Thursday, August 18, 2011

Taking in Bath

I'm in Bath! This morning I made my way to Paddington Station, which was exciting in itself being a fan of Paddington Bear when I was younger, and got the train. I love taking the train, you get to see all sorts of things. Mainly trees and houses, but some of the houses were very picturesque. And, being summer, there were big golden fields (not paddocks, because this is England).

When I arrived in Bath, it was a short walk to the place I'd booked to stay the night. Because I'd mucked around a bit, I didn't arrive in Bath until after midday, so I was able to check into The Griffin Inn straight away.

Because I've never stayed in an Inn before, and in fact, I've never paid to stay anywhere by myself before, I was quite pleased by everything. So, naturally, I took photos of everything.

This is my room, it is on a giant downwards slope and a lean. Blood rushing to my right foot as I sleep may prove restorative to it, who knows. If it's cured of blisters when I wake up, I'll let you know. I just want my sister to note the backpack on the bed: this is the full extent of my luggage. Some people would say that's to be expected when you're only going away for one night, but if you've seen what she packs for one night, you'll appreciate why I'm pointing this out. The white bag is from the Paddington Bear stand at Paddington Station; Hamish, Maggie, and soon-to-be-born are being well looked after.

My room was the cheapest because it has an 'external bathroom.' I figured this would mean I would have to share it with people, but actually, it just means I have to walk across the hall to it. It's still just for me. Another exciting fact: one of the doors in the hallway is so tiny I only just fit through it without ducking, and you can see how warped the wall is to the right of it.

Anyway. Bath. After checking in, I went to get some lunch, but first I had to buy an umbrella because, as you might expect from a town named for water, it was raining. And I hadn't brought a jacket with me. I concede I may have gone a bit far with the packing light thing. Then I had lunch at the Jazz Cafe, where I discovered the amazingness of warm goat's cheese. The cafe was really busy and the two young guys running it were doing an impressive job of keeping up with taking orders, running down to the kitchen to place the orders and collect food, deliver food to tables, make drinks, and man the till.

Then it was off to the Museum of Costume and Assembly Rooms. To get there I went through The Circus, which is like the Martinborough Square except it's round and only has three streets coming off not really like the Square at all. But the middle is grassy with trees so that's what reminded me of it. I noticed that the architraves that run above the line of the doors and windows of all the houses around The Circus are all different.

I wondered if they reflected the interests of the people who lived in them, but probably not because no doubt the houses would all have been built first and then sold to people to live in. So then what do they all mean?

The Assembly Rooms were very impressive, they were gutted by bombing in WWII, but have been restored beautifully. In the Ball Room there's currently a display of costumes from films, the above are from The Duchess.

The Octagon was originally used for gambling, it has an extreme chandelier in it. You can only see part of it in the mirror.

I spent quite a while at the Museum of Costume, there was a great exhibition of wedding dresses through the ages, my favourite was a flapper-style one from 1928.

As part of the section about under garments, you could try on a corset and crinoline. I think I would have done quite well in the corset days with regards to my waist - I couldn't even get the crinoline to stay up properly, it wouldn't do up tight enough to fit my waist, even when a nice lady tried to help me. The top part of the corset kept popping open, however, so I had to breathe very shallowly while taking the photo. I am loving all these museums with interactive bits, lots of people were trying the crinolines on, two teenagers and their Mum had all just had a turn before me.

After the Museum of Costume, I decided I needed to keep my energy up with some scones with jam and clotted cream. At the rate I'm eating my way around the world I won't be able to be smug about the size of my waist for much longer.

I stopped at Number One Royal Crescent, where the house has been restored with authentic 18th century decoration and furniture. Each room has a volunteer minding it and each of them was very eager to offer the laminated guide sheet for their room and talk about it.

The curve of Royal Crescent is pretty impressive, as are most of the houses on it from what you could see through their windows strolling past.

Making my way back towards the centre of town I saw this great band rotunda, although surely it's a band curvetunda because it's really only half.

Next stop was the Roman Baths. Supposedly the main attraction in Bath (funnily enough), but I wasn't really a fan. I think it's because the centre/museum itself is so modern and flash, it seems like a clinical layer over top of the ruins of the baths. I know there wouldn't be much to see otherwise but I do think you can go too far in trying to make something that it's not. Hence, I have very few photos from the baths.

After the Baths I wandered around in what I now realise to be circles trying to find the spot from which the Bizarre Bath comedy tour was to depart at 8pm. I wanted to make sure I knew where it was before I got dinner. Getting lost did mean I passed this yarn shop and was able to call in and have a look as it was their knitting circle night. There were about 10 knitters crammed into the small shop and they kindly offered me a piece of cake but didn't really talk to me after that.

Finally finding where I needed to be at 8pm, I went around the corner to Sally Lunn's for dinner. Supposedly the home of the creator of the Sally Lunn bun and the oldest house in Bath. I had very nice dinner despite the older man at the table next to me complaining about everything. I don't know how his wife could stand it. 'This soup's quite sweet for soup isn't it? I prefer a much more savoury soup. Is it the potatoe? Well it could do with more salt I say. And I'd rather a normal bread bun than one of these Sally Lunn buns.' YOU ARE AT SALLY LUNN'S, WHAT DID YOU THINK YOU'D GET? I didn't realise a Sally Lunn bun could be savoury as well as sweet but it makes sense, we're just used to them having icing on them. My chicken came on one and it was yum.

Then it was round the corner for Bizarre Bath. Chrissy had recommended it to me from years ago and sure enough, it's still going 20 years after starting. It's by no means an historical tour, but it is funny and you get taken on a stroll around the streets of Bath as evening falls. By then it had stopped raining and had turned into a very nice night.

As well as jokes like, 'Here's Bath Abbey...

...and if you look to your right...

...there's the Seventh Day Adventist Church. Clearly one knew more about advertising than the other because I know which one I'd choose.'

There were actually amazing magic tricks! A Houdini bunny tied in chains, put in a sack with weights, and thrown in the river only to magically surface moments later. The inconspicuous boat that passed by just before the bunny was thrown must have had something to do with but I still can't figure out how they did it.

It was definitely worth 8 pounds, some of the comedy was pretty cheesy but out of the group of about 50 people, I'd say everyone had a pretty good time.

I actually can't believe how much I did in the space of 10 hours, and I wasn't even rushing. Everything is pretty close in Bath though so it didn't take long to get from place to place, plus I knew the Baths were open late so I went to the Museum of Costume first. I must be tired because now I'm just rambling...

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