One of the main things my Mom wanted to see when she came to visit us in England was the former spa town of Bath. She had visited it before when she came to England in the 90’s with her Mother. She was keen to see it again and see even more of it. Since time imemorial Bath was a town where the wealthy came to improve their health, usually by enjoying the natural hot springs and drinking the famed water of Bath, believed to restore health. But the history of Bath takes back even further, to almost the beginnings of England itself. In Roman times, it was known as Aquae Sulis, and was hailed as village for healing; the water famed even then. So, we hoped on the train and after a short ride stepped into what felt like Jane Austen book (or movie if you’re of that sort :D).
Just walking around Bath was charming; even though it has a lot of visitors it never felt too crowded or touristy (we were visiting in November though). Our first stop was visiting the museum of the original baths, the Roman Baths Museum upon the same spot where Romans built expansive bath houses for health and healing. Over the years the British (roman ancestors) remade and restored the baths when they regained popularity in the Georgian and Victorian Era. You can still visit a spa there and eat in the beautiful dining room. If the spa is out of your price range you can wait until the end of the museum and visit the bathroom where the tap water is the original water from the hot springs!
The Museum has really preserved a lot of the original structures from the Roman Era. And there is a ton of historical information to learn about the ancient city of Aquae Sulis (what Bath was called in Roman Times). They even have a narrative audio guide by Bill Bryson and hilarious actors running around doing reenactments of different types of people who would be in the baths!
Something funny that we learned about was all the treasures that the archaeologists found at the baths in 1878. The description above says that these gemstones date from the 1st Century AD and may have been from a grateful worshiper of the Gods, or been loosened from the rings of wealthy bathers.
After our visit to the museum we walked around and explored the downtown of Bath, eating pasties and poking into shops. After a while Mom and I split off from Eric (he went to a coffee shop) to visit the Jane Austen Museum. Jane Austen lived in Bath from 1801-1806. The museum is an informational presentation based on the years she lived there. It was pretty cute with vignettes and artifacts and began with a lecture on Jane’s life there. We were there pretty late but they had a tea room to visit and a really good gift shop with cute things like “I <3 Knightly” pins (my favorite character). My Mom got “I <3 Darcy”, (whatever he’s no Knightly).
After our stint at the museum we walked around Bath and took in the beautiful sunset and twinkly lights strung up for Christmas.
We rounded out the night at the Pub (of course- what night in England isn’t best ended in the pub?). We had a few hours to kill before catching the train (which ended up being late anyway..grumble, grumble) so we popped into a pub and grabbed some drinks. After chatting for a while we noticed a big flow of people coming into the pub….a big flow of people dressed up…..a big flow of people dressed up as dogs….and a bunch of people dressed in orange. We were flabbergasted. Some people were wearing top hats and carrying riding crops. And I don’t just mean dressed as dogs in a dog suit (although there was that) but dressed in booty shorts and a dog tail. Or orange underwear and no shirt. What?! My Mom surmised that it must be some Rugby Party.
After a while we hear them all start to chant “10…9…8…7…6″, we look at each other with raised eyebrows….”5….4….3…2…1”. All the people dressed in orange run out the door. They dash out the door and SCATTER in all directions. We are still totally confused. A few minutes pass and we hear the count down again, and all the dogs run out the door. Same thing, they scatter! Finally it hits us- IT’S A FOX HUNT!
Just before all the men in top hats run out we catch someone and ask what all this fuss was all about. They said they’re a local running group and they’re doing a game night where they are acting as a Fox Hunt. Like a giant game of tag with one team as foxes, one team as dogs, and one team as the hunters. DON’T YOU JUST LOVE ENGLAND???
Well that was pretty much the cherry on top to our night. We made our way back to London via train and settled in to figure out our remaining days in England. We’d been there for so long already (almost a month!) but still hadn’t seen everything, how is that possible?