On Pride, Prejudice and Bathing

On our final full day in England, we centered our efforts on Bath. I’ll admit to knowing little about the city before our visit. I now know that Jane Austen lived there for several years and based two novels there. I also know that 2017 marks the 200th anniversary of her death (thanks Bath tourism website!). And I know her Wikipedia entry makes no mention of the only Jane Austen book I’ve read, “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.”

Bat

h is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, full of 18th century architecture. Knowing our time was limited, we went straight to the Roman Baths, which have a complex history over millenia. Use of the hot springs dates to the Celts, who dedicated a shrine to the goddess Sulis, but the Romans harnessed the waters during their 300-year reign in Britain. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the baths fell into disuse and were covered by debris and time—and forgotten.

Centuries later, baths again were constructed on the same site, including the King’s and Queen’s baths in use during the Middle Ages and the Georgian baths of Jane Austen’s time. Newer buildings were constructed over the Roman baths. But water’s got to go somewhere, and when people started getting water into their homes, the engineer sent to get to the bottom of it discovered the ancient baths.

The buildings have been stripped back to Roman times, but one can see the copper walls where the water level of the later baths were located. It’s neat to think about the centuries during which the Roman Baths were just waiting for rediscovery. And you get to taste the mineral water at the end. It’s warm and tastes, as Declan puts it, like you had a nosebleed you sniffed back in and then swallowed.

More sights to see

Following a guided tour of the baths and lunch, we spent the afternoon taking in the sights, including walking along the Pulteney Bridge, inspired by Ponte Vecchio bridge in Florence we recently visited. Like its counterpart, the Pulteney Bridge is lined by shops on both sides, but with way fewer jewelers.

We walked uphill to get an overview of the city from just past No. 1 Royal Crescent, which the guidebook says is of Palladian architecture and is frequently used in film shoots. We also took a look at the Circus, a group of connected sweeping circular Georgian homes bisected only by three intersections. It’s said the inspiration was the Coliseum in Rome, just inside out.

Before leaving, we also took in Bath Cathedral, rightly known for its impressive stained glass windows. Declan was particularly taken by the ornate entry door. The cathedral is across a small courtyard from the Bath baths, so it’s a must-see.

Bath is a quaint town, brimming with interesting sights. But it’s another place you shouldn’t bring your car. There are free car parks on the edges of town, and super-cheap shuttles that take you right in. Just remember to find a free bathroom before leaving Bath to avoid a 20 pence charge at the car park lot. And if you do have to pay, why not block the door open for the next person? After all, you just dropped serious coin for a day out, and they expect you to pay to pee?

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