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Irene's Adventures

Stonehenge and Bath

UNITED KINGDOM | Friday, 1 November 2013 | Views [1451]


Whenever we go to London to visit my son, we like to do a side trip or two. This time, we went to Stonehenge and Bath. We also took in Madame Butterfly at the Coliseum.




I had never been to Stonehenge before. We looked into taking the train to Salisbury then simply finding our way to Stonehenge, then over to Bath. However, a single one-way train ticket to Salisbury was more than a Premium Tours bus to both places. We opted for the bus tour.  We made it to the Victoria Coach Station and caught our bus to Stonehenge. It was raining most of the way, and although the guide pointed out several points of interest while exiting London, it was difficult to see much of anything.


When we got closer to Stonehenge, the guide said that we would be approaching via the “new road”. Apparently, there is a brand new interpretive center being built about 1 or 2 km from the site and in the next few weeks all tourists must pass through the interpretive center and spend more tourist pounds before proceeding to the actual site. Fortunately for us, the center was not yet operational and we were only rerouted. Just as we were approaching, the guide said that the stones would be visible just over the next rise as we made our way to this new road. I was fortunate to grab my camera and snap one off, that turned out quite well, if I do say so myself.


We were told to be back on the bus in 45 minutes. Then we herded through the gates, handed an audio guide and proceeded to the Stonehenge site. It was still raining lightly. Although the stones are massive, I always imagined them even bigger than they actually are. Nonetheless, it is a very impressive site. I wonder what the Romans thought when they came across this site, sitting naked on a grassy plain? I managed to get a few good pictures, but did not have time to listen to the entire audio guide before having to head back to the bus. Guided tours never give you enough time. I am still glad I got see this world famous prehistoric monument.


I must comment on Audio Guides: ALWAYS GET THEM! They are filled with bits of information that you cannot find anywhere else, even Wikipedia. I wish they would publish them over the Internet so one could listen prior to going, and definitely after coming home.



We then headed to Bath. I had been to Bath several years ago with my son, but my husband had never been there. We were dropped off at the fountain Terrace Walk and told to be back on the bus precisely at 15:00. We walked up York Street to the park beside the Bath Abbey, cut through the park to the front of the Abbey.


A place of worship began here in 675. As generally happens with such ancient buildings, it had its share of fires, rampaging tyrants, and general misuse, abuse and neglect. Serious reconstruction began on the present structure in 1501 and completed in 1539 then restored again in the 1600's.


We didn't go into the Abbey to see the interior. The exterior is impressive in itself. The building has 52 windows, occupying about 80 percent of the wall space. Somewhere in the history of this Abbey, someone got an inspiration, from heaven, on the (re)construction of it. This person wanted to honor this divine inspiration and requested sculptures of angels climbing up and down from heaven to depict this transference of inspiration. Therefore there are sculptures of angels on the front of the Abbey climbing on two stone ladders. However, they did not know how to differentiate between the descending and ascending angels, so they simply turned some angels upside down.

Bath Abbey   Bath Abbey  Angels on Bath Abbey

We then went into the Roman Baths. The Celts built the first shrine on this site thousands of years ago. The Romans built their own temple here in 60-70 AD and the bathing complex was gradually built up over the next 300 years. At one time the bath was covered with a domed roof built of hollow tiles, to act as insulation. It is still surrounded by statues of various Roman icons, such as Julius Ceasar and Ostorius Scapula. There is a museum surrounding the Great Bath that shows a scale model of what the Baths looked like in the Roman heyday, as well as numerous archaeological items such as statues, coins, and friezes.

 Roman Baths  insulating tiles  Julius Caesar

Thieves plagued the Roman baths. This was in a day when people had only one or two articles of clothing, usually wool – catching a sheep, shearing it, spinning the wool, weaving it, there were no off-the-rack. While bathers were described as nudus this could mean scantily clad instead of naked. Whether partially or fully nude, however, bathers shed their clothes before entering the water. The hot water caused one to become drowsy, even the slave to watch over the clothes could become drowsy. Imagine emerging wet from a swimming pool to find your clothing gone. How would you get home? The Romans didn't have police, but they did have something else that worked as a deterrent, the fear of the gods. 130 curse tablets were discovered within the baths, cursing the villain with the gods' vengeance. Curse tablets were pieces of lead or pewter rolled or folded and thrown into the spring or nailed to the bathing establishment. Inscribing on his piece of lead the victim would call on the god to right the wrong, by bringing the criminal to justice and retrieving the lost article. Some curse spells were thought more binding -- especially the ones written backwards.


Although these baths are 2000 years old, the plumbing still works. The water is absolutely gross, and people are cautioned about not even touching it, but it still seeps up through the limestone and into the baths and circulates throughout the complex. One can have a small drink of the water, to taste, at the end of the tour, which is run through a purifying filter.

Gorgon Head  

Having finished the Baths we had a small on-the-street lunch before walking up Cheap Street, turning right on Westgate St., crossing over to Barton St., crossing again onto Gay St. and ending up at the Circus. Not the kind with elephants and tigers, but as in the Latin circus meaning circular. Completed in 1768, the Circus is a circular space surrounded by large townhouses. It is divided into three segments of equal length. Each of the curved segments overlooks the center park and faces one of the three entrances. It is a beautiful architectural achievement. A 2 bedroom flat will run you $800,000. A 5 bedroom terraced house, $7.5 million, in case you are interested.....

 Circus  circus park

We needed to start heading back to the bus but we still had time to have a coffee and muffin and scout out a gift shop. We found the coolest pencil sharpener! It is a working catapult! It is only big enough to catapult a pea, but it works!


The bus still had not pulled up so we walked across the street into the Parade Gardens along the river Avon. What a delightful place! It had lots of massive trees and lawns with statues and micro gardens. It was still raining a bit, but it was easy to imagine this place on a sunny day! Alas, the bus arrived and we headed back to London in the rain and dark. I think this is a place we will return to and spend a couple of days.

Parade Gardens   Parade Gardens  Parade Gardens




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