Minay’s Trip Diary –Friday, May 7, 2010

Day Three

The day began cold, stayed cold, ended cold. So did I, but it was a great day nonetheless. One of the really great things about it was that we didn’t have to drive anywhere – so no traffic, navigating woes, or added stress. I wasn’t looking forward to getting in a car again after yesterday’s adventures.

Anyway, we got up, finally figured out the shower, got dressed and went down to breakfast. At home I try to eat eggs only a couple times a week. On vacation, however, dietary “rules” were out the window. So, we began with fruit and freshly baked croissant, I moved on to an egg, toast, some potatoes and, of course, a pot of hot tea. I had been warned by a friend who lived in England for a year while studying that the British like their tea very strong. Since caffeine can bother me, I tried to remove teabags from the pot pretty quickly. Still, I ended up following the British custom of adding milk to my tea, something I never did before. I found I liked it quite a lot.

After breakfast we went back up to the room so I could add more layers to my ensemble. I had begun with a cotton undershirt, a long sleeved cotton tee, jeans and an acrylic cardigan. I added a heavy sweatshirt over the sweater, a scarf, my coat and gloves. Halfway through the day I was beginning to wish I had more layers – maybe my nightgown under everything else? Anyway, with umbrella in backpack we set off for a day of exploring.

I discovered that finding your way while on foot was much easier than when driving. All over the place are tourist friendly signposts pointing the way to various attractions.

Signs on the Corner of Union and Westgate in Bath

Signs on the Corner of Union and Westgate in Bath

You could simply choose your destination and head off that way, ignoring one way streets, dead ends and weird street markings. Besides, this way you have the time to really see things, little details that add so much to the experience. I like to window shop and one of my favorite shops was this Whittard tea and coffee shop.

2010-05-07 - A Welcome Sight, Bath

2010-05-07 – The Whittard Tea Shop, Bath

I seriously thought about getting the poster featured inside. “Where there’s tea there’s hope,” indeed. A good cup of tea fixes or, at least eases, most ills. One of the things I liked best about our stay was that each room had an electric kettle, actual china cups or mugs and a selection of teas, cocoa mix or instant coffee for a little pick-me-up in the evening. While we were out exploring I started the practice of buying a treat for us to have later with the tea. Michael, of course, protested that it wasn’t necessary, but every evening he was glad to share in the treat.

Men. Am I right ladies?

A big part of my enjoyment of a vacation is taking pictures to savor later when we return home. Since we now use digital cameras and don’t have to worry about running out of film I have a little tip I’d like to pass on. Take a picture of the information signs wherever you go so later you know which historic building or bit of landscape you are looking at. We have found this to be of immense help when trying to remember what we saw on which day – and what it looked like. So, I take lots of pictures – many of them the typical tourist shots of churches, bridges, monuments and the like. But I am also fascinated by unusual bits of architectural adornment, windows, doors and always, flowers. Many of these little bits become later inspiration for the quilts that I design and make. So, while my pictures don’t always make sense to others, they feed my imagination and my soul. What unusual bits catch your fancy while sightseeing? Here’s a bit that caught my eye. Aren’t the colors of the tiles just wonderful? Notice the pigeons and the anti-pigeon wires at the windows above the tiles.

Ancient Tile Roof at the Roman Baths, Bath? No, 18th century faux Roman.

Ancient Tile Roof at the Roman Baths, Bath? No, 18th century faux Roman.

I think this image could be a quilt. I made a quilt based on the myriad styles of clapboard shingles on the cottages on Martha’s Vineyard from a previous trip. Click here for a picture of it, http://minay.sirois.com/vineyard_shingles.html.

As Michael has said, Bath was built largely in the Georgian period and there are so many wonderful vistas to see and wonder at. Whole streets of townhouses, shops and public buildings all made of that lovely warm Bath stone, all looking much like Jane Austen must have seen it. Yet, at the same time, the modern age is present as well in the form of the people, cars and bicycles, and products such as cell phones or Thai food for sale in those old shops. It’s a wonderful juxtaposition of old and new, a historic town that is vibrantly alive today.

Sainsbury’s below the Thai Balcony restaurant, corner of Monmouth and Westgate, Bath

Sainsbury’s below the Thai Balcony restaurant, corner of Monmouth and Westgate, Bath

Since it now appeared ready to really settle down to rain we decided it was a good time to find an indoor attraction to visit. Seeing as how we were in Bath – well, logically it was the Roman Baths we chose to visit. Again, I have to go back to the theme that there is so much history here – so many things that have been here for centuries, millennia even. Here’s a picture of the source of the hot springs going into the baths. Notice the mineral accumulation on the rocks from the water.

Source of the hot springs, Roman Baths, Bath

Source of the hot springs, Roman Baths, Bath

I was struck anew by the idea that Romans of old walked on these very stones, built these pipes and altars and left these objects behind. It reminds me that they weren’t just stories in a book, but real people with the same fears, hopes, dreams and challenges that we face today. We got the audio tour by Bill Bryson to listen to as we walked about the baths and the very good museum. One of my favorite things in the museum was the display of a recreation of what some stone remains would have looked like in the day of the Romans. Here are the remaining fragments of a lintel in the Roman baths.

Unadorned Lintel Fragments, Roman Baths, Bath

Unadorned Lintel Fragments, Roman Baths, Bath

This next picture is of a color slide projection over the fragments showing what it would have looked like to the Romans. I love that they used color so much. We think of it in terms of old stone, and not the vibrant visuals they would have experienced. Here ’s a picture of the display.

Painted Lintel Fragments (color slide projection), Roman Baths, Bath

Painted Lintel Fragments (color slide projection), Roman Baths, Bath

After all this walking about, it was time to refuel. I couldn’t believe I was hungry after all that breakfast, but indeed I was. We decided to have a quick meal so stopped at Pasty Presto. I had Thai chicken, but I think I liked Michael’s potato and onion best. The pastry was lovely and flaky, the food hot and quick. Since I enjoyed the lunch so much, I decided this was where I would buy our nightly treat. This time it was a scone with raisins (or currants).

More walking, and more picture taking followed our time at the baths, then it was time to get a little rest before dinner and our Bizarre Bath walking tour. We sent the mobile phone info to my sister Lyndy with instructions that she was only to call us in an emergency. Otherwise, we would communicate every day or two by email. I must admit, we fibbed to my parents, telling them we couldn’t call them while in England because our cell phone wouldn’t work (true) and the cost of calling was too great (also true). Mostly, we just needed the time to ourselves and away from the stress of caring for them. We needed to regroup, renew, and revitalize ourselves.

After a rest, and a trip to visit Flio and feed his meter, we went to find dinner. We chose Salathai, a Thai restaurant and a light dinner of noodle dishes. It was just delicious. The flavors were so complex and yet so delicate, and everything was so fresh. Add to that, it warmed you up inside, along with the hot tea. So good.

Our next destination was the Huntsman Inn to catch the Bizarre Bath tour. We joined a lively group of internationals waiting for the guide to finish his pint and take us on our adventure. He really had a great line of patter, good sense of humor and great timing. One of the things he did was take a stuffed bunny, Stuart, chain him up, tie him up in a bag and throw him into the river as part of one of the magic tricks. That brought up a funny story he told us. An older lady who lived near the river told her daughter that every night a man in purple would throw a rabbit in a bag into the river. Her daughter thought Mum had lost it and was getting ready to put her into managed care until she came to visit and, lo and behold, there was a man, in bright purple, chucking a stuffed rabbit into the river! Not to worry, Stuart escaped his fate worse than death, and even showed up later as the climax to another magic trick gone “awry.” In the meantime he had been dried off and fluffed up with a “hare” dryer. Yeah, that kind of humor (BrE = humour).

Stuart the Bunny Saves the Day, Bizarre Bath Tour, Bath

Stuart the Bunny Saves the Day, Bizarre Bath Tour, Bath

Our guide wasn’t entirely honest, however. He promised a fact-free tour but did manage to slip in one or two. My favorite was the nugget that back in the day the city fathers decided a good way to bring in more money was to tax the number of windows a building had. People, being the same then and now, decided it was better to live in the dark than pay more taxes so they bricked up a number of windows in their home. You can still see the evidence of this in building after building. Ridiculous, but oh, so human. My only complaint about the evening had nothing to do with our guide or the tour. My problem was that it was so cold! Very windy, and of course, the temperature (which had hovered about 45 all day) had dropped with the setting sun. I decided that tomorrow I needed to buy myself a wooly hat before our trip to Stonehenge on Day Five. No window shopping tomorrow – I had a mission!

Home to Anabelle’s, had our snack, then into jammies and under the covers and to sleep as soon as I was warm. Lovely, lovely day.

We bought treats for a nighttime snack. What little things do you do to make your hotel a home?

Minay

Next week, the photo album for May 8th, Day Four of our grand adventure.

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