After three days in London, I wanted to see some of the romantic English countryside I’d read about in novels. So I paged through my travel guide, went to an Internet café, and booked a hostel and train tickets for Bath.
The next morning, the train left Paddington Station and traveled west across the beautiful fields of England.
Bath felt like scented oil after the abrasion of the capital, as I was met an hour-and-a-half later with a chorus of bird songs and green all around. Beneath the modern lacquer of novelty shops and the hum of tourists, Bath is still a place of serenity and charm.
Its airs of historical nobility and fine culture are as present as the modern buses and tour guides that bustle along the stone streets.
Romans created baths here in approximately A.D. 43 out of natural hot mineral springs. The baths then decayed for centuries until they were rediscovered during Queen Victoria’s reign.
For many more centuries, Bath became a holiday destination for royalty and aristocrats, who were pampered as they gossiped, flirted and gambled. Beau Nash, who is buried in the nave of the Bath Abbey (a medieval church begun in 1499), was a well-known social peacock during the 18th century, a pompous man of wealth and flashy style who liked to be carted about the city in a sedan chair.
During this period Bath was the most fashionable spa in Britain, in part, through the efforts of architect John Wood the Elder and his son, John Wood the Younger, who designed the city using stones from the nearby hills. They developed the landscaped terraces and Palladian villas, creating one of the most architecturally harmonious cities in England.
Upon checking into my hostel, I headed downtown, where I strolled through compact lanes filled with cafés and shops. I found a classic British diner, where I sat outside to watch people chatting and window shopping in the warm evening glow.
A good English meal can be found at Sally Lunn’s House on North Parade Passage, where visitors have been supping for more than 300 years, or at a variety of eating-and-drinking establishments, including The Bathtub Bistro, The Pump House, The Moon and Sixpence and The Hole in the Wall.
Continued on next page