Posted by: marymarthatours | May 18, 2013

Bath, England–where history and pleasure meet

Bath, pd

Georgian Bath

Martha and I are particularly fond of three English cities:  London, of course, for its vibrancy, history and cultural activities; York, in the north, for its compactness, great walking, and shopping; and Bath, in the southwest.  Bath has been a stopping place for many of our tours in Southern England.  It is another wonderful walking town and offers something for every traveler.

Sulis-Minerva, Stan Zurek, CCASA3.0

Head of Sulis-Minerva

For the history buff, Bath is a treasure.  Under the elegant Georgian-era Pump Room, the remains of the original Roman Baths attest to the importance of this location for the Romans.  The Romans, however, were preceded by centuries of native Britons, who created a shrine to the goddess Sulis at the site of a natural spring.  When the Romans arrived in 44 CE, they identified the British goddess with their own goddess Minerva, although they called the town near the spring Aquae Sulis (“the waters of Sulis).  The area surrounding the sacred spring was gradually built up by the Romans, creating a totally enclosed complex that included hot, warm, and cold baths.  With the departure of the Romans from Britain, the Roman baths fell (literally) into ruins, but they can once again be viewed and imagined in a fascinating tour that takes you under the much later Pump Room.

Royal Crescent mw

Royal Crescent

Bath had already gained a reputation as a popular spa resort by the time the Georgian period transformed the city with elegant streets, squares, crescents, circles, and buildings. It is this plethora of Georgian streets and structures that gives the city its distinctive appeal today.  That, and Jane Austen.

Jane Austen lived in Bath from 1801 to 1806 and set two of her novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, there.  Her current fans can immerse themselves in her story at the Jane Austen Centre, take a Jane Austen walking tour, or enjoy a traditional afternoon tea at the Centre’s Regency Tea Room.  Afternoon tea can also be “taken” at the Pump Room and numerous other tea shops including Sally Lunn’s, home of the Bath bun.

bath abbey07 sh

Bath Abbey

Bath Abbey, constructed in the 16th century, is so much more than a beautiful place to worship.  It regularly hosts art exhibitions and musical events that are open to the public.  When our Quilts & Textiles of England & Wales Tour visits Bath this fall, the exhibition at the Abbey will feature Sue Symon’s series of panels, “One Man’s Journey to Heaven”, also known as the Bath Abbey Diptychs.  The 35 pairs of panels depict the life of Christ using needlework, calligraphy, and illumination.

Shoppers on our tours love Bath.  The city center is compact, relatively flat, and easily walkable.  The streets are lined with stylish shops, and small passageways invite further exploration.  Antique collectors can find many shops in the upper town area, and even the Pultney Bridge has tiny shops built right into it (although, unfortunately, the wonderful little dolls house shop has closed).

Thermae Spa, Heather Cowper, CCA2.0jpg

Thermae Bath Spa

And for Martha and me, one of the unique opportunities in Bath beckons us after a long day of touring, exploring, or shopping.  It’s then that we head for the new Thermae Bath Spa for a relaxing soak in the rooftop pool.  Sitting under the evening sky in the naturally warm waters of the “sacred spring”, with the tower of the medieval Abbey as a backdrop, we absorb history and tranquility as we unwind from our travels.

Our 2013 tour will visit Bath for three nights this September, and we will be there again for four nights on the Spring Gardens of Cornwall & Devon Tour in April/May 2014.  I can’t wait.

(by Mary)

photo credits:  Georgian Bath, public domain;  Sulis-Minerva, copyright Stan Zurek and licensed for reuse by Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 license;  Royal Crescent, Mary Wallace;  Bath Abbey, copyright Sue H., used by permission; Thermae Spa, copyright Heather Cowper, and licensed for reuse by Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license.

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