My trip planning strategy typically rests somewhere between the kinds of trips where everything is scheduled and the kinds of trips that are spontaneous. As trips that rely exclusively on spontaneity seem to end up, at least in our case, involving a lot of inaction, I organized our trip by picking one thing at one place to try to do, meaning that we’d have to actually get moving to do it, but leaving tons of room for spontaneous adventures and exploring. For our day in Bath, I didn’t really have any concrete plans for our visit, other than to visit (and in my case, re-visit) the Roman Baths.
The Roman Baths have a special place in my heart. In 2005, when I had the fortune to visit them with a student group, I ended up making friends with a girl who is a very good friend of mine to this day. It was within the first few weeks of a semester abroad in London, and everyone was still more or less feeling each other out (some of them took this more literally than others). Many of them went to the same school– a different one than me– and so had some common ground to bond over. I, however, was still on the outskirts.
As a part of the trip, the organizers had planned a few activities to help us see and learn about the area– a walking tour, a trip to Bath Abbey, and a visit to the Roman Baths. For our visit to the Baths, I had teamed up with one of the other girls on the trip who seemed to run with a vein of strange similar to mine. During our walk through the baths, we traded stories, bared our hearts about loves lived and lost, and emerged strangely renewed. It was pure and total catharsis. Since then, she and I were nearly inseparable and shared many adventures together. Today we are still close friends who write and speak to each other often.
Was it partly due to the healing waters of the baths? Perhaps. Either way, there’s something otherworldly about walking in the footsteps that others walked thousands of years ago. At the Roman Baths, everywhere you turn you’re reminded of this– the architecture, the displays, the greenish waters of the pools themselves confront you with the ancient history of humankind. And I wanted Joe to get to experience that too.
As we turned into a courtyard adjacent to the baths, we were confronted by the majestic face of Bath Abbey, a good, old-fashioned church, flying buttresses and all.
It’s sort of unmistakeable. I especially love the little angel dudes climbing the ladders to heaven.
They just don’t make these things the way they used to.
Any hopes Joe and I had of visiting the Roman Baths that day were dashed when we saw the line… out the door, around the corner, and halfway down the adjacent courtyard. You’d think they were waiting for a ride at Disneyland. It’s nice to see so many people interested in history, but my goodness! We abandoned the Baths for the time being and set out for other interesting things to see– preferably where there were fewer crowds.
The sidewalks were positively overflowing with people, so we started turning left when we saw people to the right, right when we saw people to the left, and ended up… in the middle of a residential area. (Note that this is a TERRIBLE plan if you’re looking for somewhere to eat.)
We found a curved row of neo-classical styled buildings, and I thought we might have found the infamous Royal Crescent, except that it appeared to be full of student apartments, and as Joe noted, the green in front of it hardly looked as majestic as one would have expected. Instead, it looked a bit deserted. Suddenly no one was on the streets, as if the apocalypse had happened and nobody told us. Backtracking, we saw a archway over a footpath which Joe insisted looked positively inviting and so we went towards it and into….
A car park.
As it was a car park for the sights of Bath, however, there were helpful signs to key Bath monuments such as– the Royal Crescent, which was indeed as large and remarkable as one would have expected.
At Number 1, Royal Crescent, there was an inviting museum, complete with docents in period dress. However, Joe and I were starving by this point, having scarfed down only a few granola bars from my purse (A+ for preparation). We had to get food soon, even if that meant scrambling back into the crowd-infested city center.
And so we turned away from the Royal Crescent and wandered down a quiet residential street (blessedly crowd-free), walking vaguely back toward the city center. We passed a single restaurant, curiously called “The Circus” and pressed on. As we turned the corner into what we later discovered to be the namesake of said restaurant, we stumbled into the sole item on Joe’s scavenger hunt list:
As Joe paused and took photos of his quarry (rest assured there was a lot of this during the trip), I stood back and looked longingly at the restaurant. When Joe was finished, assured that the Land Rover gods approved, we doubled back to The Circus (extra poignant given all the circus classes I’ve been taking), and had a very lovely, very posh lunch. It was exactly what we needed. Circus to the rescue. I wouldn’t have rather gone anywhere else.