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The traveler: An expected journey This time it's the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Sweden & Norway before England again for several weeks and on to Croatia.

Bath

UNITED KINGDOM | Tuesday, 15 September 2015 | Views [156]

My last stop in England before departing for the rest of Europe was Bath, the town famous as a Roman spa, and as the place where Jane Austen spent many years of her life. Once again my hosts here were different, and as usual never exactly what I expected.
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that they had 4 rabbits with a caged run outside. Unlike our rabbits most of these bunnies actually enjoyed being petted! What a treat! I spent most of the evening talking about schools and sports, and weights and measures, all with rather some humor. By the end of the discussion we'd looked up the exact difference between British gallons, and American gallons, which turned out to be smaller.
I then listened to the lady talk about the Mini coopers she collects with some slight interest, though the names and models when in one ear and out the other. We had a nice meal, but I was rather taken aback when they said I could cook dinner the next night. Based on the schedules I'd been given in an email I'd rather been thinking I would have the evening out on my own. From then on I spent many minutes thinking and rethinking what I'd make. I ended up with a sweet potato, orange and nut dish, with a spinach and onion omelet, green beans, and bananas with a raspberry sauce. Unfortunately this meant leaving town quite a bit earlier than I'd hoped. Nevertheless I spent probably the best two hours I possibly could have on a guided tour around the town.
Perhaps the most surprising part of this tour is that it is completely free, and the volunteers do not accept donations. I learned so many interesting things from the humorous tour guide I don't think I would've anywhere else. One of my pictures shows a very odd roof line with a great mix in styles. Yes, it was actually meant to be built that way. During Victorian times it was created to show the progression in life of the morally upstanding person from country cottage to town house to mansion to castle IF you were particularly lucky, rather like Kate Middleton I guess.
If you look closely at the photo of the water feature you will see a canal in the center of the steps to let kayakers down. How very thoughtful!
Then there is a photo of one of the flower gardens in Bath were people would parade around to see, and be seen. In some year in the last 2 centuries Bath entered the flower competition for the best in Britain and won, then they entered again the next year and won, and the same the following several years until they decided to give someone else a chance by not entering.
Over the course of the 2 hour tour we all became very familiar with the 3 people who basically created Bath: John Wood the architect, Ralph Allen the builder, and Beau Nash (who for the longest time I thought was called "Bone Ash") the master of ceremonies. Apparently there was a heated debate over the naming of three of the streets, which as the architect John Wood had chosen names for, but which other people didn't like. Finally Ralph Allen is reported to have shouted "Quiet John Wood!" at which point he fell silent as he realized those were 3 perfect names that he could agree to. Hence you'll see a picture of "Quiet Street".
Apparently only the front of the buildings were designed in Bath and the rear left to the whim of the builders, so some have an extra floor in the back where they decided to make the levels shorter. The houses were also built with refilling shoots for the coal outside in the street so the inhabitants would not be disturbed. The old covers still remain in the streets today such as the metal square with holes that's in one of the photographs.
If I remember correctly after a duel in which Bath's last master of ceremonies was killed Beau Nash banned the carry of firearms and knives in the streets and required every street to be well lit. One of the photographs shows a remaining metal arch and light outside of someone's door. The idea was rather like the fact that you're responsible for shoveling your section of sidewalk in town when it snows. Another photo shows a perfect example of the upside down cones that the lantern boys used to snuff out their candles after escorting a sedan chair to the door. From this comes the expression "You can't hold a light to them" meaning that you're even less than the boy who carries the light.
A rather unusual photo is that of the old poor house, but it has a rather unusual story too. When Bath became famous for its healing waters, and an affluent society developed, so did the poor population, who slept on the streets. Now the Mr. Wood, Mr. Allen, and Mr. Nash (I believe) couldn't have this. Instead of trying to chuck all the poor out though what they did is open a hospital/poor house. However in order to come you had to have a note from a doctor saying that you would benefit from the waters (in other words that your body was possible to save), a note from your priest saying that you were a decent person (that your soul was worth saving), a deposit for your train ticket home, or in a less fortunate case this would be used to pay for your burial, and lastly an agreement that you could come for 3 months (?), then after that you had to leave. The solution cleared the streets of Bath of the beggars, and given the very small size of the graveyard was very effective as well.
Today there is only one spa you can visit to experience the mineral waters first hand, apparently for a pretty penny and a timed visit. You can see the glass walls on the roof top balcony of sorts, where the pool is located, in one of the photos.
After ending our tour at the central Cathedral where it started I retraced our footsteps back to the old dance hall where Jane Austen had excitedly gone as a young woman. Back in the day only men were allowed to buy a ticket to the dance, and were then given 3 tickets for female friends, or relatives with the understanding that he would not bestow them upon anyone unfit to be at the dance. Hence the ladies had to wait for an invitation before they could attend. Perhaps fittingly this building now houses the fashion museum. You can see some of the original clothing that was worn over the last 4 centuries in the photos. My favorite I think is the ridiculously wide and narrow dresses that forced ladies to walk sideways through doors. You can also see me modeling a representation of Victorian dress! Among the dresses and waistcoats the museum housed a collection of gloves from either the 16th or 17th century, which are apparently very rare, and nothing else really survives from that time. These gloves were worn only for ceremony, and show, not daily use. As is shown in portraits sometimes only glove is worn while the other is held in the hand. Owning a pair of gloves was a sign of great wealth.

My stay in Bath concluded with a very short night of sleep between checking details and packing, and an early, solitary breakfast before my first bus on my journey to Munich.

 

 

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