Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tale#27 (dau deg saith) - Tracing the Romans, Jane Austen and Skins

My last weekend in North Wales and I used it to run off to the enemies in the East: I went to England; Bristol, to be more precise. Why Bristol? Because Vicky lives there and it was time to repay her visit. Once more I got on a train (it was on time) and alighted a few hours later about 120 miles further South.

I had begged Vicky to go to nearby Bath for a day, because ever since I had attended this amazing lecture on Greek and Roman bathing culture a visit to Bath had been ranking very high on my list.
When the Romans invaded Britain and little forts started springing up throughout the country they found a (sacred) hot and bubbly spring there and immediately made use of it by crowning it with a big spa complex. (They also named the settlement after the baths: Aquae Sulis) Several pools of different temperatures, massage rooms sweating rooms and sports grounds offered diversion and relaxation. These baths are the best preserved in Europe and therefore definitely worth the £10 entry fee.
It was early in the morning and most tourists were either still asleep or having breakfast - the perfect time for a visit. Happily we accepted our audioguides and spent the next two hours or more walking around in amazement.

The main bath, still fed by the same old spring.
Water temperature: nice and warm

What the baths once might have looked like.

These baby stalagmites are younger than the heating system they are growing on

Before we left we went to "The Pumproom", an expensive-looking tearoom/restaurant in the same building, where we got a generous half pint of Bath water. Well... one tiny sip would have been enough: its temperature and metallic taste were reminiscent of blood and I doubted the benefits of the drink.

We stepped out onto the square and immediately got drawn in by a man on a 2.5m high unicycle juggling flaming torches: impressive. We watched him a few minutes before walking on to the Jane Austen centre for some cream teas (Cream teas are typical afternoon dishes and can have various forms and sizes. The most common one consists of scones with clotted cream, butter, strawberry jam and a pot of tea.).
Hunger quelled for a while, we explored the vastness of Victoria Park and especially its play zone. Vicky and me climbed climbing walls, spun round on strange merry-go-arounds, went down slides and mingled with the kids queuing for the chute. (Imagine the look of surprise on the kids' faces - and the parents' faces!) Going down slides was more fun than ever as I was wearing leggins which had the effect of speeding me up extremely - trying to brake was useless: I shot out of the chute, over the edge and bum-first into the earthy patch at the foot of the slide, about a meter from the metal ledge. Whoops!

One of 100 lions guarding public places and shops in Bath

Jane and I take an airing

We continued our tour through the park before returning to the Jane Austen Centre. Jane Austen, famous author of books like Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility lived in Bath for a few years in the early 19th century and two of her novels are set in the then extremely vibrant and fashionable city. The exhibition gave us interesting insights into her life and family situation, we learned the language of the fan and had fun reading old newspapers that were in no way different from glossy magazines nowadays: full of gossip, giving details of relationship break-ups (incl. direct quotations of accusations), murders, theft, miraculous cures etc...

Fan language: I wish to be acquainted.

We enjoyed the last rays of the sun relaxing in Victoria Park before we went back to Bristol and I got a tour of the city by night: narrow dark alleyways, the illuminated waterfront, football fans galore (England vs. USA - 1:1)!

By daylight everything was less scary and Vicky took me on an extended tour, starting with Clifton Suspension Bridge...

...which afforded us great views of the Avon gorge and the river Avon. Next stop was Brandon Hill with Calbot tower...

... where I believe I found the very bench that starred in several episodes of the TV series Skins.

In erroneous and arabesque patterns we wandered through the city and eventually landed in At Bristol, a bright and modern art and performance space with museums, a planetarium and many other diverting things. When we got there a festival of nature was on, so it was very lively and full of people. We spent some time strolling around and trying different kinds of cheese and then progressed to a Georgian Townhouse, which is (of course) now a museum and can be entered for free, and then to Bristol Cathedral, the most beautiful cathedral I have seen so far: light, vast, with some specks of colour and many little chapels that can be accessed from the main hall.

The few hours that were left we whiled away on the green in front of the cathedral, eating strawberries and making lots of new plans, until our talk was interupted by the ringing of hundreds of bicycle bells and a parade of naked cyclists invaded the square, some painted blue like Avatar people.

My head full with impressions, pictures and plans I finally boarded the train back and after a 6 hour long journey found myself at Cadnant - for the last time in the company of all my flatmates. The house is now filling up with new people which make me feel a stranger and fuel my desire to leave. It now remains to pack my laptop and get going.

1 comment:

dAnath-alÁvye said...

That fan picture looks gorgeous. I can imagine that language worked well back then :-)