30-Oct to 1-Nov: Bath (including Stonehenge)

This post covers the city of Bath, which is just as well known for its natural springs as for its Roman-era history. It also covers Stonehenge and the village of Lacock (our bus tour started in Bath). More photos are available on the Bath page.

30-Oct

Leaving Bristol was uneventful. On the way to the train station, we noticed another woman with a wheeled bag who seemed very confident with choosing her path. We ended up following her, and as a result had fewer street crossings than the day before. It ended up being a good choice to follow her lead.

Our train was only a few minutes behind schedule. The ride was a bit over 10 minutes, but the fare was £5.80 each (not quite $10). Kind of pricey, but it made more sense to buy that ticket individually then use a 22 day rail pass, rather than paying for a month-long pass.

We dropping off our bags where we were staying, then took Bath's free walking tour of the city. Our guide was very knowledgeable, but what I found most amusing is she walked very briskly from point to point. Normally guides saunter and talk, but this one spoke, then turned and trotted off to the next location. We hit the highlights, including the baths, Queen's Square, the Circus (a large roundabout with houses surrounding it), the Royal Crescent, and Pulteney Bridge.

 Dress of the Year exhibit at the Bath Fashion Museum

Dress of the Year exhibit at the Bath Fashion Museum

After our tour was done, we were able to check into our room. In the afternoon, we headed up to the Fashion Museum, where they have items covering several centuries, including several from recent decades which they consider dresses of the year. There was also a special exhibit, "The Diana Dresses", which had ten of her dresses on display, showing how her style changed over the years.

Back to our room where we did laundry; it was a luxury to have machines for washing, since last year we did it all by hand. After that, we started seeing what places had free wireless access, since it was not working where we were staying. We found some which had a password, but none that were just open so Melody could quickly confirm our next lodging. We did manage to grab something to take back to heat for dinner, and also picked up dessert.

31-Oct

 Main pool at the Roman Baths

Main pool at the Roman Baths

The first order of business was to make it to the Roman Baths. There was an excellent audio guide which we picked up (so far all audio guides have been free); the person handing them out said he assumed we wanted English, unless we were up for a challenge. There was so much to see that it took us well over a couple hours to go through everything.

We never got a chance to grab lunch at the Bristol Marks & Spencer, so we took the opportunity to do so in Bath. The café was very pleasant, and the way they did up the sandwiches made for a very nice presentation. At the table next to us, a young couple were there with their kids, and the mom was trying to get the younger one (about a year old) to try something. "You'll like it - it's chocolate! Num, num." He wouldn't have anything to do with it.

 Tools in the brash finishing room at the Museum of Bath at Work

Tools in the brash finishing room at the Museum of Bath at Work

Having refueled near the south end of town, we went to the north end to the Museum of Bath at Work, which goes over the city's industrial past. The main floor has a series of exhibits showing how J. B. Bowler not only had a workshop which could make many things to order, but how he also had a carbonated drink factory.

Afterwards, we headed back to our room to find we had a message from the tour company we were using to go to Stonehenge. We had booked a full-day tour for the next day, but ends up we were the only ones who signed up; there's a six person minimum for the tour to be held. They did, however, have room on the half-day tour, so we went ahead and changed our booking to that. Knowing we would have an extra half day, we considered options on what to do the next morning.

 Bath Abbey, looking towards altar

Bath Abbey, looking towards altar

We still had the late afternoon to fill, which we did by going to the Bath Abbey. Even though this church is 500 years old, the previous church was much larger (the current church would entirely fit in the nave of the older one). There's stained glass everywhere you turn, which is why the Abbey is called the "Lantern of the West". While we were there, an organist was practicing for a recital later in the day.

We briefly considered going to the Theatre Royale to see a play, but a combination of the tight schedule (we'd have to get back to eat the dinner we had previously bought, then make it down in time to get tickets) and the fact that it was a local production of "Ben Hur, the Musical", we instead decided to eat then head to a café where we could get wireless access. Oh, and we got some very tasty hot chocolate, in addition.

1-Nov

Since we now had the morning free, we decided to take a Hop On/Hop Off tour of the Bath skyline. It gave us a good look at the parts of Bath which lay outside the city center, including Great Pulteney Street (the poshest street of Bath), the Abbey Cemetery, and the University of Bath. We rode on the open top of a double-decker bus, so it was a bit chilly, but the views were good, even if I did have to duck around the occasional stray tree branch.

For lunch we decided to try the highly recommended Seafoods Fish & Chips. True enough, they were excellent; the breading was crisp with just the right thickness, and the fish was extremely tender. We were the first people in the store after they opened, but by the time we were done there was quite the line waiting for tables. For dessert, we dropped into a gelato store; how could we turn that down?

It was time to catch our mini-bus to Stonehenge, but the first stop was to the village of Lacock, which is as quaint as can be. It's so small that it's practically impossible to get lost. It's been used in several movies, including Pride and Prejudice and Harry Potter. We hopped back onto the bus and as we were heading town, the large tour buses started showing up. Good timing.

 Sun setting at Stonehenge

Sun setting at Stonehenge

We then made it to Stonehenge. We kind of knew what to expect, and several guidebooks (and even our bus driver/tour guide caught in a candid moment) downplay the site more as something famous that people feel the need to see, even there are other stone circles which are more complete and give better access (such as Avebury). However, we decided that we were curious enough, so we picked up our audio guides and started making our way around. Because of previous vandalism, you can't walk right up to the stones, but you do get to walk all the way around. In the end, we were glad we went, because it was both fun and interesting to see. The bus driver timed things so we got there in the late afternoon, and we left just before sunset (just before they started shooing people away).

On the way back to our room, we picked up something to heat for dinner and found that wireless access was once again working. After we ate, we grabbed our laptops and started doing our online things. Several others had the same idea, it seems. On previous nights the only activity in the dining room was people eating and watching the television. On this night, however, there were almost a dozen laptops in use.

Having gotten our internet fix, we started packing, since the next morning we would be off to the Cotswolds, specifically Moreton-in-Marsh.