Jane Austen's England - Bath, Thursday 2008 September 25


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Europe » United Kingdom » England » Somerset » Bath
September 25th 2008
Published: June 9th 2015
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Canal boat, Avon RiverCanal boat, Avon RiverCanal boat, Avon River

An exotic holiday throughout England
This was our expensive pampering day.

However, since we actually woke early (6:30), after breakfast at 8:00, we climbed down the steps by Pulteney Bridge and along the river walk (below the weir). At this time of day it was favoured by mothers with young children who entertainingly threw bread for the ducks. Near the train station (we were well below street level), we watched two couples maneuver their holiday canal boat through a canal lock. Just as I saw in Oxford a few years ago, the women used the winches to open and close the lock gates while one man steered and the other took photos. After one misdirection, we continued our walk almost to the bus station.

By this time, our schedule dictated going to the Thermae Spa, having bought discounted tickets from our hotel (at £20.50 each). We were soon introduced to the routine: plastic smart bracelet for entrance/exit timing (2 hrs plus 15 min for dressing), plus secure locker and credit in café. The changing room is mixed; you walk into a booth with doors on both sides and after changing you step out on the other side, put your clothes in a locker and lock
Thermae SpaThermae SpaThermae Spa

Luxurious destination for pampering
it electronically. Previously we had bought towels for £4.99 in the Guildhall Market to avoid paying £3.0 to rent, but we did take the spa’s advice to rent a dressing gown (£4.00). By the end of our stay our gowns were unpleasantly soaking wet.

Lots of options were available. We walked a couple of flights up to the roof-top pool. Supposedly warm, we found it a little lower than bath temperature – not like Banff Hot Springs. Every once in a while the water would bubble in various spots in the pools, pleasantly similar to hot tubs. The view was spectacular, particularly on the side with the Abbey and a background of green fields. After an hour passed very easily, we left the roof-top to go down to the underground Minerva Pool. Its temperature was even cooler! After a short stay, we ascended to the steam rooms. Finally the temperature was hot! In one large room, there were four circular glass steam rooms, each with different scents. We tried Eucalyptus and Mint and enjoyed both. (I smelled the subtle fragrance on me for another 24 hours). We liked was the roof-top pool the best, so we returned there. Suddenly we had
Cross Bath SpaCross Bath SpaCross Bath Spa

The spa in jane Austen's time, although she doesn't mention it.
to rush through our 15 minutes of showering, drying and changing time.

A few minutes later we entered the elegant Pump Room restaurant for our 1:00 reservation. A pianist played a grand piano as we ordered and ate lunch. Deirdre had the great idea of each of us ordering different courses for the set lunch of two courses, and we shared everything as usual: pear and dried ham salad, rabbit and venison sausages with mash and pureed squash, squash and mushroom stew (which wasn’t a stew) and steamed cranberry orange pudding. Deirdre drank traditional cranberry and elderflower spritzer, and I had a local dark bitter beer.

We turned right from the Pump Room to go to the Roman Baths next door. A “free” audio guide came with the £10.50 fee. This tour took much longer and was much more informative than we had imagined.

We entered onto a terrace, which was added by the Victorians along with statues of all the Roman conquerors of England standing on the roof in a dispersed fashion. Below was a rectangular pool (green with algae). This Roman pool was part of a large complex of altars, shrines, and a temple. It was called
Pump RoomPump RoomPump Room

Locale of flirting in the guise of health in times past
Sulis Minerva: Sulis for the Saxon goddess already worshipped there and Minerva for the similar Roman goddess. After touring the terrace we entered the museum itself, which was desgned as a pathway leading us through variously themed displays and topics.

We had hardly started when Deirdre noticed that a guided tour started by the pool at 4:00, so we hustled through the displays without listening or looking much. This was a good decision because our guide was passionate about the Baths, although he was from New Zealand. He led us around the pool relating the history of the ancient complex and the probable Saxon and Norman times. Then he took us into what are now subterranean rooms but were surface rooms in Roman times: the tepidarium and caldarium, the massage rooms, the preparation rooms, etc. Although the rooms are in ruins, the guide really stimulated our imaginations to see them alive in Roman times. Finally he took us to the water source – a pool that still bubbles up with in-coming water, and the actual cascading underground stream, warm and steaming, gushing over slightly orange stones.

We retraced our steps through an official shortcut to take us back
Lunch in the Pump RoomLunch in the Pump RoomLunch in the Pump Room

Do we look a bit damp?!
to the beginning, where we started the audio tour again, reading the historical notes with even more interest. Many artifacts on display were found as part of town building works over the ages. The Abbey foundations constrain how much excavation can be done, curtailing a more extensive understanding of the temple complex. Nevertheless, we spent a total of three hours with the guide and audio guide - until we couldn’t take in any more.

Although it was time for an early dinner, we weren’t hungry after our lunch – not much surprise! We decided to walk up to the school theatre for the Northanger Abbey play, since 15 minutes downhill to return means that the walk uphill is not particularly long. As we toiled up the main road of our route, we paused to take a photo of Camden Crescent and the Paragon Building, Jane Austen sites. Then we continued toiling uphill for another fifteen minutes. By this time we were doubting the validity of the directions. A small hotel stood on the corner, and I crossed over and asked the receptionist about the theatre. He was horrified that we were trying to walk there because it was another 25
PumpPumpPump

Genteelly served glass of spring water direct from the source below the foundations
minutes away. He insistently offered to order us a taxi and we concurred. Good thing! The taxi ride was 10-15 minutes, and the school was off the main road. We would never have found it!!

At the school, we were politely greeted by a couple of uniformed school boys who directed us across the courtyard and through a tunnel to the theatre. After a wait, during which many people bought beer or wine (and took it into the theatre), the performance space opened. We found a couple of seats in the third row. The theatre was a gym, but the racked seats were individualized and padded. The stage set was simple and clever. A flat, box-shaped riser defined the centre of the stage. At the back was a backdrop in the form of a multi-paneled room screen; each of the panels swung freely. On one side the panels made one scene, and on the order side another scene - all black on white. As the play went on, at an increasingly fast, farcical pace, the actors used the panels for entrances and exits, as well as the wings (theatrical black curtains). The play was funny and witty, superficially similar to the novel, and populated by four actors who rapidly changed costume elements. Although it started late, it finished on time, and our return taxi was also on time at 10:15.

View map of trip.

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