Victorian, but in character
After breakfast we packed at a leisurely pace, said our goodbyes to Fabiola and walked 25 minutes to the train station. I asked the ticked seller which of two options to take. It was one easy choice; going through “Southampton was £16 cheaper than going through Reading! We were early enough to catch an earlier-than-planned train to Southampton
for a 45 minute wait there. We bought sandwiches in Winchester station and ate them on the second leg of our journey.
After some beautiful vistas of farmland, upon arriving in Bath
we were startled by how built-up it was, in sandstone, low-rise buildings. Directly across from the station was an enormous building site. (Later we saw the conceptual design and it conformed to the low-rise sandstone character of the city.)
We followed our entirely reliable Google map with only one stop for advice. We were astonished by a beautiful river park
far below the street level, close to where we turned onto the Pulteney Bridge
. (It is one of only two bridges in the world with shops on it – the other is Ponte Vecchio in Florence.) The shops blend seamlessly with the shops on Great Puletney Street, our destination.
Great Pultney Street Edgar Townhouse B&B
View from Edgar Townhouse
greeted us in a friendly but confused manner. Our reservation was wrong, and they had sent us an email to ask why we weren’t there already - except we were in Winchester and never saw the email. Thankfully they still had room for us. Up two flights of stairs, we entered a small room with a view over the length of the street, continuous Georgian terrace
on both sides of the street.
We set off fairly soon for a walk. Back across the Bridge we admired the unusual weir on the town side of the Avon River
. It was an elongated, open-ended oval in three beautifully splashy steps. Above the weir were tour boats, swans and ducks. Below were canal boats and more ducks. Beside the river, far below the street level was the private garden - easily seen, but entry cost a pound for non-residents. The lawns were manicured and the flower arrangements showy. As we walked by, many students were lounging in deck chairs or on the grass.
About two blocks from the river, the Abbey
was immediately apparent, rising above all the buildings, facing away from the river. It was a graceful, gothic building with
Looking is free, relaxing is a pound.
flying buttresses. Very little open space around the building gave it a hemmed-in look. To our regret there was Evensong only on Sundays.
In front, to one side were the famous Pump Room
and the Roman Baths
. (We later learned that the Abbey was built over what was found to have been the location of part of the Roman baths and a temple.) On one side was Abbey Square, with park benches on all sides. We sat in the sun and passing cloudy shade to listen to a busker playing guitar. It was pleasant to relax after a day of travel.
Boom! Suddenly we were shaken from our individual reveries. I thought it was a big lorry in an accident or dropping part of a load. Then up in front of the clouds rose a pulsating column of black smoke. It seemed to come from the direction of a construction site, across from the railway station or from the railway itself. Just as we were all settling down - Boom! And shortly after - Boom! More thick, billowing smoke, black birds wheeling around. The guitar man shut up his music gear, and when I gave him a pound, he opined
Pulteney Bridge over the Avon
Magical passageway to our B&B
that it might be a bombing. “You never know!” A waiter from the Pump Room came out their side door and could be heard guessing that it was caused by gas cylinders at the building site. Later we learned he was right. We stayed restfully for a while longer.
As we walked towards our hotel, we started to survey menus for dinner in the many restaurants. Really expensive! £12-20 for an entrée was common. As we crossed the Pulteney Bridge we began to wonder - there were fewer restaurants here. Most were very expensive boutique restaurants, with the exception of a rather dreary place that paid no attention to us. Finally we were rescued by the prototypical modern English restaurant – a curry house! For a reasonable price we had a Bangladeshi meal of Tandoori chicken, lamb (with spinach), papadoms and basmati rice. It was so delicious, we both would have been willing to eat there every night if necessary.
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