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Published: January 4th 2017
As my flight prepared for landing at Heathrow Airport in London, the pilot's announcement rang through the cabin - 'one degree and foggy outside with visibility of 400 metres'. Welcome to winter in England!
Long haul flights can be trying and I was feeling sleep deprived and headachy by the time I passed through immigration and made my way through the airport, following the signs to the bus station. My journey wasn't quite over, I had a two hour bus trip from London to Bristol yet. I was pleased to be able to change my booked ticket (an extra £8) for an earlier service once I'd found the National Express desk, and was able to hop on a coach leaving in five minutes. Bonus!
How wonderful it was to see my daughter Petra, her husband Ben, 3 year old Florence (whom I'd only met only twice before on Petra's visits to Australia) and my new grandson, one week old Samuel. We piled into their car for the 40 minute drive to Weston Super Mare, a seaside town 37klm south west of Bristol, in Somerset, where they lived.
I won't be blogging everyday on this trip as it is
essentially a trip for catching up with family. We will, of course, have days out and about with visits to Bristol, Bath and London topping the list, and these will be the days I'll write about here.
Tuesday 3rd January.
Ben has to work and Florence will be in nursery school today, so Petra and I have decided to pack up Samuel and spend the day in Bath. I have visited this lovely city many years ago and was looking forward to a return trip.
The city of Bath was founded in the 1st century AD by the Romans who used the natural hot springs here as a thermal spa. In the 18th century it developed into an elegant spa city, famed in literature and art, and was the home town of Jane Austen, author of 'Pride & Prejudice'. Bath was given UNESCO World Heritage listing in 1987.
We could have caught a train from Weston to Bath, but instead we dropped Florence at nursery school and continued into Bristol with Ben, who dropped us at the railway station. Bath was only 12 minutes away...
The train fare from Bristol to Bath was £8.60, another
The Royal Cresent
One of the plaques about a 17th century resident in one of the houses. This plaque was on the wall near the front door.
£1 to buy a tourist map from a vending machine when we arrived, and we were sorted, or so we thought! It seems Petra has inherited my lousy sense of direction and map reading skills, so after a few false starts we gave up and asked a passerby, who pointed us in the direction of The Royal Crescent.
The Royal Crescent is a row of 30 terraced houses laid out in a sweeping crescent facing a perfectly manicured lawned area, reserved for the exclusive use of residents. Built between 1767 and 1774, it is among the greatest examples of Georgian Architecture to be found in the UK. Although some changes have been made to the various interiors over the years, the stone facade remains much the same as when it was first built.
Many notable people have either lived or stayed in the Royal Crescent since it was first built over 240 years ago, and some are commemorated on special plaques attached to the relevant buildings. Unfortunately the museum in Number 1 was closed over the winter, I'm sure it would have made interesting browsing.
From here it was only a short walk to The Circus, another
example of Georgian architecture, again, built in the 1700's. The word 'circus' means round, in Latin. Divided into three segments of equal length, the Circus is a circular space surrounded by large townhouses. Each of the curved segments faces one of the three entrances, ensuring that whichever way a visitor enters there is a classical facade straight ahead.
Our next stop was Bath Abbey, via several detours into some of the lovely shops we passed along the way. Entry into The Abbey is by donation and it's well worth the visit. Magnificent stained glass windows, columns of honey-gold stone and some of the finest fan vaulting in the world, create an extraordinary experience of light and space. There has been a place of Christian worship on this site for over 1,200 years and the Abbey remains very much a living church today with services taking place regularly.
The Abbey faces a cobbled square, milling with people who stop to watch the buskers, enjoy a coffee or a browse in the lovely shops. I treated myself to a memento of Bath in the Bath Aqua Glass Shop, a gorgeous hanging heart with cobalt blue and green flecks.
Beyween two trees, between two buildings at The Circus.
fronting this square is the Roman Baths, a well preserved Roman site, once used for public bathing. The Romans constructed a complex of bathhouses above Bath's three natural hot springs. Situated alongside a temple dedicated to the healing goddess Sulis-Minerva, the baths now form one of the best-preserved ancient Roman spas in the world. The original baths are now situated below ground level. Visitors can't bath in these waters today but can enjoy the modern spa which has opened in the same building.
As I had seen inside The Baths on a previous visit, and visited the museum, I didn't go again. Instead I pulled out the credit card and treated Petra and I to lunch in one of the most elegant restaurants in Bath, The Pump Room.
This venue with its Corinthian columns, glittering chandelier and spa fountain adjoins The Roman Baths. Here we enjoyed a two course lunch whilst listening to a pianist tickle the ivories of a baby grand piano.
The middle of winter isn't peak tourist season, so Bath isn't too crowded, and we had no problems manoeuvering Sam's pram through the streets. He is such a good baby, sleeping peacefully in his
cocoon of blankets, making no demands except for feeding and nappy change stops. Coffee shops can be very handy places sometimes, and a good opportunity for us to sit down for 10 minutes as well.
Next photo stop was Pulteney Bridge which crosses the River Avon. It was built in 1774, and is exceptional in having shops built across its full span on both sides. The street over the bridge itself is closed to traffic, except for buses, taxis and cycles.
This bridge, with its sweeping horseshoe-shaped weir, is one of Bath’s most photographed attractions. The estimated cost of the bridge was £1,000. It ended up costing £10,000 which, over 200 years ago, was the equivalent of several million pounds today.
Time was moving on, darkness will be closing in on us by 4.30pm, and it's time to think about returning home and getting Sam out of the cold. We had return train tickets to Bristol and purchased tickets from there to Worle, Petra's home station, on the train. Ben and Florence returned home around 6.30pm, Flo excited about her day at nursery school and Ben probably just thankful to be home. It's been a good day!
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