STONEHENGE AND THE BATHS
After a nice breakfast, we set out to do some more very touristy things. The first stop was to the Information Center to inquire about a tour out to Stonehenge. We found a tour bus company that had seats available and signed up for the afternoon trip. This gave us lots of time to take the two-hour guided walking tour through the city. The tour meets in the plaza beside Bath Abbey and the guides are armed with encyclopedic knowledge of the history and lore that is Bath. They are able to explain the Georgian architecture, the history, and the daily lives of the long dead residents. Bath has two histories. There were the Romans, and then there was life in the seventeen and eighteen hundreds when the most fashionable, wealthy and royal people enjoyed the healing waters. However, it was Sunday morning. The church bells ring for close to an hour, commencing at exactly the same time as the start of the tour.
But, we stuck with it, straining to hear the guide’s voice above the bells. And, the city rises up from the river. We climbed narrow cobbled streets, working our way up to the Royal Crescent. Then, we wound back through the Circus and the Queen’s Square, back to we had begun our morning.
Lunch was next, stopping at a little café that was tucked into a courtyard, just below street level. The city of Bath has done a wonderful job of encouraging the businesses and residents to take pride in the flower boxes and planters that are everywhere. So, each little café, pub, lamppost and park bench is surrounded by riots of color tumbling about. We caught our breath and went to find the queue for the Stonehenge bus.
Stonehenge is located exactly an hour away, to the east. There isn’t much to see along the way, allowing the driver full license to drive REALLY fast from the city to the site. Really fast. Blink and you are passing through a little village with a thatched roof cottage on one side of the road. Blink and there is a glimpse of the canal. Blink and there is a chalk horse carving in the side of a distant hill. Because of the trees and shrubs along the road, you have little opportunity to get a good look. Nonetheless, we arrive at Stonehenge in one piece and spend the next hour following the path all the way around, punching in the coordinates on our hand held info devices. Because it was late in the afternoon and the weather was changing, you really felt the mystery and haunting past of this formation. But then, it was back into the bus and a speedy drive back to Bath.
We took time for a quick change of clothes and then headed to a pub for dinner. I couldn’t help myself and did order the bangers and mash, enjoying every rich and gravy soaked bite. Just outside the pub was the spot for the start of the Bizarre Bath Comedy tour. If you ever go to Bath, or hear of anyone else going, this is a DO NOT MISS happening. We were greeted by a comedian/magician and treated to an hour and a half of laughs and adventure as we wound our way through the dark streets. This man involved his audience, remembered your name and had a line for every possible turn of events. At one point, a couple of young men walked by our group and we were all instructed to start singing The Lord Is My Shepherd until the lads walked away from us. He took us to a bridge where he performed a magic trick that involved chaining up a stuffed, sixteen inch tall toy rabbit, stuffing him into a weighted mail sack and tossing him down into the river. Magically, the rabbit escapes and floats to the top, where we leave him floating in the river. Then, about a half hour later, when we are standing in the plaza outside the Abbey, the rabbit rides around the corner, strapped to a toy remote control car. The best twelve pounds I ever spent!
Monday has been a day to explore on our own. We began with a tour of the ancient Roman baths. This is a self-directed tour, involving those clever audio devices. You just wander about and key in the number on your keypad that corresponds with the sign that identifies what you are looking at and, voila, a voice explains it all to you.
After a little more of a walk about, window-shopping and retracing our route toward our B&B, we wondered into a little arcade, in search of a cup of tea. The hostess was a lovely older lady, although perhaps a bit overdressed in her hat.
You can’t go into the actual Roman baths any longer, but the city has built a new facility that includes steam rooms and two pools for actual swimming and soaking in the mineral waters from the same hot spring. In ancient times, the waters were said to cure leprosy, arthritis, gout and infertility. I am going to cross my fingers that I don’t get pregnant when I return home. However, I am fairly certain that my toenail fungus is cured. We spent a bit of time in the indoor pool before trying out each of the four aromatherapy steam rooms, both agreeing that the eucalyptus mint was the best. Then, we found the roof top pool! Imagine a pool four stories up. You climb the flights of circular stairs until you reach the top and go through a double set of glass doors. Before you is a steaming horizon pool and the ancient city of bath is laid out before you. It’s early evening and the sky is partly clear with streaks of steel grey clouds cutting through the sky. There is an occasional misty rain followed by four minutes of setting sunlight, over and over again. The pool is not hot, but almost hot. The air is cool, not quite chilly. Everyone is rather subdued, either lost in the mood of the evening or floating about with his or her partner. It is relaxing. It could be romantic. Everyone is happy to know that some personal ache or worry has disappeared into the healing waters.
We enjoyed one final, glorious dinner at a small gem of a restaurant named Tilly’s, just off a small side street around from the baths. We were not our normal, glamourous self’s, arriving with damp hair and wrinkled fingers. But, we shared a bottle of wine, a few tapas and a bowl of risotto, evoking no complaints from other diners. By the end of the evening, following our bread and butter pudding, we had met a new couple from across the aisle and charmed them into looking for real estate in Florida. We are such beautiful ambassadors for America.