The ancient city of Bath which was founded by the Romans in 1st century AD is a must-visit not only because it is the only place in the UK where you can swim in a natually mineral rich thermal water but also because it will make you feel as if you had stepped back in time. The Georgian architecture is wonderful to look at and if you are a fan of Jane Austin, it will provide you with a better idea of the scenery described in some of her novels.
I was very excited to take my beloved mama for a day’s adventure and after a couple of hours drive, we parked the car in one of the Park and Ride car parks and took a shuttle bus to the city center which turned out to be a great idea because it removed the worry and a huge cost of parking in the city itself.
For obvious reasons, the first thing we had to do was to visit the Roman Baths which welcomed us with a grand entrance and a high ceiling with beautiful domes letting the light in . It was a Friday and we only spent about 15 minutes in the queue after which we recived very useful audioguides, also in Polish so my mama could listen to the audiotour and actually understand it 🙂
The top floor of the Roman Baths gave us an impressive view of the Bath Abbey. When we later walked around it, we could see angels climbing up the ladder on their way to Heaven.
The most preserved part of the Roman Baths is the main pool area where you can see what it was really like for the Romans to bathe, relax and socialize in there. It was used for public bathing and pool is still filled with the natural thermal hot water (you cannot swim in it for obvious reasons) It is a unique sight indeed and no wonder millions of tourists visit it.
Regular bathing and relaxation was a very important part for the Roman culture and when you walk around the complex you can see many rooms where the temperature would have been kept at very high or low levels because the whole ritual usually started by putting an oil all over the body and then scraping it off, before entering the main pool area.
Thermal waters were considered to be very health beneficial and the Romans believed the water helped with rheumatism, artiritis and it also detoxified their bodies from too much drinking and eating. The whole ritual often involed having a massage and sweating in a sauna. Talking about ‘happy life’! The Roman Baths were simply an equivalent of modern day spas.
The thermal water is drawn from the so called ‘Sacred Spring’ and can be very hot. It is now in open air, however it used to be covered by a roof, providing a very humid, darker and relaxing atmospere.
The complex used to be much bigger than what you can see in the pictures and aroung this main pool area there was a set of other buildings nearby, including The Temple of Sulis-Minerva.
Walking on the original stone pavements downstairs and seeing the Roman men and women stopping by, makes the experience even more special.
I am going to admit- I forgot to touch the water 🙂 and check how hot it really was but that gives me an excuse to maybe visit it again?
When I met the real Roman man, he reassured me that this place would always wait for my return and that next time he might even show me a massage room 🙂 Just kidding- he didn’t say much and even if he did, how would I understand him?? 🙂
We were lucky to see this place on a warm sunny day but I wondered what it would feel like to see it in the rain… could have been interesting too.
When you walk around the museum you can se many original findings, including the design on The Temple of Sulis-Minerva which gave an idea of how incredible it would have been to visit it in ancient times.
Many of the objects on display were the offerings to the Goddess Minerva.
Over 12 thousand Roman coins, which had been thrown into the spring as votive offerings for the goddess, were now on display and it made a huge impression on me. Some Roman soldiers would have sacrificed their monthly earnings which means they truly believed in the powers of the goddess. The funniest objects were thin pieces of metal with engraved curses, asking the goddess, for example, to punish the ones who stole their pot.
Seeing the goddess Minerva herself, or her guilded bronze head, made it all clear. She did look as if she had superpowers. A woman covered in gold must have them! Or at least many Roman men used to believe it 🙂
I really liked watching the thermal water gushing from the original canals and it only confirmed how genius the Romans were in building the baths. All in all, we loved seeing this historic site and since we had some more time in the afternoon I had to choose among so many great museums. After a short consideration, the Fashion Museum seemed like a good idea and it did turn out to be fun.
After a short walk from the Roman Baths and using the useful street maps displayed at key locations, we finally found the place which only made me realise I was born in a wrong century 🙂 The Fashion Museum has an impressive collection of a 100 objects from the 1600s onwards and some of the dresses made me gasp from astonishement. The colours, the fabrics, the details were just stunning and even though they looked quite heavy to wear, I would have loved to try them on. Little did I know that an incredible surprise was waiting for us halfway through 🙂
Thanks to such wonderful display, it was easy to imagine Georgian men and women walking around Bath and in the Regency clothes from Jane Austin’s times.
Boxes after boxes containing hundreds of accessories, gloves, shoes, bonnets and umbrellas were on display in all possible colours and shapes. The shoes made me wonder though. Were women’s feet much narrower in the past? They seemed to have been by the look of the way shoes were made. Or maybe they just shrunk a bit because they were made of silk? 🙂
About halfway through the tour I was pleasently surprised to see that we could now dress up with my mama and have some great photos taken with the Royal Crescent in the backround (which sadly we didn’t have time to see due to the lack of time in 3/4 of a day 🙁 It proves that if you want to see many more sites, you need to either arrive in Bath early in the morning or plan to stay overnight.
We had great fun trying on different dresses and hats. Everything seemed to be quite big for my mama, including hats but I was happy to pose like Marie Antoinette for a few minutes. I must admit the wig looked quite good on me but it made me look even taller and my mama was so short she could be my child 🙂 The dresses also were quite thick and heavy so I started to change my mind about living in the times when I would have to wear them full time in a summer heat. That would have been a bit of a sauna experience..without going to the Roman Baths! 😉
The tour took just over an hour and if you want to really take it all in, plan for a bit more. It was very insightful to see how fashon has become ‘lighter’ with time which you can see for yourself admiring more modern time dresess from the 30s, 40s, or 50s.
Being a writer myself, or someone who had suddenly got an inspiration from God to write my memoir and now start writing a romantic fantasy for adults, there was one more special place I just had to visit; The Jane Austin Center, located at 40 Gay Street. Jane Austin has been my inspiration for years and I first read Pride and Prejudice during my studies in Poland when I was working towards obtaining my Bachelor’s Degree in teaching English . Back then, I could only dream of visiting places like this one in Bath where I could learn more about this fantastic writer. Jane visited Bath twice and it was an incredible experience to walk along the Georgian streets, imagining that she could have strolled there. At the very entrance we were greeted by a true gentleman who put a big smile on my face. I knew it was going to be a great place to see.
The vitit started on the first floor where we were given an interesting talk about Jane Austin’s history, family members and I even found out that she is one of the ancestors of Kate Middleton. The tour guide, an English lady dressed in a Regency dress had an impeccable English. I guess it only gave it more charm.
We were then taken donwstairs where we could see some of Jane’s portraits and the interesting thing was that nobody truly knows what she looked like because the very few scetches or drafts differ and the historians cannot agree on the level of her beauty. Some say she was much more pretty than portrayed. However, I did get to meet her (or her wax figure) and I asked if she was happy with the way she looked. She nodded as a YESsss…not sure 🙂
Many people around the world know Jane’s work thanks to the movies. The center has a autograph from the actor playing Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, Matthew Macfaden displayed on the wall.
Having seen that, I then had a chance to scribble something myself, using the very quill pen that Jane used to write the novels (just kidding 🙂
And this is how I left my mark there forever. Writing the title of my memoir. I wonder what Jane would have said about it. What would she say about the 21st century men in Britian? Would she be shocked or not really?
One thing was certain. Meeting Mr. Darcy in flesh made me realise I would have much preferred to live in his times. And who knows, maybe we would have been a great couple? 🙂
The fact that I could try on some period clothes, read a bit of Downton Abbey and sip a cup of tea, made the visiting experience real fun. You don’t often have a chance to put on a bonnett which makes you wonder whether it would help you with attracting an eligible batchelor or scare him off!
The cute little shop downstairs had a lot of souvenirs to choose from, including Jane Austin’s pocket books, teapots shaped like stackes of books or badges with ‘I love Mr. Darcy’ on them.
At the end of the visit, Jane posed for a picture with me and said she was really looking forward to reading my ‘Polish Girl’ memoir. I am still awaiting her feedback 🙂 fingers crossed- she looooved it 🙂
When we sat down with my mama in one of the quaint cafes for a moment of relaxation and charging batteries with a cappucino and a carrot cake, I knew the visit to Bath couldn’t be complete without one more place. I told my mama to wait for me and I ran to a place round the corner. I saw its top floor and I just knew we had to do it. We were going to have a bath experience, just like the Romans did, in the thermal waters of a pool on a roof.
When I ran back to my mama, she didn’t know what surprise I had prepared for her and she only realised what it was going to be when we entered the buildig of the Thermae Bath Spa. We received the towels, robes and flip-flops and we could now use all the floors with the downstairs pool first and then saunas and steam rooms. My mama was not very enthusiastic about the whole experience and it’s because, as she told me before entering the pool, she hadn’t been in one for 40 years and she can’t swim! I had to get her some sponge floating stick and hold her hands all the time. But when we entered the pool on the roof, I felt as if I had arrived in Heaven. The warm water was evaporating gently, giving it a heavenly feel and the view of the Bath Abbey and Georgian houses gave it an incredible charm. Yess. I thought, It had always been my dream to swim in an outside pool on a roof and here I was with my beloved mama in healing thermal spring waters, just like the Romans. We couldn’t take any pictures unfortunately so the one below is from the official page. Not only did I make my dream come true, but I also had a chance to give an incredible memory to my mama. Because she deserved it.
After 8 pm we had the last shuttle bus to the Park and Ride so we strolled through the empty streets, admiring the arcitecture, which was now even more beautiful in the dance of shadow and light from the setting sun.
All in all, our visit to ancient Bath was incredible. I hope I will be able to go back there and see so many places that we didn’t have time for. This place had a great atmospere, despite many tourists, and the variety of historic and modern activities made it very entertaining. I hope you will be able to experience it one day too. Au revoir for now!
If you would like to read my tue story ‘Polish Girl in Pursuit of the English Dream’ it is available on this page with an autograph written with a quill pen in Jane Austin style 🙂