Monday, August 28, 2006


Well, I can finally say that I've seen Buxton's older sibling - the resemblance is amazing, although Bath is a great deal larger ( Bath is the proud home of the Circus (a full circle, as opposed to Buxton's half-circular Crescent) and lots of Crescents, all of which are larger and grander (in a very elegant, understated way) than the Buxton one.

I started up at the Crescent with a tour of No. 1 ( This is a beautifully restored Georgian house, worth every penny I paid to get in. It is so popular, they have one tour guide in each room - they aren't in period dress as advertised, but they are very knowledgeable with a fund of useful little anecdotes ("The lady in that portrait over there - her aunt died of lead poisoning from using lead-based cosmetics" type of thing).

From the Crescent and the Circus, I work my way down to the Assembly Rooms and the Museum of Costume ( The Assembly Rooms aren't officially open. However, I am in luck - they are being cleaned so I manage to sneak a peep at the main rooms. They are very impressive, even with the chandeliers half-dismantled all over the floor. The Museum of Costume was definitely worth a look - I was very impressed to see how historically accurate all my costumes have been over the years!! Their feature show is The Corset and I have a giggle watching other (female!!) tourists trying to get themselves into and out of three replica corsets that have been put out to try on. I could have told them it requires at least two other people to get one of those darned things laced! Even more amusing - someone has devised one with snap clips, like you have on a backpack - the tourists can get this off and on without help, but it isn't quite in the spirit of the thing.

From the Assembly Rooms to Bath's most popular attraction - the old Roman Baths ( The Baths have been built over, excavated and generally messed about for over a millenium, so it's quite astonishing how well preserved they are. Unfortunately, they are also crowded. I was warned - the Lonely Planet clearly said "Do not go to the Roman Baths on a weekend or public holiday" and here I was trying my luck on both!! What that meant was that I joined a very, very long queue (luckily I bought a combined ticket at the Assembly Rooms, which saved a horrible wait at the entry). The queue shuffled down through the layers of the excavation, each of us with our audio guides glued to our ears. Eventually, we emerged at the bottom of the ramp to a stunning view of the baths. For the first few minutes, I tried to be polite, but basically the only way that anyone could see anything was by pushing through the crowd. The pusher then tried to read the signs and view the exhibits as fast as possible before someone pushed them out of the way in turn. The entrance fee included a free glass of spa water. It was lukewarm and quite strange in taste - I prefer St Anne's Well (Buxton) or the Chalice Well (Glastonbury).

The other baths have been converted at great expense into the Thermae Bath Spa, very exclusive. I didn't even bother to think about packing my swimmers but I did get some good photos of the buildings, which are the original Georgian spas.

I also got in a visit to the Victoria Gallery and Museum, courtesy of a short rain shower which put me off trying for a walk in the gardens along the river, and I did a quick once-around the Farmers' Market.

Those who are familiar with the character of spa towns - Bath is like a really big, really spekky Daylesford. The food there was superb, I got a lovely lunch at a place called 'The Walrus and the Carpenter' and I also found a proper Italian gelateria. The route from the 'Walrus' up to the Crescent took me along Gay Street and the route back to the Roman Baths took me past a hair salon which I thought had a most unfortunate name until I got close enough to see the very elaborate sign more clearly and realised it was actually called FOOF.

The bus journey to and from was largely uneventful, except for one thing. When I set out, I got on the bus after an elderly lady. She put her ticket into the machine (they have similar tickets to our Metcards), the machine buzzed and spat it straight back out again. "Oh that's funny" she said, "It's been doing that for ages now". I could clearly see over her shoulder that the ticket expired on 29th July, which would have accounted for her difficulty. I had visions of her travelling for a month on this ticket, wandering blissfully past the bus drivers with a bemused smile. This bus driver was made of sterner stuff and he sold her a valid ticket, while I struggled not to laugh in the background.


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