Minay’s Trip Diary – Saturday, May 8, 2010

As Michael said, it was a full house at breakfast today, but the meal was as good as ever. After eating I put on as many layers as I thought decent (could I get away with wearing my nightgown, too?) then set out to sightsee and buy a hat. Oddly enough, most stores don’t stock wooly hats in early May – can you imagine? It did, however, give me the excuse to check out several department stores and other shops during the course of the day before it finally occurred to me to try a sporting goods store. Success! Now I will have warm ears for tomorrow when we go to see Stonehenge.

For today, though, it was more exploring of Bath. We got the tickets for our city bus tour and got on board – our first double decker red English bus. The view from on top was very good – and a little frightening. It was a big bus and the streets are quite small. But, at least, I wasn’t having to do the driving or the navigating so… meh! Michael has mentioned quite a few things we saw, but failed to mention the beautiful flowers around the city in gardens, small pocket parks and window boxes. Here’s a picture of a small park filled with bluebells

Bluebells in a park, near the Royal Crescent, Bath

Bluebells in a park, near the Royal Crescent, Bath

And here is a picture of some beautiful pink flowers covering a railing. What you can’t see is the pavement covered with fallen petals creating a spot of beauty to walk on as well.

Pink flowers on a railing, near the Royal Crescent, Bath

Pink flowers on a railing, near the Royal Crescent, Bath

The first spot where we left the bus (an off and on arrangement) was at the Royal Crescent as Michael mentioned in his blog. People still live in these flats today. I found the recreated Georgian flat very interesting, and it was well appointed and well-staffed with knowledgeable guides who could answer all my questions. Michael mentioned the dog wheel and that the dogs were made to run to turn the spit. These dogs were notorious for their bad tempers – which is understandable when you realize they were “encouraged” to run by putting hot coals into the wheel behind them. Stop running and get burned. I’d be cranky too.

On the sides of some buildings I saw an object whose use baffled me for a time. Later, on the tour it was explained – they were “putter-outers” or snuffs for torches people carried to light their way about the city in the days before lighting was provided.

Torch Putter-outer, Bath

Torch Putter-outer, Bath

We decided to find a place to eat lunch near the Crescent, but did a little browsing in a book shop first. I love used book shops and can always find something entertaining. This time I found a book about 19th century household management, a sort of hints from Heloise of the day. I didn’t purchase it, and have rather regretted it since. I mean, who doesn’t need to know how to make their own furniture polish or how to properly instruct Cook?

Lunch was at the Lime Lounge as Michael said. Too bad it isn’t there anymore because I found the sweet potato and ginger soup with its drizzle of basil oil simply delightful, as was the sharp cheese sandwich with chutney on a crisp fresh baguette. Yum. English food has obviously taken a turn for the better from the days when it was the butt of jokes, at least the food we encountered.

After lunch we went to the Fashion Museum, which Michael endured with very good grace. He enjoyed the album covers, I liked the Dress of the Year that accompanied them. Each year was represented by a single ensemble that epitomized the fashion bent of that year. But, I most enjoyed the fashions from long ago. The workmanship of the 17th century sackback dresses, the 18th century court dress (talk about WAY over the top!), as well as the clothes from the Regency and the Victorian eras was astonishing and humbling. In the Victorian section was a dress belonging to the Queen herself. She was less than 5 feet tall, and, if the dress is accurate, about that wide as well. Of course it was black, because she was still in mourning for Prince Albert some 40 years or so later. Perhaps, though, the most stunning piece in the collection was a 1900 bridal gown. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen such an exquisite confection of lace, tulle, beading and workmanship. Breathtaking. Yeah, it was a real girly moment. I found myself wanting to share my pleasure in it with someone – Michael had rather bailed by this time, finding a nice bench to rest on. I was acutely aware, at this point, that I was an effusive American rather than a reserved Brit. Ah well. They did have one other exhibit that was fun – a hands-on one. You could try on some of the undergarments such as hoop skirts and corsets that were worn under some of these clothes. Here is a picture of three young women enjoying the experience.

Girls in hoop skirts, Bath Fashion Museum, Bath

Girls in hoop skirts, Bath Fashion Museum, Bath

After the Fashion Museum we got back on the bus and finished the tour of the city, getting off at Bath Abby. Evensong services were about to start, so we kept our visit there fairly short. Still, we managed to take lots of pictures. Here are a couple of my favorites. This one is of the gravestones that pave pathways in the various abbeys and cathedrals we visited. It is quite acceptable to walk on them, since there is no other pathway, but I still found it very unsettling and somewhat disrespectful to my non-European sensibilities. Besides, I love to read the inscriptions, and if you tread on them, don’t you wear them away?

Gravestones inside the Bath Abbey, Bath

Gravestones inside the Bath Abbey, Bath

When visiting these buildings you must never forget to look up as well as down. The ceilings are breathtakingly beautiful – vaulted and carved and adorned with shields and crests of various families of note.

Ceiling, Bath Abbey

Ceiling, Bath Abbey

Our day, and our energy just about gone, it was time to find a place for supper. We tried Yak Yeti Yak, but they were full up so we made a reservation for the next night. Tilley’s Bistro, a French café, had a space for us so we settled in to enjoy a dinner of French onion soup, and fish sautéed in butter for me, and the gammon hoc terrine and aubergine for Michael. It was a cozy, warm spot, candles on the tables, excellent service and lovely atmosphere. The travel gods did well to guide us here.

Back to Annabelle’s to crash for the night. Not a restful night, what with the rugby game and the hen party, as Michael described, but we were “home” and safe after a long and lovely day.

How do you manage to balance “his” and “hers” interests while traveling? Compromise is the way to go – but how do you achieve it?

Minay

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