Tag Archives: Bath

The European Adventures of Cookie, Sis, and me

Part 2 of a series of indeterminate length

Day trip to Bath

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The Royal Crescent

The town of Bath, in Somerset, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has a long history, and was apparently well known for its healing waters even before the Romans built a spa there around 60 C.E.

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Roman Bath in Bath

They dedicated this temple and bath to Sulis Minerva, a hybrid British-Roman goddess…because the Romans hardly ever reinvented the wheel; they were far more likely to let a couple of goddess wheels smash together (like Sulis and Minerva) and see who crawled out of the wreckage.

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*Not really Sulis Minerva

As fascinating as the history and mythology was, however, we might never have cared much about Bath if not for Jane Austen (and later, especially for Sis, Georgette Heyer). The Bath we wanted to see was the Bath of the Royal Crescent, the Circus, and the Assembly Rooms, all built out of warm. golden Bath Stone.

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Part of Bath Circus

According to our guide Viv, local legend had Bath being discovered by Prince Bladud, who was banished from the royal court because he had leprosy. In order to keep body and soul together, he became a swineherd, but unfortunately his pigs also contracted his disease. One day, he noticed them wallowing around in some hot springs and—wouldn’t you know it?—coming out completely cured. He hopped in the springs himself, was also cured. When he later became king, he built a city at this magical site out of gratitude. That explains why you see acorns (which Bladud’s pigs liked to eat) all over Bath.

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See the acorns?

We found some other interesting symbols around Bath, especially in the Circus. Wouldn’t it have been fun if the Circus was filled with animals and acrobats? No such luck. The name actually refers to the fact that the buildings in this area of Bath are built to form a circle (aka “circus” in Brit-speak) around a park. There were designs above the columns that are reputed to have Masonic origins. I was so delighted to think of Freemasons being responsible for building large portions of Bath, I could barely contain myself, but instead of dancing, I just took pictures.

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Masonic symbols, allegedly

After oohing and aahing over the Royal Crescent and the Circus, we headed for the Assembly Rooms.

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Gallery overlooking the Tea Room

From 1705-1760, the balls and other social activities at the Assembly Rooms were organized (and apparently ruled with an iron hand) by the town’s Master of Ceremonies, John (aka “Beau”) Nash. He was good at getting people to mingle, but my favorite story about him hearing how he kept an eye on the eligible young ladies who were seated, bleacher-style, on one side of the ballroom. If a young lady wasn’t asked to dance within a certain period of time, she would be escorted to a bleacher near the back wall, out of the light, so people wouldn’t have to look at her pitiful loser-hood. Viv thought this was the origin of the term “wallflower. Seems like a legitimate explanation, but holy cow! This Nash guy was harsh!

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Regency dress

Then it was on to the Jane Austen Centre.

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Where I got to channel Jane Austen…

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Cookie got to practice her flirting…

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and Sis posed with Mr. Darcy (see his portrait, way in the back?) as we awaited our cream tea. Warm scones the size of hockey pucks with cream and jam, and numerous flavors of tea!

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It’s possible that the door above leads to one of the places Jane Austen lived when she lived with her father, mother and sister in Bath. At any rate, it’s in one of her neighborhoods; the family lived in about four different spots during their time in Bath.

We went to the Roman Baths as well, but unless you’re a huge archaeology fan (or you have more time than we had allotted to Bath), you might not want to spend a lot of time there. Cream tea in the Regency Tea Room was much more fun!

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Bon voyage à moi! Et à ma soeur, et Biscuit!

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Research and Funding

We’re going to London! And Paris!

By we, I mean Cookie, Sis, and I. BK was invited, but he’s rather like a cake in that he doesn’t travel well.

That reminds me of a story about my Sis’s friend Carmen:

Many, many years ago, when there was still an Iron Curtain, Carmen traveled behind it, to visit relatives in Poland. One of the relatives entrusted her with a broken samovar to bring back to her parents in the US. Why was this heirloom so important? Not even Carmen was quite sure, but it seemed to mean a great deal to this relative back in the old country, so she agreed to take it. She also bought scads of stuff in Poland, to the point where she was going to have to pay a ton of duty if she came clean about every little thing she bought. So she underestimated her expenditures, and just hoped they wouldn’t ask too many questions.

She was going through Customs and the official was giving her the side eye. She still managed to behave as if butter wouldn’t melt in her little rosebud mouth. The official either smelled a rat or was otherwise immune to Carmen’s charm. He pointed suspiciously at the box that held the family heirloom and said, “What’s in the box?”

Carmen said, “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

Official: “Try me.”

Carmen: “It’s a broken samovar.”

Official: “You’re right, I don’t believe you.”

So Carmen opened the box and revealed the broken samovar. The official seemed at a loss for a sensible response, though he might eventually have asked why she would bother bringing such an item back.

Carmen replied, “Well, I would have baked a cake, but I hear they don’t travel well.”

The official laughed and waved her through, and she was free to go on her merry way. The little outlaw.

So that’s how I learned that cakes, like BK, don’t travel well. With a broken samovar, who can tell? It was already broken.

Anyway, London! With side trips to Stonehenge and Bath.

Paris! With visits to Versailles and Giverny!

We are leaving really soon. We are stoked.

Any tips, hints, ideas for things we shouldn’t miss at any of the above locations? Comments are not only welcome, but highly desirable.

Trip Planning

Cookie, Sis, and I are going to London and Paris. And Bath and Stonehenge and Versailles and Giverny.

I’ve never been to any of those places before. I am stoked.

The trip is coming up soon, so we needed to get together and strategize. We decided to meet at my house. Planning being thirsty work, we needed something to drink. We thought of tea or beer (in honor of England) or else coffee or wine (in honor of France).

Wine won. Here’s what we drank:

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Okay, so it’s not French wine. However, it was thoroughly delicious. We’ll have to see if the French can do any better; we plan to give them every opportunity to prove themselves.