. I’m afraid I can’t give you my opinion on that either, because we merely walked by. Maybe we weren’t in a tea-under-crystal-chandelier kind of mood.
We decided to go to the Georgian Tearooms, instead. It also has an old-world elegance, but perhaps a bit more on the shabby-chic side. We sat across the room from the pianist, who played lovely, classical tunes. The tea and scones were beautifully presented and tasty, yet I had a couple of faults with the staff. I’ll save the details for a Trip Advisor review, but overall, I’d give it 3 out of 5 stars.
The rest of the day was about as perfect as they come, in our world. We visited an antique flea market, where we saw darling things from lives long ago. Then, just as the sun was sharp in the sky, we assembled a picnic and went to the park (Parade Gardens). Laying on the grass, tucked away from the breeze, we experienced, for the first time this year, that feeling of sun penetrating through your clothing to warm your core. Staring up at a blue sky and newly budded trees, it was relaxing and energizing at the same time.
I would be amiss not to mention the charity ball we attended that evening. We were supporting a friend-of-friends, who is participating in the Marathon Des Sables. This is a grueling, 251km, footrace through formidable landscape and climate, in the Sahara Desert (a.k.a. ‘The toughest footrace on earth’). He took on this challenge in order to raise much needed funds for Charlton Farm, Children’s Hospice, in Bristol. The night raised £14,820, of which every penny goes to the cause (not to fund any of his racing). It was an extraordinary night for an incredible cause. The night had a Moroccan theme, hence the dapper Casablanca tuxedo jacket.
The following morning, we did go to one place that is certainly on the tourist circuit – the Thermae Bath Spa. This is Britain’s only natural thermal spa with mineral-rich water and has a striking open-air rooftop hot pool. The experience reminded me a lot of my time at the Blue Lagoon, in Iceland (minus the backdrop of mountains and lava rock and silica facial masks). We bathed, we sauna-ed, we unwound. In fact, we were so relaxed that neither of us wanted to drive the 3 hours back home that evening.
To finish off, we visited the Fudge Kitchen to take some goodies to my sister’s family.
Oh, and the girls had a wonderful weekend too! My sister took this beautiful photo of our littlest, flying a kite on the Malvern Hills. Lucky kids!