Early February, I took a day trip to see the ancient Roman Baths. The city of Bath was only a couple hours away by bus and was incredibly cheap; the offer was impossible to pass up on. Friday night I packed a bag so I could catch my bus bright and early at 6 am...on the other side of London. This required extra strong coffee, a large bag of granola, and several alarms to get me out of bed at 4:30 am.
Bath is approximately 2.5 hours west by bus. After waking up at 4:30 am, I had to quickly get ready to catch one of the annoyingly sparse night buses to take me to the Victoria Coach Station, an hour south towards the Thames. Little to my knowledge, the bus route I needed to take was closed which resulted in me running through the empty streets of central London to make it to the station. I made it with more than enough time to spare, but in my rush, I failed to notice the signage differentiating the Victoria Coach Station (buses) and the Victoria Station (trains).
My bus was scheduled to arrive 30 minutes before departure- with 10 minutes until departure and a bus nowhere to be seen, I began to panic. Frantically looking around I saw the sign that said "Victoria Coach Station" with a sign pointing out of the building. I began at a brisk walk which quickly turned into a full sprint as the minutes ticked by. I ran down the street, flew through the station, and made it to my bus with 4 minutes to spare.
Early Morning Adventures
Bath is a rather small town outside of its center which is packed with pubs and tourist shops. I planned my trip to be in the town for almost 15 hours which was an excessive amount of time to spend in such a small town, but I have no regrets. With the extra time, I was not rushed and could take everything at my own pace. I spent my morning in the Parade Gardens, watching the snow melt off the pine trees while the sun rose. I was able to enjoy a cup of coffee and breakfast at Sally Lunn's which was nestled in the oldest standing house in Bath, dating back to 1482. The atmosphere was incredible and served as a cozy spot to wait for the Roman bath to open.
A Quick History Lesson
Aquae Sulis- what is now the city of Bath, is an ancient roman city founded on a hot spring dating back to roughly 60 AD. The name Aquae Sulis is the Latin phrase for "the waters of Sulis." Sulis Minerva is the deity in which the Roman baths were founded upon. The baths serve as a connection point to the deity who resides within the geothermal spring. Romans would visit the bath from all over to to bathe in the life-giving and nourishing waters an take part in social activity.
Despite the life-giving nature of Sulis, the deity also had a darker side and was believed to right injustices when the victim would write her a message. Tablets of of bronze, lead, and stone were inscribed with pleas to Sulis to avenge a range of crimes: theft, murder, tyranny, injustice, etc. Statues of Sulis Minerva are still intact along with the tablets and gifts to the deity, along with other lost items uncovered in the hot spring. I was able to see these and explore the bath as the ancient Romans once did centuries ago.
Overlooking the Roman baths is the Bath Abbey. This was my favorite place in Bath. The abbey stands over everything in the city and can be seen from almost everywhere. This Anglican cathedral is known to be one of the largest cathedrals built in the Perpendicular Gothic Architectural Style. At one point, the cathedral even served as a Benedictine monastery.
The tremendous cathedral, had my neck craned for hours as I couldn't help but stare at the intricate sculptures incorporated within the elaborate architecture. I spent a large portion of my day sitting in the courtyard taking in the sights of the cathedral. When I wandered inside, it was only moments before the organist began playing. I managed to visit during his scheduled organ practice. I sat in the pew and listened to the music; transfixed, I was taken to another place- one of complete peace. When the organist finished, I stayed inside to read for a while while the sun radiated through the massive stain glass windows.
Off The Beaten Path
With extra time to spare, I was able to experience the city in ways that most tourists are unable. I ventured north, outside of the city center and into the residential areas of Bath. I found a large park called Hedgemear Park which sat on one of the tallest hills in Bath. At the top of the hill, I was able to look out over the whole city and the country side off in the distance.
As the day grew later, I wandered back toward the town square, through the many rows of snow topped apartments. On the way down the hill, I stumbled across a local book store and I decided to wander in. The shop was covered in books from floor to ceiling ranging from brand new, plastic wrapped novels all the way to massive cloth-bound books for hundreds of pounds; there was even a section for product design.
At the end of the day, I joined the locals in a pub to watch the rugby match. I joined in the chaos with a couple pints and a burger as we all watched England take on Ireland. After a couple hours of listening to everyone volley between cheering and screaming at the several televisions, I was still confused as to how the game was played but one thing was for sure, I could cheer because England won. Exhausted after a long day, I hopped on the bus for London and slept the whole way home.