Thursday, December 5, 2013

Taking the Waters in Bath - Rated MA15+

This edition has been rated MA15+ for mature audiences only. It contains Adult Language and a Sex Scene

   The hot springs of Bath have long drawn people to worship and take the waters. The locals were already worshipping the goddess Sulis at the springs when the Romans arrived, identified her with the goddess Minerva and named the place Aquae Sulis Minerva. Rich Georgians came for their health and to socialise. We went because Jill told me to...just kidding. That is, she did tell me to, but we really went because it was a good base from which to see Stonehenge and Avebury.
   We had booked a hostel only 2 blocks from the bus station. Except, when we got there, the bus station wasn't where it was supposed to be, due to being rebuilt, so we started our visit by being lost. We soon sorted ourselves out, and found ourselves at another funky, brightly coloured hostel. We trekked up 3 flights of stairs to dump our bags, then headed out to explore the town which is a rather odd mix of old and new - mobile phone shops in Georgian buildings. We later found out that the whole town is heritage rated so even new buildings have to be built to look like the old ones. It centres (or at least feels like it does) around the Abbey - the tallest building in town. We were lucky to find a continental market on for the long weekend, and grabbed crepes for lunch.
   Our second day consisted of more exploring, including taking the City Sightseeing bus (yes, another one, for those paying attention - you get a 10% discount if you show your ticket from the previous one) which took us past one of the crescents - you know those curved lines of houses you always see in pictures of Bath? There's also a bridge with shops on it, and 7 houses built to look like one, plus a hotel built by a guy who was annoyed not to be allowed to build over the Roman Baths, so set out to build something taller than the Abbey (he didn't quite make it). A separate loop of the tour took us up to the top of one of the hills to look down on the city, though we couldn't see much through the trees. Apparently it's better in Winter. Both tours also pointed out (though I didn't manage to see) Sham Castle, a fake castle built by a rich Georgian who wanted a view of a castle. We also managed to score the dorm to ourselves that night, a situation which continued until our last night.
   Day three brought our long awaited tour to Stonehenge and Avebury. It was an early start, but we made it to Stonehenge before it got busy. Both our guide books, and another guest at the hostel said it was disappointing, but I don't find it so. I do think at least part of the problem is that it's very easy to get distracted by your audio guide and forget to take in the atmosphere, and people are disappointed that you can't go right up to the stones. I still find it a really amazing place though, the air fairly vibrates with the power of it. I think Andrew was impressed too, though not with the people who kept wandering through his photos. From there we went to Avebury, which is another stone circle, built from the same kind of rocks, sarcen (strange) stones, but unshaped ones, with a diameter of about 1km, and a town built in the middle! This is quite cool because you can go right up to the stones and touch them, but also a bit sad because of the damage done to the circle over the years. Farmers pinched stones (or bits of them) for walls, and at one stage the church (built inside the circle) ordered the villagers to get rid of the circle. Fortunately, the villagers weren't all that keen (hey, those stones are big) and worked slowly, and only pushed the stones into pits they had dug at their bases). Much of the circle is restored, thanks to some rich guy with enough time, money and interest to find the stones and re-erect them. Our tour guide also had copper rods. He gave us a talk on how they can be used to divine ley lines, and showed us how they swung towards each other. I leapt at the chance to have a go, so I'm standing there, holding one in each hand, trying to decide whether or not I want it to work, when, heedless of my indecision, they swung together. I had another go, just to be sure, and sure enough, they did it again. It was very strange. We then had a bit of a look around, hugged and patted some of the stones, before heading to Lacock (pr. lay-cock) village, via a view of one of the white horses of Wiltshire (we saw a couple that day), for lunch. This is a cute little village, owned by the National Trust (such things happen over here) where scenes from Harry Potter, Jane Austen movies and other movies have been filmed. From there we went to Castle Combe, another village - the castle is long gone, described as the prettiest village in the UK, and where they filmed the original Dr Doolittle. We checked out the market cross, then went into the church, where I was a little freaked to find a memorial to a Phillip Garrett. We then wandered down the main street and back to the bus, which then took us back to Bath.
    The next day was taken up with finally visiting the Abbey and the Roman baths. The Abbey was actually rather disappointing, but the baths were amazing. It's incredible how much has remained from Roman times. There were stacks of statues and reliefs of Minerva and other deities. One of the funniest things was that part of an altar - showing roman deities - had been taken away and built into the corner of a church (who eventually returned it)
   The rest of our visit to Bath was spent pretty quietly. I dragged Andrew into the Jane Austen Museum. Bath are really proud of their connection to here, even though she hated the place (or at least living there), saying it was best viewed through heavy rain... But then, they seem to be proud of Queen Victoria hating them too (she opened a park when she was 11, her skirt blew up and the press reported that she had chubby ankles, so she never went there again). The museum was quite disappointing with the only interesting bit being a display of costumes from a new production of Persuasion.
   Our final night, we gained a dormful of room mates - 3 American female lacrosse players and an Aussie guy - and the hostel had a fancy dress party (though not that many people got dressed up - the theme was 'Pimps and 'Hos') I didn't go to the party (it was in the late night dungeon - underground) but Andrew had a couple of beers. All this was fine until I woke up in the middle of the night to the sounds of one of the lacrosse player and the guy having sex in the dorm "Oh yes, oh yes, oh god, oh god, f*ck me harder". It went on for hours. Sadly for them, I don't think they achieved much, but maybe it was sad for me too - if they'd climaxed, maybe they would have gone to sleep and I would have been able to too. Andrew managed to sleep through the whole thing.
   And it was on that note that we left Bath for Birmingham and Cadbury World.

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