Please sign in to post.

Five Days in Bath

This is the second of three installments of a narrative of our September 2019 trip to Wales and Southwest England. The first part was posted as Four Days in Cardiff. This thread concerns our stay in Bath, including a bus tour to Wells and Glastonbury.

Friday, September 6, 2019 (Cardiff to Bath)
After eating breakfast, we returned to our room and completed our last-minute packing. Then we lugged the bags down the stairs to the desk. We checked out and lugged down one more floor to the street. We trundled down to the railway station with our roller bags and backpacks. We had no trouble buying the tickets or finding the platform. We had a bit of a wait for our train, but it wasn’t difficult to identify when it arrived. Yet more lugging of our impedimenta up yet more steps, and then we said goodbye to Wales.

The train car had a fair number of passengers, but it wasn’t crowded. It included a luggage rack, and so we didn’t have to squeeze our gear into the seats. We were not the only passengers with luggage. We rolled through the Welsh countryside, under the Severn Estuary via tunnel, and into England.

We arrived at Bath and found our way out of the railway station. We noticed that it is adjacent to the bus station, a fact that would be useful on the next stage of our journey. However, the immediate goal was to find the Premier Inn, Bath City Center. We found the street (St. James Street West) quite easily. However, the hotel was another matter. We walked right past it without noticing and were some distance beyond before we realized that something was wrong. I had to get out my phone to figure out where we were and where we needed to be—something we almost never need to do. We turned back to search again. I almost had us trying to check into the wrong hotel. The problem was, as we later worked out, that this hotel’s signs were intended to be seen by drivers, with little thought to pedestrians. The building has a cantilever over the sidewalk, and the sign is on the side of that. Thus, we walked right under it without seeing it. Fortunately, Fran spotted the small sign on the door when we made our second pass.

Upon entering, we found a cool corporate lobby with a pedestal desk equipped with computers and two uniformed employees. It was too early for check-in, of course. They put tags on our luggage, giving us matching tickets, and then took us to their storage room. They also supplied us with a map.

We went up St. James again. At about the point where we had turned back the first time, we turned to the northeast until we got to Queen Square. Then we headed northwest again, reaching the Circus. The Circus is one of the famous Georgian developments in Bath, a circle of “terraces” (Americans would call them townhouses) around a green circle dominated by a huge oak tree at the center. It’s a photographer’s delight. From the Circus, we went northwest again until we reached the Royal Crescent, a semi-circle of Georgian terraces that was even more posh than the Circus in their day. They have since been restored to their glory and again are expensive homes. By this time, we were seeing tour groups accumulating, both walking and by coach. Cameras and phones were jostling for angles. The weather was uncooperative, with clouds and intermittent sprinkles.

We walked out the other end of the Crescent and found ourselves in Royal Victoria Park. This was named after the nascent queen before she ascended the throne. Victoria wasn’t fond of Bath. When she visited as a teenage princess, the newspapers said some unfavorable things about her—something about her being fat. The park is a mixture of greenway, formal beds, and sports facilities.

Posted by
485 posts

Friday, September 6, 2019 (Continued)

We connected to Upper Bristol Road, which took us in the direction of the center of town. On the way we stopped at Bristol Brew House for lunch. Although the public room wasn’t terribly crowded, they were in the middle of setting up a tour group luncheon in one of their private rooms. They warned us that food service would be delayed. That was fine with us. We sat and sipped our beer, watching the swirl of humanity around us. Eventually the fish finger sandwiches with chips were delivered to our table.

By now it was past check-in time. We returned to the hotel, which was just down the street from the pub. There was a bit of queue of people checking in, but the two uniformed employees working the computers at the pedestal desk knew their business and processed us quickly. We soon had our keycards and were escorted to the storage room to retrieve our luggage. Then it was up the elevator to our room.

The room itself was quite nice. It was bigger than most. We could move around without having to coordinate our positions. The Premier Inn Bath City Center is a modern business hotel. Everything works as you expect. The décor is pleasing, if not memorable. We didn’t have much of a view—just the college building across the street. The staff are helpful and efficient. On the whole, it is a good base for a stay in Bath. What it doesn’t have is local character. Once inside, you could be in any modern business hotel anywhere in the world. I imagine that this is the aim of the Premier Inn chain: consistent, hassle-free accommodations. They achieve that goal. This extends to the personnel. I got the feeling that they were behaving and even talking exactly as trained. Each day at breakfast, we were greeted with the same words and explanation of how the buffet worked. There was no personal small talk or recognition that we had been there on previous mornings. The staff was multinational, but the only indication we had of their countries of origin were the little flags on their name tags.

After unpacking what we would need for our stay, we set out again. We were headed for the heart of the city, where we wanted to find Bath Abbey, the TI, and the point where we were to meet our bus tour on the following day. We discovered that Bath is a difficult city to navigate. There are lots of twisty little streets that don’t go in the same direction for very long. The map we had from the hotel showed all the streets, but not all their names. Street signs are posted on the sides of buildings, seemingly at the whim of the owners. Even though the distance from our hotel to the Abbey was very short, we had to do a lot stumbling around before we found it.

The Abbey was undergoing renovation, as so many prominent historic churches seem to be when we visit them. The entire nave was divided longitudinally by a wooden barrier. We could visit the right half, but the left was closed. Even so, it is an impressive sight, with soaring columns extending to fan-like arches in the ceiling. A key part of visiting British churches is reading the memorial stones embedded tin the walls and floor. Sadly, many of these are worn beyond deciphering by feet such as ours. The ones we could read spoke of prominent residents, some with stones embellished by statuary. There are also much simpler stones, some with occupational descriptions or just names. Some are dedicated to children.

After leaving the Abbey, we made our way through more twisty streets until we reached North Parade, which was where we were to meet the tour bus. Having confirmed the location we went into the TI, which was nearby (and easy to find, for a change!). I bought a couple of magnets and their official map. When I got outside, I discovered that the map was just the same as the one we had got for free from the hotel! Oh, well. It was only a pound.

Posted by
485 posts

Friday, September 6, 2019 (Continued)

Across the street is North Parade Gardens. This park was historically reserved for the residents of the nearby North Parade area. For that reason, visitors must pay an admission fee of two pounds. Because of my age, I qualified for the “concession” price of one pound. It is a pleasant little spot, with formal beds, a band shell, deck chairs, and a very old pet cemetery. It is right on the River Avon and gives a good view of the Pulteney Weir and the shop-lined Pulteney Bridge. After leaving the gardens we walked along the street to bridge and crossed over. From that vantage point we could see how narrow the shops on the bridge are. They are mostly high-value retailers, such as jewelry, art, and antiques. However, there are also tea rooms and coffee shops. After crossing the bridge, we turned around and headed back to our hotel.

We reorganized there and prepared to go out to dinner. Our aim was Hall & Woodhouse, a Pub/restaurant mentioned in the guidebooks. It was near Queen’s Square, which we had passed through earlier that morning. Even so, we had trouble finding it. It was the same difficulty we had been experiencing all day: lots of little streets that were unlabeled on the map, on the streets themselves, or both. We were about to give up and choose a pub at random when we stumbled across it. Hall & Woodhouse is a large establishment spreading over two floors. It has a modern décor, with blond wood and shiny metal. One side is covered in large windows, although the view is just the street. When we arrived, the ground floor was crowded. It looked like we were going to have to settle into one of the lounge chairs near the bar. It also appeared that a large private party was about to start. However, someone suggested we try the upstairs dining area. It was laid out more like a restaurant than a pub, and we found a table.
We were pleased to learn that the pub carries the Badger Brewery line. We were hoping to have their Fursty Ferret ale, just because we used to keep ferrets. However, they were out of that one. I had a Tanglefoot, and Fran had the flagship Badger. My notes indicate that I ate ham and eggs with chips. It sounds like breakfast! After dinner, we returned to the hotel to do some reading and settle in for the night.

Walking miles: 5.6.

Posted by
485 posts

Saturday, September 7, 2019 (Bath, Wells, Glastonbury)
We woke up around 8:00 the next morning and went down to breakfast. The breakfast was served in the hotel’s restaurant. The staff member took our names and room number and explained the procedure, which was the same as in most hotels. There was a buffet of steam tables for the hot food and another island for the cold, with a station for beverages. You could get pretty much anything you would want for breakfast. I filled up my plate, as I usually do when confronted with such bounty.

After breakfast we went back to our rooms to grab our cameras and other gear. Then we headed towards the pick-up point for the tour. It being early morning (and a Saturday), the area around the Roman Baths and Abbey was devoid of the throngs that pass through later in the day. Both of us reached for our cameras and took some pictures of the area, uncluttered by people like us.

We didn’t have to wait long for the bus, operated by Mad Max tours. It was a small vehicle, the sort that we see at home shuttling people from apartment complexes to the Metro. Most of the rows had someone in them, but the bus wasn’t full. I’d say that there 10-15 people. The driver was also the guide. As we were forming up, some people were saying that the Bishop’s Palace in Wells was going to be closed for a private event in the afternoon. This was one of the sights on our tour, and Wells was scheduled to be the last stop of the day. When the driver learned of this, he decided to visit Well first and reverse the order of the tour. The driver had grown up in Bath. As we rolled out of town, he pointed out local landmarks, including the street where he had lived as a child. When we got out onto the open road, there was a recorded narration by the company’s owner, Maggie (not Max—Max was her dog). However, because of the change in plans, the driver had to skip to the end for the part about Wells.

As we got into Wells, the driver explained about the points of interest. The most important one is the cathedral, but also the Bishop’s Palace, the Vicar’s Close, and the market in the town square. He dropped us off at the gate to the cathedral grounds and gave us the time when we would reassemble. The he drove off to the area where he was allowed to park. This is the kind of tour I prefer: they take you somewhere, give you some background information, and turn you loose. No wearing a thing in your ear while traipsing behind someone holding up a “lollipop.”
We decided to have a look at the Vicar’s Close before going into the cathedral. The Close is a street of 13th Century houses that was built for the use of the cathedral staff. It is said to be the oldest residential street in Europe. Both sides of the cobbled street are lined with these wonderful townhouses with their stone facades and tall chimney stacks. They are still in use. I tried to imagine what it was like to live in such a tourist attraction, while threading the needle of staying respectful taking my pictures.

Posted by
485 posts

Saturday, September 7, 2019 (Wells,, continued)

After leaving the Close, we went into the cathedral. It is almost redundant to describe gothic cathedrals as awesome. The architects strove to instill a sense of awe in this house of God. They knew their business. The distinctive feature of Wells is the use of scissor arches, which curve from above and below. In the center of the nave there is a square formed by such arches. You look up and see graceful curves of stone in every direction. Another special part is the chapter room. You reach it by going up a set of broad curving steps. The stones are very worn. How many centuries of feet did it take to do that? The chapter room is a large circular stone room, almost empty except for the central column and a stone bench built into the walls running around it. Light pours in from the pointed gothic windows above the bench. This was (is?) where the clerics of the cathedral (the “chapter”) met to conduct their business. I tried to imagine the room filled with solemn men in their cassocks.

We probably spent too much of our allotted time in the cathedral (we always do that). We tore ourselves away in order to have a look at the Bishop’s Palace. As we entered, we could see that the caterers were setting up for the afternoon event, which was a wedding reception. The palace is a contrast from the soaring grandeur of the cathedral. This is the luxurious residence of a prince of the church. It was also the venue where the bishop conducted business with secular interests, such as merchants and civic leaders. The conference hall is lined with paintings of the bishops who inhabited the palace over the centuries. The assembly provides a double timeline, of the changes in clerical garb and painting styles over the centuries.

The palace walls enclose a garden. It is mostly a display garden, with statues, paths, and benches, although there are examples of herb plantings. One can walk along the wall to get a wider view of the garden. On the other side of the wall is the moat and the countryside beyond.

By the time we left the palace, we had just about exhausted our allotted interval, and we still hadn’t had lunch. A sit-down mean was out of the question. We went into the market to look around for a faster option. Among the booths selling wares of all kinds, we found one serving up hot pasties. This was a find, as I’d always wanted to try an authentic pasty. The pasty—pronounced like “past,” not “paste”—is southwest England’s version of a common food: a mixture wrapped in dough. It is made a circle of dough, with the filling added on top. The dough is folded over the filling and then heavily crimped at one end, so that it forms a “D” shape. It is then baked. The traditional filling is a mixture of beef, swede (turnip), potato, and onion. Of course, you can put anything in that you want. Mine had steak in it. Pasties originated among the tin miners of Cornwall. The miners’ hands would be contaminated with the poisonous tin. At mealtimes, they would hold the pasties on their crimped sides and eat the contents. Then they would throw the “handle” away. It was thus a portable and safe meal to carry down into the mines. We took our pasties and walked back to the cathedral gate, where the bus was waiting to take us to the next destination, Glastonbury Tor.

Posted by
485 posts

Saturday, September 7, 2019 (Glastonbury)

Glastonbury Tor is a big hill. That’s basically it. Its steep sides rise to a height of 518 meters (1700 feet) above sea level. Given that the area around it is low-lying, that a good ballpark estimate of how high it is relative to the countryside. The Tor is topped by St. Michael’s tower, all that remains of a 14th Century church (it was demolished in 1538 by Henry VIII, as part of the dissolution of the monasteries). Archaeological investigation has shown that the Tor was used in some ways (not always understood) back into prehistory. The terraces on the side of the Tor date from the Iron Age, although there’s no agreement on what they were for. Myths and legends have accumulated around the feature. It is associated with King Arthur, mystic energy, neo-pagan worship, and astrology.

You reach the top of the Tor up a steep, if well maintained, path. Our guide told us that there was an even steeper path for the hiking obsessed, but we chose the easy route. Even at that, it’s a long climb, with some touches of vertigo thrown in to make things more exiting. Once you get to the top, the view in all directions is magnificent. It was clear day, and so we could see for miles and miles across the Somerset countryside.

There were quite a few people on the summit. We didn’t see any evidence of astrology or mother goddess worship. People were sitting around on the grass, just enjoying the view. Naturally, people were taking photos and selfies. For the most part, everyone was well behaved and tried to keep out of each other’s shots. There were a few who were too self-absorbed to notice anyone else. We took plenty of photos ourselves and then started back down the hill.

We clambered back into the bus and headed to Glastonbury town. Like the Tor, the town is associated with mysticism, counter-culture, and Arthurian legends. The annual Glastonbury festival is a blowout of music and people camping out in muddy fields. The town itself is filled with little kitschy shops selling incense, mystic crystals, silk scarves, and ice cream (everybody likes ice cream). It was hard to distinguish the tourist traps from the sincerely loopy—if such a distinction is valid at all.

We didn’t care about any of that. We went straight to Glastonbury Abbey. The Abbey was the site of a thriving monastic community, until it was destroyed by Henry VIII in a cultural atrocity that must rank up there with the Taliban or DESH. The visitors’ center provided some background on the history of the abbey and how it looked when it was whole. Then we went outside to look at the remains. They are still inspiring, with wall and arches standing out in the open. There was a religious service going on in the vault of the (former) chapel, now open to the sky. It seemed to be a requiem.

This site has attracted artists for centuries, both painters and photographers. Some of the earliest photographers, such as Roger Fenton, who captured images in 1855. We did our best to emulate them, choosing our images to capture the sad beauty of the stones. (When I got home, I found that I had indeed picked some of the same angles that appear in Fenton’s work.) The site includes a memorial stone to King Arthur, who is supposed to have been buried there.

There is a kiosk serving snacks on the grounds. We stopped there for cappuccinos before heading back to the bus. I suppose that we must have looked into the gift shop on the way out. However, I don’t have any specific memory about it.

Posted by
485 posts

Saturday, September 7, 2019 (Cheddar Gorge & Bath)

Our last scheduled stop on the tour was Cheddar Gorge. This is a deep cleft in the surrounding hills. It is not filled with cheese. It is clearly a tourist site, as we passed through a town lined with shops and restaurants. In the gorge itself the road is flanked by parking areas, and there were many cars in evidence. We parked near the base of the gorge and got out to take a look. We were surrounded by the tall cliffs and tried to spot some of the goats that live there. As we took our pictures, I wondered if the sight would be more impressive from the top of the gorge. However, we weren’t going to find out on this trip—one of the disadvantages of taking a tour organized by someone else.

The bus returned to Bath, but our guide gave us a bonus stop, based on his local knowledge. Alexandra Park is on a high hill overlooking the city. It affords a panoramic view of the main city landmarks, such as the Georgian terraces, the abbey, Roman Baths, Pulteney Bridge, and the Cricket Grounds. He treated us with a little of snack of local cheese and cider. After we had our nosh and took our photos, we returned to the assembly point.

We walked back to the hotel to reorganize before going out to dinner. We decided on Garrick’s Head, a pub named after the 18th Century actor and impresario David Garrick. Even though it was not far from where we had just been, we still had trouble finding it—Bath’s spell still confused our sense of direction. It’s a nice old pub and restaurant, decorated with theatrical prints and posters. We ordered from the bar menu. I had the “Garrick Burger”—not exactly British food, but it was a good basic burger. We wended our way back to the hotel for the night.

Walking miles: 5.5.

Posted by
485 posts

Sunday, September 8, 2019 (Bath)

This was our day to visit the feature that gives Bath its name. First, of course, we had breakfast, where we were greeted in exactly the same way as we had been the day before. Then we were off to the Roman Baths. Some parts of the route were finally starting to stick in our brains.

We spent all of a long morning touring the archaeological site. The facility is well thought-out. It uses diagrams, computer graphics, videos, and the audio guide to present a vivid understanding of how the site looked and how it was used. Many artifacts can be associated with specific persons, who were asking the gods for help, thanking them from some favorable outcome, or seeking to curse someone who had done them some wrong. In some parts of the circuit, reenactors pose as merchants, servants, soldiers, ladies, and so on. I tried to explain to one where Virginia was. They understood better when I told them my family was from Belgica.

There is quite a good gift shop, offering everything from high-end products to little plastic trinkets. We bought a mini-lego kit, to add to our collection.

After leaving the baths, we were ready for some lunch. We went up Union Street and found Sam Weller’s Pub, around the corner on Upper Borough Walls. It is another nice old pub with a bar and dining room. I had a baguette with sausage and onions, accompanied by chips and a pint of Sharp’s Doom Bar beer. After leaving the pub we followed Upper Borough Walls to the Victoria Art Gallery (by which point the street name had changed to Great Pulteney Street).

The Victoria Art Gallery is not very large. It consists of two long rooms filled with paintings. The arrangement is like the prints of exhibitions or stately homes from the 18th Century. Artworks are hung close together all along the walls and up to the ceiling. There was a lot to take in.

After leaving the gallery, we crossed Pulteney Bridge and were lucky enough to spot an empty table in one of the tiny cafés: the aptly named Bridge Coffee Shop. We squeezed in for a couple of cappuccinos. It was a fortunate choice, as the windows gave us a view over the weir and back towards North Parade Park. As we were finishing up, we noted two women coming into the café and anxiously looking around. We told them that we were leaving and relinquished our spot.

We found a little stairway that took us down to the riverbank, on the opposite (eastern) side from what we had walked on before, just looking at the boats and the landscaping of the yards facing the water. We also passed the Bath Cricket Ground, where some kids were practicing. While I know next to nothing about the game, it was clear they needed the practice! We eventually came to the point where the Avon meets the Kennet & Avon Canal. We stopped to watch a narrowboat transit through the lock.

We crossed back over the river and threaded back through the streets to the hotel. When we went out for dinner, our aim was The Raven, a pub recommended by the guidebooks. It is in the Queen’s Square area, not far from Hall & Woodhouse. We had our usual navigational difficulties but found it in the end. The ground floor is laid out as a pub, with small tables dominated by the bar. As we stood at the bar looking at the menu, the bartender told us that if we had come for a meal, we would be more comfortable upstairs. I suspect that he may have been trying to segregate the tourists from the regulars, but I didn’t mind. He was right, in that the first floor is set up a s a restaurant with larger tables more suitable for dining. We took a seat near the end of the long, narrow space, where we could look out the corner windows. I had sausage & chips with beer.

That was enough for the day. We returned to the hotel.

Walking miles: 3.9.

Posted by
485 posts

Monday, September 9, 2019 (Bath)

I had been fighting a cold for several days, and our supply of decongestant was exhausted. Our first task was to find a pharmacy. It was a cold, rainy day. We both wore our souvenir Cardiff hoodies under our rain gear. We found a pharmacy in a little street south of the Roman Baths (it might have been Henry Street). It was not notably different from home, and we found what we needed.

With rain hoods in place and umbrellas extended, we traipsed up to Walcott Street. This is a quirky shopping area that has its own web site. I had seen that it has a dedicated hat shop. Since I am a “hat person,” I wanted to stop for a look. However, it was still too early for shops to be open. We spent the time walking up the street, just looking at the wares. I remember seeing an “antique” computer store, which advertised repairs and displayed some machines that I remember as being the latest thing (also the head of a cyberman!). By the time we got back down to the south end of the street, the Bath Hat Company was open. It is not very wide, but it goes back farther than you would think. It is stuffed with hats—everything from casual caps to formal toppers, for men and women. I decided that I had better restrict myself to a simple flat cap that could survive the rigors of being packed up for the trip home. The woman who ran the store was helpful, working to translate my 7 3/4 size into metric and offering me choices in the approximate range to try. I walked out with a nice gray one, which has served me quite well in the months since.
As we walked up the streets, the weather kept changing. Sometimes it was raining, sometimes not. There was a notable breeze which made handling the umbrellas tricky. Alas, the stresses of opening and closing, plus wind shear, were too much for the inexpensive model I had bought in Cardiff. The aluminum shaft bent int two. I discarded it in a bin.

We were not far from the Museum of Bath Architecture, but it wasn’t open yet. Instead, we made our way back to Royal Crescent in order to visit No. 1 Royal Crescent, a terrace house that has been turned into a museum. The house was rented by wealthy elderly Anglo-Irish gentleman named Henry Sandford. It is furnished as it might have been at the end of the 18th Century, when Mr. Sandford lived there. We like to visit this kind of place, because it gives us a look at the conditions of everyday life in the past. Of course, most (as this one) illustrate the life of rich, or at least well-off, people. Disgusting hovels and tenements seldom last long enough to be recognized as historic. We do get a glimpse of life in the servants’ quarters, at least. The museum is a rather good one. The docents in the different rooms know their subject and can carry on conversations about details such as housing tenure and lease provisions.

As we retraced our route in the direction of Queen’s Square, we kept our eyes open for somewhere to have lunch. We didn’t see anything promising until we found ourselves standing in front of Hall & Woodhouse. An establishment that had been so hard to find was now jumping out and waving at us. We took the hint and went in. I had a croque madam, which is a grilled ham and cheese sandwich with a fried egg. It is commonly found in pubs and bistros across Europe.

Posted by
485 posts

Monday, September 9, 2019 (continued)

Our first stop after lunch was the Herschel Astronomy Museum. I had known about the name “Hershel” in connection with astronomy and baroque music. However, until I entered the museum I hadn’t realized that they were the same guy, William Hershel. I confess that I also knew nothing about the achievements of his sister Caroline, in both fields. William and Caroline were from Hanover, in Germany. It was then ruled by the Elector of Hanover, who happened to be King George of Britain. Their father was a musician in the Hanoverian army. William and his brother followed the family profession. Because of the dynastic connection to England, the soldiers spent part of their time there. After Hanover lost a war with France, the brothers fled to England, where William established himself as a musician and composer, leaving Caroline behind to eke out a living as a maid. As he became more prosperous, William eventually brought her to England, where she kept house for him and performed as a vocalist.

William and Caroline came to Bath when he was hired as a church organist. He taught himself about astronomy and started to build his own telescopes. Caroline assisted in making the mirrors and recording his observations from the telescope, set up in the back garden of their terrace house. William Herschel is credited with many astronomical discoveries, the most notable being the discovery of Uranus, the first planet to be discovered since ancient times. As his reputation grew, the King appointed him Astronomer Royal, after which William and Caroline left Bath for Windsor. Caroline continued her astronomical work even after William’s death. She is credited with the discovery of six comets and the publication of the first stellar catalog.

The Herschel Museum is the inverse of No. 1 Royal Crescent. That museum was about the house as an example of the lifestyle in a Georgian terrace house. Henry Sandford was part of the backstory of the dwelling. By contrast, the Herschel is about the lives of William and Caroline. The house is the setting in which they lived. It has their music room, study, and workshop. You can stand in the back garden where the telescope once stood. Of course, there are also the ordinary bedrooms, sitting room, kitchen, and so on. After deciding that I couldn’t fit a telescope in my roller bag, I contented myself with buying a CD of Herschel’s music.

Our final stop of the day was the Bath Architecture Museum. The museum is lodged in a repurposed Methodist Chapel, which is interesting in itself. The compact space is filled with every aspect of the design and construction of Georgian buildings. Using videos, tools, diagrams, prints, and physical examples, it takes you through how the 18th Century builders did their work, from site preparation to roofing and decoration. As a housing economist, I found it a fascinating look at what went into constructing these units. At the back of the museum is a three-dimensional map of Bath in the 18th Century. The small shop area includes technical books and period prints. I picked up another volume in the “How to Look at” series of architectural guides, How to Look at Houses. I also bought a replacement umbrella (which I still have).

We returned to our hotel to stow the day’s purchases and shed some of our impedimenta before going to dinner. I was still feeling under the (rainy) weather because of my cold. We decided to have dinner at the Bath Brew House because it was just a short walk up the street. I had the chicken pesto sandwich this time. It was fine, but not as good as the fish sandwich I had in our earlier visit (might have been the effects of my cold). We returned to the hotel and made an early night of it.

Walking miles: 5.6.

Posted by
485 posts

Tuesday, September 10, 2019 (Bath)

The next morning I was still subpar, but I wasn’t going to let that get me down. We ate our breakfast and headed out to the Holburne Art Museum. Our route took us through the center of town, across the Pulteney Bridge, and further to the northeast than we had been before. The Holburne is backed by a park called Sydney Gardens. We poked around in there for a while until the museum opened. The museum fits the pattern of an historic mansion repurposed as a museum—in this case, for art. Most of it is devoted to paintings from the 18th-19th Centuries, although some are older. It comes from the collection of the Barons Holburne, and thus it is the sort of thing that one might have found in such a house when it was occupied. There is also a collection of decorative arts, useful objects made by craftsmen to take them out of the ordinary. In an inversion of this theme, one room was devoted to a special exhibition of sculptures fashioned from broken glassware and crockery.

We grabbed some lunch in the museum café. It is a cafeteria-style establishment where you select your items from trays and carry them to tables. We split a large mozzarella-tomato-pesto sandwich, accompanied by cappuccino. The café is at the back of the museum, the side facing Sydney Gardens. Floor-to-ceiling windows provide a nice view.

About this point I checked my phone and found a message that my international roaming limit had been reached. This surprised me, as I hadn’t known there was such a limit. I couldn’t reach my voicemail or any cellular data services. I let it go, as this wasn’t the time to mess with it.

After leaving the museum, we went back into the park, where we found that it was crossed by the Kennet & Avon Canal. There were narrowboats moving through, most heading south. We walked down the towpath. At one point we listened to a tour guide explaining to a group how horses had to cross the canal when the towpath changed sides and pointing out how the bridges were designed to ease the stress on the tow ropes. Now, of course, the narrowboats are all powered by gas engines. As we continued our walk, we realized that there was a virtual subculture of boaters. We came across boat rental companies with lots of narrowboats lined up for the holiday trade. Elsewhere the banks were lined with boats tied up, people lounging on or beside them. As we got to the point where the canal meets the river, we watched the whole process of transiting a lock. The boat’s operators pushed the sweeps that opened the gates. Then the boat eased in. The gates were closed, again by shoving. The sluice was opened by turning cranks that the people brought with them. After the water level was equalized with the exit, more shoving opened the far gates, and the boat moved out of the lock. The gate was closed. Some of the people on the shore lent their hands with the shoving and the turning.

We followed the path along the river until we got to the bridge by the railway station. We crossed over so that we could check the schedule to Bristol. We also checked the schedule there and decided that the bus would be a better fit to our morning plans.

Posted by
485 posts

Tuesday, September 10, 2019 (continued)

Because we were near our hotel, we returned there to reorganize. I again tried to use my cellphone but couldn’t get connected. We decided to go out and do some shopping. In addition to souvenir hunting, I wanted to buy a pair of gloves, as I had lost one in Cardiff. I don’t remember specific items that we bought, if any. We again noted a surprising number of items with “London” printed on them. We found ourselves going past Sam Weller’s Pub again, and we stopped for a half-pint. It was surprisingly hard to find gloves. At the Orvis (!) store by Pulteney Bridge, they said was too early in the season. We worked our way south from there until we were again near the railway station. That area is a cluster of what you could call ordinary shopping venues, where residents by the usual stuff that people need. Among the clothing shops and department stores, we found a North Face store—and yes, they stocked gloves. I picked up a lightweight pair, and we went on our way.

We briefly returned to the hotel. I made another attempt to get in touch with Consumer Cellular. I finally did get through. My first connection still failed because the microphone in my earbuds wasn’t working, and so they could hear me. In the end I gave them my credit card number, they charged me a small amount, and my international roaming limit was extended.

Went out to find dinner, winding up right in the center of the map, near Saw Close. I don’t remember why. It may be that we were looking for a specific restaurant that we couldn’t find or decided against once we did. Be that as it may, we found ourselves standing outside a pizza place called “Oven” adjacent to Garrick’s Head. We decided, “Okay, pizza. It’s food, and it’s here. Inside, it was a typical pizza place. There was a mixture of tables and booths, a tile floor, a prominent brick oven in the back, and guys in aprons wielding wooden paddles. It even seemed to be run by Italians. It turned out to be one of the best pizzas I have ever had. I don’t remember exactly what we ordered. I do remember it being wonderful. We had tiramisu for dessert.

That was the end of our stay in Bath. We returned to the hotel and made our preparations for the next stage of the trip.

Walking miles: 6.1.

Posted by
7602 posts

Thanks Dav for the interesting TR!! I love Bath but have not seen the Herschel or Architecture Museums. They sound great!

I’m glad you wrote about the walk on the towpath. I tried to get the folks I was with last time to do that but only got them down along the Avon near the cricket pitch so you’ve also inspired me to do that next time as well!!

The museum at #1 is one of my favorite museums as well.

Thanks so much for taking the time to post!

Posted by
552 posts

An interesting account. It's also an antidote to those who think they can "do" Bath as part of a day trip including Windsor, Stonehenge and the Cotswolds, and a response to the question "Is Bath worth an ovrnight stay?". I also thought the assessment of the Premier Inn was good - you will find space and efficiency but not a lot of character, although I have to say my experience has been that the staff are usually less robotic than described. Not all Premier Inns are the same. There are also plenty of good places to eat in Bath besides pubs.

Posted by
7602 posts

Bob, I SO agree! I am always shocked when people say they "did" Bath in half a day or a whole day. I know they just didn't have any idea of the things that are available there. I always feel like I am a shill for the Bath Tourist office, lol! I'm not!

BTW Dav, there are still things to see on your next trip. I enjoyed Prior Park (Palladian Bridge feature) and the American Museum was odd but interesting. Clearly focused on the East Coast of the US and put in some things I thought were kind of weird but I wasn't in charge. I went on a rainy day so did not get to see the grounds which I understand are good.

Posted by
485 posts

I'm gratified that you found my account useful. Yes, there are things that we missed--some that we knew about and others that I'm learning about now. We always hope to return to places, but there are so many we have never been. Yes, there are many restaurants in Bath. Pubs are our personal preference, based on the size of meals and length of time. We don't have the endurance for five-course meals!

Posted by
552 posts

You don't have to have a five-course meal in a restaurant in Bath. Some will happily serve just one course, especially at lunchtime, and there are usually options such as two-course, three-course or a la carte. The mid-market chains such as Cote, Browns and Brasserie Blanc have something for everyone, and we had a good lunch at Chez Dominique in Argyle Street.

There are also some interesting places not far from Bath, which might prove a little more difficult without your own car. I'm thinking of Dyrham Park (National Trust), Corsham Court, Tyntesfield (National Trust) and Great Chalfield Manor.(National Trust). I seldom see any of those mentioned here.

Posted by
918 posts

Dav, what a lovely and nicely detailed report! We didn't make it to Bath on our first trip to England and I'm glad for that after reading your report as obviously more time should be allotted to the city. Your post is bookmarked for future England exploration. Thank you for posting your adventure.

Posted by
760 posts

Thanks for the detailed report. I have to take this in pieces as I am at work and should not devote all my time to reading trip reports!! I will return later.

Posted by
485 posts

Yes, I do get carried away in these reports. I hope you find it worth reading.