Bath, United Kingdom
Another day, another chance for fun and adventure! Today’s we got out of town a bit, braving the fun and games of the road system, where I learnt a few new things.
- Sometimes, lane markings vanish for no good reason. This is a little disconcerting in the middle of three-lane roundabout.
- Roundabouts interrupt motorways all the freakin’ time.
- Just like home, if you dare to stick to the speed limit, people will hover right on your back bumper. Doubly so if its a Lexus driver.
- ‘Tanks Crossing’ is new sign on the motorway. Didn’t see any tanks though.
- There’s a road junction on the A36 called “Dead Maids”. Charming!
First stop (without too many traffic dramas): Stonehenge! The drive down was just beautiful. Heading through the Cotswolds in part, through the most amazingly green scenery, punctuated by beautiful picture-postcard towns that must have been centuries old… Quaint cottages, crumbling barns, real picture-postcard stuff, especially when the sun was shining through.
Stonehenge was .. well, it’s Stonehenge, what can I say? It was smaller than I anticipated, but still job gobsmacking to think that it was constructed around 3500BC, and, at least in parts, it’s still there. We took the bus from the visitor centre (places 2km away from the henge itself) to the site. You can’t get into/onto the stones themselves which is probably a good thing, but the fenced off area gets you a few metres away. Did it feel spooky / mysterious / spiritual / any of the above? Nah, it’s a bunch of rocks in a field. But just the fact they’ve been there for so long, and nobody really knows why, does make you think. Could be some kind of spiritual thing, could just be a calendar so you know when to plant your crops. Who knows. I guess speculation is part of the fun. It was well worth the drive out there, not just for the destination, but also the journey. I also learnt a few things – two of the stones fell over as recently as 1901, and one of the the stones that fell in 1797 was put back in place in 1958, with other stones having been cemented in place during the 20th century. I guess it’s a bit much to ask for a monument to stay put for 5000 years, so its inevitable that there’s going to be a bit of interference with it now and then.
We didn’t really stay all that long, as we had another site on the agenda – Bath. Again the drive was pretty pleasant, and we took advantage of the ‘park and ride’, where you can park 10 minutes out of town and get a bus in, to avoid the hassle of trying to get right into Bath itself. It worked a treat – the bus was right there and in about 10-15 minutes, bam, there we were right in the middle of Bath. First impressions – what a beautiful city! A very long high-street, a lot of which has taken on some of Bath’s Roman history.
Visiting the Roman Baths was amazing. The site has been built over and built over many times since the Romans created the baths, but through the museum they had recreations of how it would probably have looked back in the day, They also had tons (literally) of artefacts from the Roman times, which was just fascinating. Everything from the sculptures over the main entrance, to many many coins from different eras (I guess chucking a coin in a pool for good luck has been going on for many thousands of years), to still-fully-functional Roman draining systems. I never thought I’d be with a bunch of people, murmuring ‘wow that’s amazing’, while standing in front of a drain of all things. But when it’s been doing its thing for thousands of years, I guess it deserves a bit of a wow. They sure knew a thing or three about engineering, the Romans. There were also very ‘human’ things on display – quick ‘curses’ inscribed on little sheets of lead, thrown into the waters in the hope that the relevant god or goddess would address their concerns. Someone stole my scarf. Curse them! It brings a very small, personal feeling stretching across 20 or more centuries. I don’t know what happened to the scarf, though.
It’s a bigger complex than I thought – there were many baths, ranging from cold, to tepid (called the Tepidarium, so I guess we all know where we borrowed the word from), the main bath which was very hot. Also impressive was some of the rooms with underfloor heating – only the foundations are left, but it’s pretty amazing to think that rooms were centrally heated, with underfloor heating, 2000 or more years ago. No internet though, as far as I could tell. 🙂
We took a good walk up and down the high street, seeing such things as the Royal Mineral Water Hospital (spa water fixes everything?) before it was finally time to hop back on the bus for the quick trip back to the car. The drive home was in the middle of peak hour so it was a bit slow, with the now-standard ‘Huh I have to change across three lanes in 5 metres? Oops, missed it’ little detour around a few extra Bristol streets, but we did eventually get back to the hotel safe and sounds after a pretty amazing historical nice.
Za Za Bazaar because the restaurant so nice we ate their twice, so that was dinner sorted quickly and easily. Not sure yet what’s in store for Saturday, but as always, you’ll know about it once it happens. Nighty-night!