Day three of our Magical History Tour found us making our way to the spa town of Bath.
Bath, the location of Britain’s only mineral hot springs, has been a center of human activity for thousands of years. The Romans famously built a series of bath and steam houses at the site, parts of which still stand. The Roman influence on the area is both striking and impressive. More recently, Bath was an important location in many Regency-era novels, such as those of Jane Austen (and indeed in regal figures of the day). As such, Bath is home to both Regency-era Assembly Rooms and the Jane Austen Centre (Spoiler alert: We didn’t go to either, but we DID see a guy with mutton chops in Darcy-like dress, so I still chalk that up as a win. I’ll ask you to remember I was with my boyfriend, not on a girls’ trip, and leave it at that.).
From London, an hour and a half long train ride will take you from Central London to the Bath Spa railway station. It runs you a little over 30 GBP or so round trip. We caught a mid-morning train to get there in time to pick up our rental car. Strangely, the Hertz in Bath is closed on Sunday, so rather than renting and returning a car to the airport in Bristol, we rented our car a day earlier than we really needed, but the facility closed at 12:30pm, so we had to ensure we got there earlyish. The opening and closing times are worth noting for any future visits, certainly. It only ran us something like $12/day to rent the car, so it was much cheaper (and easier!) to rent the car for an extra day from Bath, right near the railway station, than to try to figure out logistics to/from the Hertz near Bristol Airport. If you decide to follow suit, ensure your B&B has a car park so you don’t have to fiddle with street parking. The streets are narrow and scary enough as it is.
But I digress.
Rather than drag our luggage through the unfamiliar streets of Bath, we did the sensible thing and caught a cab [Andy’s cab tip #1: In London, use black cabs. Avoid mini-cabs if you can; Andy’s cab tip #2: Black cabs are not usually an option in country villages. In such a case, go either a) a big hotel with a taxi rank, b) a rail or bus station with a taxi rank, or c) a proper minicab office.] from the taxi rank at the rail station. Clean and serviceable, we poured our luggage into the taxi and told the cabbie where we wanted to go. Our cabbie was a polite, middle aged caucasian man with long gray dreadlocks, who whizzed through the streets and got suitably frustrated when cars in front of us stopped for no apparent reason. [Side note: This never made any sense to me. Don’t they get paid more the long we’re in the car? So why would the cabbie get frustrated?] Although mostly silent for the journey, as we departed the cab, he bid us a good holiday, and safe driving… on the LEFT!
(And we thought that was going to be the hardest part. Hah.)
Enter the SatNav. In the weeks before the trip, Joe took it on a test trip to Yosemite to ensure that it worked okay. In the days before the trip, we purchased and downloaded the Europe road maps for the trip, and on a whim, also some fun Halloween packages (!) for voice and vehicle. As I was uncommonly excited about these, the SatNav was set for the “Dr Nightmare” voice and had a skeletal hand for our current location/direction, like a bony fickle finger of fate. Joe checked in at the Hertz counter and received the keys for our vehicle for the next week or so: a Vauxhall Corsa.
And then we were on our own, words of our cabbie fresh in our minds, Joe in the driver’s seat, me in the navigator position.
It was like Mr. Toad’s wild ride, city-style. The closeness of city traffic meant staying on the correct (LEFT!) side of the road was easy enough, but narrow streets, small zippy cars, and a manual transmission meant that we were white-knuckling the whole way and slow to respond to SatNav instructions. On top of that, Joe was reluctant to turn right if he could avoid it, so it was a series of redirections and circumnavigations before we finally found a spot to temporarily set the car while I found out the location of the B&B car park.
We stayed at the lovely Abbey Rise B&B, just a 10 mins walk from the city centre. Despite the fact that we arrived hours before regular check in, our room was ready and we were able to heft all of our bags inside right away. This in itself was a bit of an adventure, as the car park was at the end of the block, and the B&B somewhere in the middle. Fortunately, Joe loves a challenge, and we were able to squeeze everything in one trip from the car. Our room was on the top floor and very cozy, especially once we stacked our luggage along one wall, but it was very clean and lovely. Most importantly, the bed had more than two pillows and was SO comfy. I thought I was in bed heaven, after the strange single flat pillow purgatory of the previous two nights. But it was not time for resting! It was time for exploring!
As we left, the proprietress told us to help ourselves to some of the freshly made shortbread she set out on a table in the hall– we did not need to be told twice! And so, thick slices of delicious, buttery shortbread in hand, we set out for adventure.