Bath

Right around dark I was humping it back through Cheltenham, on my return from Bath. It’s a couple of miles from the train station to Charlton Kings, and I rang Geraldine White, the owner of Cotswold Studio, where I’m staying. I wanted to let her know I would be getting in after dark, and not to be concerned. She offered to pick me up, but I thanked her and declined the offer. Perhaps it was guilt, on account of ducking out on the day’s scheduled section of the Cotswold Way

About halfway there a car slowed down and began flashing its lights. I knew it was her. She’s so thoughtful, she couldn’t let me walk. This is one more example of how friendly people are here.

When we got home Geraldine showed me one of her guest books. “This is from one of your countrymen,” she said, And they’re going to put you to shame.” The entry was kudos from a ninety year old woman from Tennessee who had completed the whole Cotswold Way, walking with her daughter.

My excursion to Bath, executed fairly late in the day after I figured out that I could get to Hidcote but not back again, was just enough to remind me how much more I enjoy walking through wild flowers than through thickets of tourists.

It turns out that Bath is the second busiest city on England, right after London. I had no idea that it has become an open air shopping mall with every brand name in creation being represented. I took in only the central
Blocks, around the Roman
Baths, and passed by everything from Macdonalds to Vodaphone.

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The Baths museum is amazing, and very busy. They incorporate loads of technology to bring the exhibits to life. In onel underground area where there are smaller pools partially excavated, video projections against the walls show actors dressed as Romans walking in the area and disrobing. This is accompanied by audio of conversation and splashing sounds as the imagined bather enters the water.

In another section, pieces of the original entry portal are on a wall, and museum visitors sit on a stepped area that feels like an amphitheater. A projection fades in and out, overlaying the pieces, showing an archaeologist’s rendering of what the missing parts of the facade would have looked like.

You can easily spend a half day or more there, listening to a self guided audio tour. There is so much, and it is so well thought out that even with a steady stream of visitors, you can see everything without having to jump up to see over other people! Some of the exhibits have an audio clip with commentary by Bill Breyson that you can choose to listen to, and these are observations in keeping with his literary style.

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On the floor level where the largest pool is, you can walk around on the original Roman floor made of huge slabs. The Romans employed Celtic laborers and stone masons, and I met Brian and Adrian whose job it is to reenact the activity of stone masons from the year 212. This was the year Emperor Caraccala ordered a redesign of the Bath’s roof. The two men, dressed in right cloth and leather aprons and boots true to the time they portray, appear to be working on a cornice chiseled from the characteristic yellow limestone from the nearby Cotswold Hills. Brian told me they don’t really know how to work stone, and that on truth, they’ve been working that same cornice for the last three years.

Brian has lived in the area for quite some time, so I
Picked his brain about where to have vegetables for dinner. He suggested a Thai Restaurant, a vegetarian one nearby, and Jamie Oliver’s Italian, which was a block or so up the pedestrian shopping sprawl at 10 Milsom Place.

I’m no foodie, and I don’t own a TV, but even I know about Jamie Oliver. I love Italian cuisine, so I headed on up that way. He not only has the eatery, he also runs a deli that looks and smells like stepping into the old world of street markets.

I ordered grilled vegetables in season, which was a medley of onions, asparagus, olives, peppers, broccoli and one strong bean, all grilled and quite crunchy. I also had ravioli stuffed with peas and ricotta served with an asparagus sauce that was garnished with edible pea vines. Delicious.

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On the train ride home, I saw several hot air balloons floating over Bath and Bristol, where they have an annual balloon festival at some point. The platform agent at Bath Spa said that it’s quite a sight when the festival is on.

There isn’t any vegetation in the paved center of town, but the hanging baskets are simply out of this world. I couldn’t stop gaping at them. After I had my dinner, things had quieted down enough on the shopping district to allow me to capture this shot.

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