Travel

Bath and Beyond

Well, I said I would follow up on my final days in England and to that end, here I am.

I suppose I must apologise for taking so long….I think a part of me was hoping that I would wake up one day and this last long, hot month would have all been a dream and I would still be in the cool, shady shadow of the Harlaxton Manor house. Alas, no amount of heel tapping or arm pinching has made that happen. So I may as well relive those last few hours of glory by relating them to you, dear reader.

If you recall, I was last in Glastonbury, having just climbed the ancient Tor as a fulfilment of a childhood dream. I visited the town’s equally historic and sometimes mysterious Abbey that afternoon, then packed my bags in preparation to head to Chippenham the next morning.

Chippenham itself holds nothing particularly special for me, but I planned to use it as a base for my next two days of travel. I arrived in Chippenham under the brooding, dark sky of an early afternoon (you may remember the obnoxious amount of bus travel required to get out of Glastonbury). Still, after checking into my final B&B, I made the decision to press on to Lacock Village and Abbey.

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Lacock is owned by the National Trust and has been used in many films and television shows. I’m sure a lot of people will recognise the Abbey from the Harry Potter films, but I was heading there particularly with the BBC miniseries Cranford and Return to Cranford in mind, as well as the latest instalment of the Hollow Crown series.

If you’ve seen either of these productions, you almost don’t have to be told they were filmed here to know you’re walking down the streets of Cranford or in the courtyard of the castle. I expected to run into Judi Dench or Tom Hiddleston at any minute!IMG_4586

Of course, I didn’t run into anyone famous. What I did run into was quite a lot of rain. Almost as soon as I stepped foot in the town, the heavens opened up, and they didn’t stop their lovely downpour until I was back in my room for the evening, praying my coat would dry before I had to slog it through Heathrow in a day’s time.

Thankfully, the next day dawned bright and sunny. I took the ten minute train ride to the lovely city of Bath and had the best last day I could have asked for.

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I spent the morning at the Roman Bath from which the city draws its name. I must admit to being, at first, unimpressed. One’s first impression of the Bath is simply a rectangular swimming pool that has gone too long without chlorine. However, as I wandered throughout the structure with my handy, personal audio guide, I realised the extent of the temple grounds that had been uncovered and was astounded by both its size and complexity.

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One of the things I loved about the Baths was the incredible amount of archaeological finds that remained so close to where they were found. The gorgeous Celtic-designed temple entrance was displayed only a few hundred yards from where it would have originally stood, and the mosaic floor tiles would have decorated a home in the very town I had walked through; in many cases items were left standing where they were found. I couldn’t help but compare this to the stark display cases like those in the British Museum which, though they certainly serve a function, also serve to remove the items from their original spaces.

From the Baths, I went to the Jane Austen Centre. It was housed in an unimposing building that I nearly missed, but inside was a treasure trove of Austen-ian relics and replicas – a must for any fan or budding acolyte. You can tell that the staff are dedicated as well, for as I passed through I heard more than one swapping stories of their favourite Austen book or character with a customer.

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Plus, if you go, you absolutely must dine in their regency tea room! Maybe it was the portrait of Mr. Darcy on the wall, or maybe I was already getting nostalgic, but the tea, scones, and sandwiches were all the best I had so far.

The Jane Austen Centre also offers free walking tours of the city that leave from the Abbey every hour with a very knowledgeable, very funny, well-dressed guide. Don’t miss it!

After my tour, I wandered a bit. Bought some postcards and scarves. Photographed Pultney Bridge. Then, very reluctantly, I got on the train back to Chippenham.

I’d rather not dwell on the details of the next day. Needless to say, I made it back to the States without hiccup, though also not with the pleasure it once gave me.

England has won my heart, though it was no tough battle. Perhaps someday I’ll call it home.

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