Bath in summer: day trip to the World Heritage city

Last summer, I spent two weeks in Bristol for a UK-Japan researcher workshop (RENKEI, which I have to write about soon!) and on our free weekend I visited the nearby city of Bath. The city is a World Heritage Site most famous for its… you guessed it, baths!

World Heritage City

World Heritage City

Let me elaborate. The city has a natural hot spring, which became historically important when it was established as a public bath during the Roman occupation of Britain in the first century.

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“In area, in grandeur, in completeness, the baths of Aquae Sulis were unequaled”

Today, Bath is a famous tourist destination not only for the Roman Baths, but for a number of other sights and activities as well.

From Bristol to Bath is an easy 10 minutes by train, so I did not encounter any transportation problems. The city was not so large and easily walkable.

Walkable city, but how I wish I had a bike that day... The weather was perfect for it!

Walkable city, but how I wish I had a bike that day… The weather was perfect for it!

The first site I gravitated towards was the Roman Baths, but not before I took notice of the nearby majestic Bath Abbey.

Bath Abbey

Bath Abbey

A brush with history at the Roman Baths

The Roman Baths is the main attraction of the city, so there was no way I was going to miss it; never mind the 13.50 GBP entrance fee and the long line of tourists.

The line to enter the Roman Baths

The line to enter the Roman Baths

I borrowed an audio guide at the entrance and proceeded to follow the arrows pointing me to the different sites. The first stop was the terrace, which provided a view of the Great Bath from the second level.

View from the terrace

View from the terrace

There were statues in the terrace that apparently depicts Roman governors and emperors with connections to Britain.07

After that, the arrows led me indoors into a museum depicting the Roman way of life in Aquae Sulis (lit. the waters of the goddess Sulis Minerva), the old name of Bath. An important part of the exhibit was the temple pediment, supposedly taken from the old temple dedicated to Minerva.

Remains of the temple pediment, with a projected image of what it used to look like

Remains of the temple pediment, with a projected image of what it used to look like

Animated video reconstruction of the old temple

Animated video reconstruction of the old temple

Another part of the Roman Baths showcased the preserved ruins of the temple altar, the courtyard, and even the head of the Minerva statue. It felt a little surreal walking along the temple ruins that belonged to the first century.

The remains of the temple

The remains of the temple

Another highlight of the complex is the sacred spring. The site is where hot water bubbles to the surface, which they thought was miraculous in Roman times (it’s actually a geothermal manifestation… alright, I’ll stop the geology lecture here).

Bubbles!

Bubbles!

Many items were “offered” to the sacred spring, and some of them are exhibited in the complex. Most common are the coins and gemstones, but most interesting are the rolled up lead sheets with curses written on them wishing for bad luck upon their enemies (is this the same everywhere? Because this sounds like the Filipino kulam to me).

Offerings to the sacred spring

Offerings to the sacred spring

After the hot spring area, I finally reached the Great Bath, which is the open air swimming bath that I have been seeing from the start of the tour.

The Great Bath

The Great Bath

There were costumed characters playing the role of a Roman official and a Roman lady.

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The costumed lady asked me to smell some of her bath perfumes, so I sat by the pool to check out her basket of bath goodies.

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The area around the Great Bath pool had some of the original structures exhibited, like the original roof spine and floor from the Roman times. It was pretty cool that they got to keep some of the old building parts.

Different layers of the floor (like rock layers! hihi)

Different layers of the floor (like rock layers! hihi)

At one end of the Great Bath, there is a circular pool asking for “offerings”. The money you throw in would be collected after a year(?) and used for preserving the Roman Baths archeological collection.

Pool for donations to preserve the Roman Baths

Pool for donations to preserve the Roman Baths

Before exiting the Roman Baths complex, there was a drinking faucet that offers a taste of Bath’s spring waters. The waters are believed to have healing properties by ancient people.

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I got a glassful, but I only finished a quarter of it as it tasted weird. It was slightly salty and feels alkaline; until now I could still remember the taste in my mouth so I guess it’s quite remarkable (I’m not sure if in a good way).

Getting my nerd on at the Jane Austen Centre

After the tour of the Roman Baths, I met up with my RENKEI friends for lunch at a restaurant in one of the side streets of Bath. After lunch, I left them to explore the Roman Baths while I explore the next interesting Bath attraction for me: The Jane Austen Centre. The centre is a permanent exhibition located in the same street where she lived and features Jane Austen’s time in Bath.

Walking up the street, I knew I was in the right place when I was greeted by a bearded man in a top hat and coat from the 19th century.23 Personally, I was a little bit concerned that he was feeling too hot, as it was the peak of summer and he was sweating in his coat. Anyway, I just left him outside and I entered the house. It was really just an old (>250 years old!) house that they transformed into an exhibit.

The >250 years old staircase

The >250 years old staircase

I took a deep breath of acceptance before reluctantly handing out 8 pounds for the entry fee and the guide pamphlet (it was expensive by my standards!).

Jane Austen

Jane Austen

In the end though, what matters is I enjoyed the short lecture, the guided tour, and dressing up Regency style!

Tea set and free cookies at the exhibit

Tea set and free cookies at the exhibit

Flirting, Regency style! "A Fan... expresses the caprices of the heart, nay even sometimes speaks"

Flirting, Regency style! “A Fan… expresses the caprices of the heart, nay even sometimes speaks”

This may be the only time I get to wear a bonnet.

This may be the only time I get to wear a bonnet.

Afterwards, I walked around Bath with the map from the Jane Austen Centre as my guide.Bath-004 I visited several lovely and quiet gardens, but I equally enjoyed the lively streets in the city center where buskers and small shops abound.Bath

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Bath is a quaint little city that is perfect for a day trip, and I especially enjoyed exploring it on that bright and sunny summer day.

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