Today, we explored Bath, this morning as a class and this afternoon on our own time. For the readers who have been keeping track of our schedule, we were supposed to go to Glastonbury today, not stay in Bath. Surprise! Because our trains arriving here to Bath had been running late on Friday, we hadn’t actually had the chance to look around the wonderful city we were staying in; on Saturday, we decided that this needed remedied and changed our schedule accordingly. In my opinion, it seems this all worked out in our favor. We could have been fairly miserable at Glastonbury today, since our activities were all outdoors and it rained on-and-off the whole day.
Instead, our rescheduled day began by visiting the Roman baths, which have been a part of the area since the first century AD. The hot water spring here is the only one in Britain, and so it was revered as a gift from the gods by the Romans who settled in the area. After Christianity became widespread, the baths fell into disuse until they were slowly rediscovered and unearthed over the past 300 years. Today, the site features an extensive museum about both the baths themselves and the history of the Roman people in the area. Modern visitors aren’t allowed to touch the water in the baths themselves, but there is a purified spout of it that we were able to drink from as a class. We were there early enough that we beat the crowds by a long shot—we practically had the museum to ourselves!
Afterward, we briefly stopped at the Jane Austen Center. We didn’t go into the museum portion as a class, however: we’d already talked about Austen extensively on Friday, and Dr. Clark figured our time (and money) might be better spent doing other things around the city. The rest of the day was ours!
Bath is, first and foremost, an incredibly lively and beautiful place. Like many English cities, it’s centered around the massive abbey at the center of town. This particular abbey is gorgeous, featuring a stain-glass window at its east end depicting 56 scenes in the life of Christ. Unlike many other abbeys in Britain, this one was actually restored (to some extent) after the English Reformation in the 16th century. Its bells chime several times throughout the day and echo throughout Bath, adding to the city’s charm.
Also very charming is the Pulteney Bridge. It doesn’t look like it from the riverside, but this is actually one of three bridges in the world that has shops lining both sides of the street across (the other two being in Venice and Florence). Shopping is a fairly major attraction in Bath, with several streets downtown being dedicated to pedestrians.
Next to the Pulteney Bridge is the Victoria Art Gallery, opened in the late 19th century. It’s relatively small, with a permanent exhibition on its upper level that displays pieces spanning nearly 700 years of English art history. It’s impressive and thoughtfully presented, and (especially as a college student) I was very pleased to find that this exhibit is open to the public for free.
Perhaps my favorite part of Bath, however, was the plethora of bookshops they had throughout the city. Every few blocks is a beautiful bookshop to go explore—for a literary tour, it was perfectly fitting and made me a very happy English major. My favorite one was right around the corner from our hostel, named Topping & Company Booksellers; it had a great variety of titles, and they offered complimentary tea and coffee for browsers.
Finally, Bath deserves recognition for its cultural variety. There are shops and centers here catering to people from all different walks of life, and this is particularly easy to notice when looking at the city’s restaurants. For instance, in the span of two city blocks near the abbey, I noted restaurants advertising cuisine from Morocco, Spain, Greece, Italy, Thailand, India, America, and Nepal—and there were several pubs in this small area as well! This city’s variety is impressive and is a fantastic example of how multicultural Britain can be.
Tomorrow, we travel to London. We’ve all really enjoyed our time here in Bath, and we’ll definitely be sad to leave this wonderful city behind us, but more adventure calls. Until next time, everyone!