Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Green and Pleasant Land, Part 3: Bath

I think the city of Bath is a place that really must be experienced; photographs and descriptions simply won’t do justice to the elegance of the 18th century architecture, the cool, classical perfection of which is enlivened by the soft golden warmth of the Bath limestone out of which it is made. It’s a beautiful little place, a gem of a city, and wonderfully walkable despite its hilliness.

And walk we did—from our B&B at the foot of the hill upon which the famous Royal Crescent stands—an arc of very elegant row housing built in the 1760s-1770s—up to the Crescent itself. Lovely!

At the end of the Crescent (at right in the picture above) is a delightful historic house museum, No. 1 Royal Crescent, which has been restored to its 18th century origins as the home of Mr. Henry Sandford, who lived there from 1776 to 1796. In addition to the house itself, a small special exhibit of 18th and early 19th century doll houses was on display—an interesting follow-up to our visit to Windsor. Among the exhibits was a replica of a patent medical electrical machine, one of which Sandford is known to have owned and which became something of a fad in the early 19th century, but for entertainment purposes, not healing:

Our next stop was the Bath Assembly Rooms...

I had a little sigh viewing the lovely ballroom, wishing Almack's Assembly Rooms were still around...but this gave me a good feel for the space:

In the same building as the Assembly Rooms is the Fashion Museum of Bath, which boasts an enormous collection of clothing items dating all the way back to the 1580s. The emphasis of the current exhibit (which changes frequently as clothes can't be left on display for long--gravity does a job on them!) was 18th century, which was lovely (and a little stupefying--OMG those crazy court hoopskirts!) but alas not as interesting to me as a larger selection of, say, clothes from 1810 might have been. However, one of Queen Victoria's dresses ca. 1897 (black, of course) was on display, and...um, no disrespect intended, but yes, she was more or less as wide as she was tall!

After lunch, it was on to the Roman baths museum, which I visited on my last trip to England 25 years ago...and they're still pretty awesome in their extent and complexity:

Just for fun, here's an awesome picture my husband took of an unlit hypocaust alcove (the under-floor heating system the Romans used)--his flash revealed pencil-thin stalactites formed by the incredibly mineral rich water dripping down from somewhere: 

And yes, Daughter #1 and I were brave enough to sample the water at the Pump Room, where the infirm gathered for supposedly healing draughts of Bath's water....on the principle, I suppose, that anything that tastes so nasty must be good for you!

However, a very pleasant tea soon chased away the flavor:

A brief tour of Bath Abbey finished our visit to Bath...along with very sore feet.  But oh, what a day!

Next stop, Dartmoor: stones, sheep, and prehistory galore!


Lynn Lovegreen said...

I've been enjoying your trip--thanks for sharing!

Marissa Doyle said...

You're very welcome, Lynn! I'm already noodling over where I want to go next time we venture to England...hopefully it won't be another 25 years the way it was between this visit and my last!

QNPoohBear said...

I loved Bath so much! It looks like you had lovely weather. The Assembly Rooms and Museum of Fashion were so interesting. As an archivist, I especially enjoyed the part of the museum where they show you their storage vaults. I also liked the decades of fashion. Poor Queen Victoria! It's easy to be as wide as you are tall when you're not even 5 feet tall. Did you try on a corset and hoop? They're so heavy and you can't breathe in a corset.

I did the combo ticket so went to the Roman Baths museum too. I remember seeing the baths on my school trip years ago but we didn't do the museum. It was fun to see how my dad's ancestors (Romans) came to the land of my mom's ancestors and perhaps some of my long long distant ancestors once lived in the area. What I really liked was seeing the setting of Stephanie Burgis' Renegade Magic (Kat, Incorrigible 2 ; a charming middle grades Regency fantasy series).

I wasn't brave enough to try the waters but ongoing back problems make me wish I could go back and take the waters. I had a discount to the spa but didn't want to spend the money.