Arrival in Bath

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June 10th 2007
Published: June 10th 2007
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Bath, Sunday June 10, 2006
St Clair Hotel

EN246, Travel Writing in Britain, has officially begun. This is a 3-week course in travel writing, taught by a colleague of mine from Landmark, Lucy. She is British - she grew up in Bath and came to the States at age 20. She has taught this course 2-3 times before, so she has the itinerary pretty well established. I am along as an extra chaperone and to offer academic support and general assistance to the students. We have 12 students with us, 6 women and 6 men. We all have Britrail passes, and our plan is to travel by train from Bath to Cardiff to Oxford to Edinburgh to Whitby to London, staying 2-4 nights in each place. The students will read examples of good travel writing and some historical and cultural background on the sights we are to see, and they will produce 7 short travel essays over the course of the trip. I anticipate it will be a lot of work moving from place to place and keeping everybody organized and in good spirits. Last year several students lost their Britrail passes and/or passports, so already our slogan has become RPM’s. Lucy holds up three fingers to remind students to check that they can locate their 1: rail pass, 2: passport, and 3: money.

Our flight from Boston was uneventful, although a little late getting in. I think I managed to sleep for at least 2-3 good hours. Just enough to keep me functional for one day. I have to say the airline meals were particularly depressing. Dinner was chicken in a mysterious brown sauce, mashed potatoes, well-done green beans, a roll that was hard as a brick, and some lemon cookies. The breakfast croissant was greasy and depressing.

We were a few hours getting out of Heathrow airport, dealing with passport control, getting our BritRail passes okayed, and meeting up with the two students coming in on a flight from France. Then we took the Heathport Shuttle train to Paddington Station. This felt very British and very Victorian with its high arched ceilings. Of course, there was a souvenir stand selling everything Paddington Bear. Lots of fun food options to consider. I got a sandwich for take away at a Sainsbury’s mart. The choices were all very interesting (Tuna with sweetcorn, coronation chicken) but I could not resist Wensleydale cheese with Caramelized Carrot Chutney. I mean, who thinks of these combinations? I also bought some nuts and dried cranberries to have with me in my bag as we travel.

Then we got the train to Bath. We really struggled to find room for all of our luggage on the train. Lucy said this is unusual; for some reason the train had been shorted by a few cars.

We emerged from the station at Bath Spa to be immediately struck by the amazing Bath architecture. Everywhere beautiful Georgian buildings with limestone facades. Very elegant in an understated way. You really can imagine Jane Austen strolling down the street in her classical white empire-waistline frock with green velvet pelisse, wide-brimmed bonnet, and beaded reticule. It’s a bit of a jar when you note that some of these well-preserved historical buildings have street-level store fronts that host Pizza Huts, Vodaphone stores, etc.

Arrived at the Hotel St. Clair about 1: 30 this afternoon, sweaty and tired from walking with all our luggage 20+ minutes across Bath. Hotel St. Clair seems a fairly typical, mid-sized B & B.

After giving everyone an hour or so to
The Pump RoomThe Pump RoomThe Pump Room

I opted not to "take the waters."
settle in, unpack, and freshen up, we took a walk through town. We saw the Royal Crescent, the most impressive Georgian structure I’ve ever seen. The large lawn in front was host to scores of people lounging in the sun, playing Frisbee, and enjoying themselves. It was a warm and sunny day for England, probably 75 degrees (Fahrenheit.) We walked through the Circus, a circular row of perfectly symmetrical Georgian houses, and then walked down to the Pump Rooms, the Roman Baths and the Abbey. There will be time to explore those further tomorrow. We had a group meal for dinner, all together at a very nice Indian restaurant, the Indian Eye. It was voted one of the 30 best Indian restaurants in the UK recently. The large Georgian dining room had beautifully sculpted and painted ceilings; the mix of Georgian design and Indian décor really worked quite well. Most of us were very tired. We enjoyed the excellent food, but were happy to get back to B and B for a good night’s sleep, although a few students headed out for some nightlife, eager to get out and mix with the locals.


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