Photo Friday: Other Historic Sights in Avebury

Joe liked this one, of course. 

Advertisements

Magical History Tour Day Three (continued): Unexpected Showers, More Land Rovers, and Dealings with Bath Tourism

We made a lot of stops so Joe could capture the Land Rovers he spied on the trip. This one was especially amusing because as Joe later found out, the driver was still in it.

Recharged from our late lunch at The Circus, Joe and I continued on our way back into the city center, hoping the crowds had thinned and we stood a chance of getting into the Baths that day.

As we walked into town, we started to feel the slightest drip-drip from the heavens. Unperturbed, we  moved onward… and, as they tend to do, the occasional drip-drip transformed– within a matter of moments– into a torrential downpour. Like many others, Joe and I found ourselves suddenly very interested in the items for sale in a nearby Bath and Bodyworks. And the rain continued. Clearly, many of the others inside were only there due to the deluge, but some didn’t even pretend. These just hovered near the doorway, searching for a sign the rain was stopping or at least slowing in its paces enough for them to further their journey. Ever the practical one, Joe used the opportunity to pick up some hair gel, which he had intended to get from a drugstore anyway. We rotated through the store as many times as we could before there was little else we could do to bide our time. As the rain continued, the store got progressively more cramped, as more and more shoppers piled inside. It was time to abandon ship. Joe paid for his hair gel and we stepped out into the rain. It had not abated.

It doesn’t rain nearly as much as you’d think it does in the UK. For all the stories, you’d think it never lets up– that it’s constantly dreary and rainy and foggy. That’s just simply not true. However, there is usually a point every day or so when the heavens open up and rain themselves out. It’s usually not for very long– just long enough to duck in somewhere for a pint and a nibble, and then it’s all over. It’s almost a kind of precipitation catharsis. Still, it can be something of an inconvenience if you’re actually trying to go somewhere.

We weren’t bound for anywhere in particular– we certainly weren’t pressed for time– but there was only so much time we could spend in a crowded Bath and Bodyworks before it was preferable to be outside and wet than inside, cramped, hot, and overwhelmed by a cornucopia of scents from the lotions, gels, balms and goos that surrounded us. So out we went.

Like a good outdoorsman, Joe positively enjoys less-than-ideal weather. He practically thrives in it.  I love the rain, personally, but it’s awfully difficult to see with rain on your glasses, so as we made our way back towards the Baths, I kept an eye out for any shops that looked to have a reasonably priced umbrella.

I wasn’t the only one.

Stumbling along, we came across a rather crowded TK Maxx where, like in the Bath and Bodyworks, people seemed to be more interested in browsing the merchandise than they would had it not been raining. I  plowed in immediately to where I suspected a logical place would be to keep umbrellas (between the handbags and the checkout), Joe following closely behind.

The rack had already been savaged, leaving three umbrellas: a bright pink and flowery medium-sized umbrella; a tall black and white, frill-edged gingham umbrella/parasol; and a small, clear, child’s Mickey Mouse umbrella. The sad limitations of the choices made me doubt whether I even needed an umbrella at all, but still darted in to grab the umbrella/parasol while I decided. No sooner had I done this and taken a single step back than two bedraggled girls descended on the spot, hoping too for some protection from the rain and finding… a pink abomination and a tiny Mickey Mouse umbrella. You could almost hear their minds churning. Do I REALLY need an umbrella that badly? If I do, which of us gets the abomination and which gets the kids’ umbrella? Is it more polite to opt for the less desirable umbrella for myself? But then I’d be stuck with a ridiculously small, nigh-useless, Mickey Mouse umbrella.  Do I really need an umbrella that badly?…

Joe and I reasoned that given we were on our third day of a 14 day trip, chances were we’d fall upon another bout of out-of-nowhere rain (or it would fall upon us) and having an umbrella would probably not be such a bad thing. A) I’d be able to see since my glasses would be less covered by water droplets, and B) at the very least it would save us from another mad dash into a Bath and Bodyworks (he had his hair gel now, after all). And so, even though it was tall, non-collapsible, and not a little ridiculous, we found ourselves the proud new owners of an inconveniently large, shepherd’s crook-handled, frilled, black and white gingham umbrella-cum-parasol. And by we, I really mean I because obviously any man with a degree of self-respect would rather get drenched than use a frilled parasol.

By now the rain had dulled to a light mist.

Of course it had. There are laws about that somewhere.

After a brief pit stop at a local Costa Coffee, and yet another Land Rover sighting we proceeded on to the Baths.

Surprisingly, by the time we got there, the sun was shining and the queue appeared not to have moved. At all.

No worries, thought I. I booked my lodging through Bath tourism, and in so doing was promised a welcome pack. Said welcome pack is supposed to contain, among other things, a “Fast Track” pass to the Roman Baths. It seems now would be an excellent time to collect said pass. And so we found our way to the tourist information center and walked up to collect our welcome pack.

This, unfortunately, was a bust. Despite no mention of needing any sort of documentation in any of my correspondence with Bath Tourism, apparently, one needs a printed confirmation email to get the welcome pack. No, your confirmation number (which I had with me, as I did for all our lodgings for the trip) isn’t enough. That’s what I get for trying to be eco-friendly and not printing all the multi-page confirmation emails for ALL of my lodgings over a fortnight. You’d think they could just pull it up since I booked it through them… but no. Of course not.

Bath Tourism: Telling people what’s required in order to pick up their packets, especially when it requires they actually BRING you a specific piece of paper, would be a good thing to do in advance of their visit.

Unwilling to spend more time on our feet just queuing when, at this rate, the Baths would likely be closed before we got in (and even if we did get inside, they would clearly be ridiculously crowded), we abandoned our objective and  headed back to the B&B.

Back through the spiders’ den.

Up the hill.

Through each one of three keys we were provided to the B&B.

Up the stairs.

Past the shortbread.

And back into the cozy room with the bed with too-many-yet-just-enough pillows.

“Just a rest for a bit,” Joe said.

We found a channel playing Top Gear and both passed out.

Magical History Tour, Day Three (continued): In Which We Wander Around Aimlessly, Spot Some Land Rovers, and Find Ourselves at The Circus

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.

Bath Abbey Courtyard

It’s sort of unmistakeable. I especially love the little angel dudes climbing the ladders to heaven.

Ladders on Bath Abbey

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.

Exciting stuff.

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.

Royal Crescent, Bath

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:

Land Rover at The Circus, Bath

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.

The Circus