Sunday, 17 January 2016

Bath

Yesterday I finally paid a visit to a friend in Bath. I say finally, it's not actually taken me as long to get there as these visits usually do. I was last in Bath as a teenager with my family as we made our way back from a holiday to somewhere (I imagine it must have been the holiday to Dorset) and my memories of Bath then were not brilliant. That day, I was tired and miserable as teenagers usually are and as someone who was also living in the flatlands of Norfolk at that time, I was not impressed at having to walk up anything even slightly resembling a hill.

As the train pulled into the station yesterday morning, however, I realised how much I've grown in my appreciation of pretty much everything since my teenage years as I was absolutely astonished at Bath's beauty from the tracks. Hills are still scary but they sure do make places look even more striking!

Stepping onto the freezing cold platform, I did feel like I was stepping into a period drama in my fur, leather gloves and (can I call them) elegant boots. The hissing noise of the train as it sat in the platform followed by the slamming of carriage doors and the whistle being blown tipped of my transportation to another time, but not another place. I was almost expecting to be greeted by horse and cart... I'm so fanciful.

Whilst on the train I had made what I hoped was a relatively comprehensive list of things to do during the day. I knew that I wanted to return to things I had seen before in the hope that I would appreciate them more this time but I also wanted to do things we didn't get time for before as well as venturing to a pretty National Trust park I had spied online that very morning.

Armed with my list, we first wandered to the Royal Crescent, through The Circus, passing many other pieces of architectural interest along the way. A row of terraced houses standing in, well, a crescent with the greenest of grass below for residents only, it really is a place straight out of a Jane Austen novel. Despite the freezing cold, the sun was shining so we agreed I'd chosen a good day for a visit and it was in fact perfect weather for wandering. At this point, even my 'elegant boots' seemed appropriate too.






From the Royal Crescent, we wandered back towards the city centre for a cup of tea and to get our bearings. The café we chose was situated right on top of Pulteney Bridge where we enjoyed a pot of Earl Grey and the biggest and yummiest Rocky Road ever with a pretty view over the waters below. Here we looked up the Prior Park and Landscape Garden, a National Trust property which turned out to be a short half an hour walk from where we were. We endeavoured therefore to make our way there before lunch and while the sun was still shining.


A short walk feels an awful lot shorter when it's not uphill the entire way. I'm not complaining, honestly. But I definitely don't now feel at all compelled to join a gym this month. I've had my fill. When we arrived at the park, we were greeted by the most over-enthusiastic National Trust employee who was shocked that we, when under 26, were not members; she certainly had us questioning it but I've decided that National Trust membership requires a car and absolute commitment to make the most of it which I'm not entirely sure I would do. Maybe next year.

Once in the park, we were given the sweetest map in the guise of a scroll complete with 'wax' seal. Apparently starting at the top meant it was literally all down hill from then on, so we decided we'd made the right decision, even when we did see others who looked like they were heading to the same destination taking an alternative route much further down. Around we wandered and were almost instantly met with a very impressive view over the city. By now, the sun was shining less but fortunately it was still very clear and after our mission up the hill, we were also feeling a lot less cold.



Now downhill had sounded wonderful until I remembered what was on my feet. I think upon getting dressed in the morning I had thought to myself 'city  visit' and it was only when suddenly faced with slipping and sliding down icy and muddy paths that I was feeling a lot less elegant. Never one to be truly practically dressed, I made the best of it and remarkably survived the experience completely unscathed. 

The map led us through woodland and across a field full of enormous mounds apparently created by ants which was a pretty terrifying thought. We hoped that the fact they were frozen pretty solid meant that we would not be encountering any of these ants. As we came out of the woodland, there was a beautiful tree swing with the comfiest seat and sturdy ropes so of course we had to have a go for a while. There really is not much better than a swing! From above we could now see the bridge across the lake that had first drawn me to the garden in pictures online. So we made our way down.


Another filmic moment, I half expected Mr Darcy to suddenly appear or for Bingley to be pacing up and down in a flutter. Needless to say, there were no moments of passion shared on this particular day and instead we admired the ancient graffiti and the artistic placement of the bridge in relation to the mansion which stood tall on the hill above. It was a really wonderful construction.



As we made our way from the bridge to the exit, we were distracted by a sign to the Ice House which of course we had to investigate. They really do fascinate me, particularly as this one was so far away from the main house. It's a funny thing to imagine using one as your fridge with chunks of ice from the lake.

Leaving the park by the exit at the bottom rather than dragging ourselves back up the hill. we then found ourselves wandering past a 15th century church and so many beautiful houses before we were finally back in the city in time for some lunch. Our feet took a well deserved rest for a toastie and a lemonade and here we made plans for the afternoon. 



Top of my list was Bath Abbey so it was here that we decided to go next. It was suggested that we not only went inside but also took a tour of the towers which of course I was keen to do. Something wonderful about Bath is their Discovery Pass for local residents which means those that live in the city can make the most of the many attractions without having to bankrupt themselves. Take note, London.


Once in the Abbey, we booked onto the next tour which gave us plenty of time to warm up as we wandered around inside, admiring the ceiling and many unique crests on display in the stained glass windows. After the first hundred and something steps, we realised how cruel we were being to our legs and I feared a heart attack might strike me upon my return to London. Yet here I am writing this today so I guess I survived. Having woken up at 20 past 8 though and with it now being quarter to 1, I can safely say I have only moved from my bed in order to make two cups of a tea and a bowl of cereal and to visit the bathroom (not yet for a shower; I'm very much still in my pyjamas). 


The views from the top were worth the reward though as we first looked through a strange hole in the stone ceiling which was a mere 4 inches thick at the pews and unsuspecting people below. Climbing higher still, we were introduced to the bells and regaled with many stories of their terror. It's got to be a bit sad that I actually do find church bells quite so fascinating. I guess it's what comes from climbing so many towers about the place. The higher we climbed, the better the views became. Views of London sure are hard to beat but it was lovely to see a lack of cranes for a change!




I think we actually chose the perfect time to be on top of the Abbey because the sun began to set as we made our way back down. After being confronted with a half an hour wait at every restaurant we tried for lunch, we had decided that we'd manage something small then and booked ourselves a table for early evening before I had to catch my train home. We ended up eating at The Cosy Club which had a lovely vintage feel and provided us with very tasty food indeed. 

Time to go home and I was safe in the knowledge that I would sleep well! I'm pleased to have made some new memories in Bath although I never did blame the city for my being such a misery guts last time, I just didn't have the most pleasant recollection. It's a truly beautiful place and I hope to return perhaps in the summer months. Surely a spa experience is next on the list...