Roman ruins in Britain at Bath Spa
Summer of 2001. My roommate, and I, have a weekend ahead and nothing planned for us. We were 2 bachelors sharing a house. On most weekends we would not have much to do. On one weekend we were thinking of spending a lazy Saturday at our home in Cardiff, probably lunch at Burger King and then probably laze out on the banks of river Taff and then catch up with some movies in the evening at home on the telly. The perfect way to spend a Saturday for us. Completely chilled. But then, my roommate had a great suggestion. He said, “Why don’t we visit Bath? It’s a picturesque city and not too far away.” I thought, why not?. We hopped on a train to Bath from Cardiff Central station. I was mesmerised by the beauty of the city. The entire day was spent on foot, from the Roman bathhouse, the city center and finally a boat cruise. When I left Bath I said to myself that I would come back to city once more.
12 years on …..
It actually took me about 12 years for this dream to turn into a reality. This time I visited Bath with my wife and son. That was when I got a project in UK again. I was posted in Doncaster and I took the opportunity of a long weekend to visit the city of Bath, the Stonehenge and Oxford in succession.
In Doncaster I did not own a car. I would commute on a bus to office and back. We would walk down to the city center and the market for our weekly grocery shopping, bank, or just regular eat out or window shopping. When we would plan to travel somewhere we would rent a car from Avis and go on a road trip. This was for going to those places where it would be more convenient to drive. One good thing is that in the UK anyone with an Indian driver’s license could drive for up to 1 year from the date of arrival to the country. Good thing is that the cars run on the left side, just like India.
Starting from Doncaster
On one a long weekend in August’ 2013 we planned our tour of Bath. The plan was to go around during the day and then tuck in to the closest and cheapest Holiday Inn Express we could find. We planned it all out and headed off. We started on Thursday evening from Doncaster, driving through wet conditions, quite the usual for England, and reached Bath around 10 o’ clock at night. Google maps was a little confused around the end of the journey and we lost our way to the hotel and eventually made it back to the Holiday Inn Express Bath at Bath Spa. Yes, Bath Spa is the name of the city.
The morning unfortunately was overcast and we were a little disappointed. Then again Google had already predicted that the day would be wet. Considering that it was not raining, we thought that it was a small victory. After finishing our breakfast around 9, we checked out of the hotel and packed our luggage in the car and kept the car parked on the hotel premises. The idea was to tour Bath through the day and come back to the hotel in the evening and drive down to our next hotel, the Holiday Inn in Swindon.
After loading the car with our small luggage we started our journey on foot. We came to the river bank. It was the river Avon, that flows through Bath. We were going to walk on a small footbridge to cross the river but we saw a houseboat moored on the embankment of the river and we waited for a moment to admire it.
A pretty houseboat
An old lady was sitting on the embankment, right next to the boat. We walked up to the houseboat to admire it up close. The old lady noticed us and introduced herself. It so happened that her husband and her decided to sell off their house to live in a houseboat so that they can go wherever they wanted without being tied down to a single location. They wanted to spend the rest of their lives living like nomads. They made this decision after their only son had grown up and was working somewhere in England. Wow! We never thought old people would ever want to leave their home to explore the globe. The lady was so nice. She in fact invited us into her houseboat to look around. I was a little reluctant at first, thinking that it would be invading her privacy, but she insisted.
The inside of the houseboat was a little crammed, but I thought it was enough for 2 people. Interestingly, they had pretty much everything one might need for leading a life on the boat, a gas oven with sink, a small dining table, a small bed, washing machine and even a dryer!
It was already beyond 10 and I indicated to my wife that we should get moving. There’s a lot to see in Bath, starting with the bath house. We might take about 20 to 45 minutes in the queue to buy tickets to the Bath house. We thanked the lady for her hospitality and walked briskly towards the Roman bath house.
Bath Spa had lots to see, starting from the Roman Bath, the Abbey, The Royal Crescent, Parade Gardens, just to name the top must-see spots. There is so much history around since the Roman ages.
The city of Bath is renowned for its ancient Roman baths. It is said that ancient Romans had discovered the place and had constructed a Roman bathhouse on top of a hot spring. A city grew around it and was named Bath. Centuries after the Romans left Britain the city flourished as a medical tourism spot to the high and mighty of Britain who would come down to the city to take a dip in the hot springs to rid themselves of diseases. Hence the name, Bath.
Walking through the city
We started walking towards the Roman Bath as that’s the biggest attraction of the city and so we wanted to start with it. The Roman Bath is still preserved as a wonderful tourist spot till date and millions of tourists from the world over come to see the ancient structure. While walking along the pretty streets of Bath we chanced on a cute store. I stopped on my tracks. It was the Jane Austen Center.
Did you know that Jane Austen used to live in Bath. In fact, Pride and Prejudice was written in this city. Wow!
After taking that sight in we continued to walk towards the Roman Bath. The area around the Roman Bath was quite crowded. Understandable, as all tourist come to Bath to see it. There were small shops, cute roadside markets and even musicians. Anyone could spend an entire day on the streets just watching all the happenings. Time would bide by without noticing. As a matter of fact, we realized that we were also captivated by lively atmosphere.
I was tempted to stand and spend some time to see the life, but then we were running on a clock. We just had the day to take in as much as we could of Bath, so we walked right into the Bath house welcome center to buy tickets. You can get complete information of the Roman bath house at the official site.
The Roman Bath house
After we bought our tickets we walked inside. We were given a handheld device, looking somewhat like a walkie talkie, that had buttons with numbers on it like a telephone. The device was a guide. At each point throughout the bath house there were numbers. If we dialled that number and held the phone to our ear, it would tell us history about that particular location. Once in we first saw the magnificent bath that represented a swimming pool, then how hot spring water is diverted into the bath house, steaming area, the roman drains, even a spot where Romans used to worship.
We spent about 3 hours in the Bath house. After we left the house we took a quick lunch of a hot dog each and then decided to take a Hop-on-Hop-off bus to tour the city and see the best spots.
Hop-on-hop-off bus trip
We walked towards Cheap Street across the Bath and saw a double decker bus waiting. These hop-on-hop-off buses are run by a company called Worldwide Sightseeing and the buses touch all the major spots of a city. We hopped on. The price was a little steep, 16 GBP a head, but we were a little tired as we were on our feet since morning and so the thought of sitting down and having a guide tell us about the city was too inviting. We walked up to the upper deck as the top of these buses are removed to give a clear view and I could also shoot ample photographs. The guide was standing in the front and was constantly running his commentary and pointing to each and every spot.
The bus first drove through the city centre and the spots in and around it, e.g. Parade gardens, the river pier, Jane Austen’s house. When it came to the Royal Crescent, the guide suggested that we disembark and spend some time other there. The Royal Crescent is a row house but instead of a straight line, it was curved like a crescent overlooking a lovely park, the Royal Victoria Park.
The Royal Crescent was earlier called King’s Circus was constructed around 1755 AD and is a lovely structure from Georgian times. We got off the bus and walked around the Crescent admiring the magnificent architecture of John Wood. All that walk was tiring and we decided to sit in the park till the next bus comes. When the next bus came we climbed in.
The bus took us to the outskirts of the city, to the nearby hills. Frankly, I had no idea that such beautiful homes were constructed there. The view of the countryside was also exquisite.
We took our time on the bus, having it take us through the city once more. Around 5 we came back to the city centre and got off. We picked up our gait then as we had to go back to our hotel, take our car and rush off to our next destination, Stonehenge, about 33 miles from Bath and would take us about an hour to drive. Stonehenge would close at 7pm, so we should make it there comfortably.