Bath Long Weekend
Friday, 28th September 2012

P02 AbbeyP02 AbbeyP02 Abbey

The Albany Guest House was easy to get to thanks to the Satnav. Less sure about getting to the car park behind the guest house which was two spaces in what had been a sloping garden. Our car got blocked in at one stage and I thought we might have longer in Bath than originally planned! Parking in Bath is expensive, the municipal car park above us on the hill cost an arm and a leg. But we were well within walking distance of the centre of Bath.

Our room wasn't ensuite so we got a bunch of three keys - took a day to take the guessing out of finding the right key. The front door key had to be turned clockwise! Apart from the nuisance of the bathroom being separate it was fine, the downstairs breakfast area was nice and the cooked breakfast set one up for a day's exploring.

P01 BathsP01 BathsP01 Baths

Bath feels like it hasn't changed much since Jane Austen's days, perhaps our guest house was around then? Perhaps it was, but free wi-fi certainly wasn't. The iPad proved useful for checking Facebook as well as keeping a diary as the days happened. I also read "Kidnapped" and its sequel "Catriona" on it in the evenings.

The guest house kindly armed us with maps and guides and we set off for the Roman baths on the Friday afternoon.

P03 DiagramP03 DiagramP03 Diagram

The presentation of the hot springs of Aqua Sulis has changed over the years. The displays and audio-guide did a good job of trying to suggest what the Roman baths were like for the Romans. They were very organised people, it was a big enterprise and had a haruspex augurer to boot. The displays displayed all the buildings and detailed the various baths and rooms and temples. But like many things knowing is not enough, it's short of experiencing for oneself believing for oneself.

The water still bubbles up, steam drifts over the carved stones, statues look on. One could say the spirit of the spring is still worshipped. There's a Thermae Bath Spa which promises its adherents health as much as Sulis Minerva promised her adherents health. A kind of worship though we don't use that term. We're not so different to the ancient Celts who first knew the hot springs.

Friday supper was a disaster. What I hoped for was a traditional pub restaurant, relaxed dining amid oak beams. What I found I had picked was nouvelle cuisine (the colours and shapes outweigh the nutritional value) and abysmally laid out tables where it was hard to tell which table I was sitting at. So avoid anything saying modern English.

P18 GinnyP18 GinnyP18 Ginny

On the Saturday we found Bath receiving a flood of tourists disgorged from coaches. The younger element seemed content to relax in the grassy park below the Royal Crescent rather than indulge in tourism. Probably the Jane Austen Center had less appeal to them than it did to us. We learnt about Jane Austen's time in Bath, how her father dying meant they had to move to less and less salubrious areas of town. All grist for her writing mill.

We had tea and muffins in the sweet Regency tea-rooms upstairs, genteel! They were kind to replace the toasted bun I ordered forgetting it would contain raisins with a cheese scone.

P20 AssemblyP20 AssemblyP20 Assembly

We saw a missable fashion display at the Assembly Rooms but not the Assembly Rooms themselves as a Book Fair was in full swing. More rewarding was a trip to No 1 The Royal Crescent in the splendid Royal Crescent and Circus areas of Bath. No 1 had a Georgian kitchen with intricate mousetraps. It also taught me that drawing rooms are drawing rooms because ladies withdrew to them. I also learnt what a girondelle is (mirror with attached candles to light a room.) One learns something each and every day.

A quiet pleasant boat trip to Bathampton Weir and back crowned the afternoon. We didn't run down too many rowing boats on the Avon. Bath was heaving badly and we struggled to find to find somewhere for afternoon tea. Our evening meal was at the Pizza Express Bath Theatre Royal which suited me better than nouvelle cuisine.

P27 DyrhamP27 DyrhamP27 Dyrham

On the Sunday we dropped in on Dyrham Park stupidly trusting the National Trust recommended postcode for the Satnav. Mistake, went down one-track road only to find a keep out sign. Another mistake of the National Trust was the modern art randomly littered round the stately home. Art is putting it a bit strong. Dyrham Park itself had some good views, we hadn't seen it, but it is another stately home.