A travel journal
to Bath by gorboduc
Quote: A journey through Bath is a journey through time, from the Roman occupation, to medieval trading center, to Georgian spa town, to the fading gentility of the Regency, and on into the 21st century.
Residents of the US can save a bundle on transportation costs by booking their train tickets to Bath in advance. Book a month or two in advance and get an APEX fare -- about £18 pounds per person round-trip from London (a hefty savings off the £78 regular fare).
Try The Trainline for online booking; you pick your ticklets up at a window in Euston Station.
If you can afford to splurge on lodgings -- like a night for a double -- stay at Paradise House. It has an awesome view of the town and is walking distance from the train station (if you can deal with the short but relatively steep hill).
If you can''t splurge at all, but still want an awesome view, go to the YHA hostel on Bathwick Hill. It''s comfortable, with a friendly staff and a bus stops right at the driveway. Be sure to take the bus there if you''re arriving with lots of gear, unless you''re in good enough shape to lug your stuff across town and up a long steep hill.
The initial hike up the hill to get to Paradise House was a little rough--pack light--but once you arrive, the walk was worth it.
Paradise House is about a 10 min walk from the train station and has a stunning view of the town of Bath, especially at night when the Abbey is lit up. It is composed of 2 Georgian town houses. There is a comfortable drawing room with a fireplace and doors which open out into a pretty walled garden. Try to get a room on an upper floor with a bay window, so that you have a view of town.
I highly recommend the room we stayed in--Room 3--which has a King sized bed (which can be made up as two twins on request), a bay window overlooking the garden and the town below, and a HUGE--almost as big as the bedroom--bathroom with double sinks and a big tub in the center of the room (beneath a Palladian window).
Room 5, at the top of the house, is also nice, with blue and cream walls and a heated towel rack in the bathroom to keep your towels toasty warm. It has a view over the garden to the town below, right in line with the Royal Crescent.On balance, I prefer Room 3, for its bay window and larger bathroom.The rooms are large and nicely decorated and have a hotpot for making tea or coffee, along with tea, coffee, milk, bottled water and cookies(in case you want a snack). The bathrooms are stocked with Moulton Brown soaps and shampoos.You can have continental breakfast in your room, or choose from continental, English breakfast, or scrambled eggs with smoked salmon in the breakfast room. The English breakfast is great--you have your pick of cold cereals, fruit, and yogurt, toast, tea or coffee, eggs, sausages, bacon, and broiled mushrooms (hooray! no baked beans!).If you're leaving before the start of breakfast (8am), just tell a staff member and they will make arrangements for either an early cooked breakfast, or to have a nice continental breakfast brought to your room.The staff is friendly and helpful, and is more than willing to suggest outings and make dinner reservations.Price is on a par with other guest houses in Bath, at about 110 pounds/night double occupancy, including breakfast, though they do have discounts for off season and midweek stays if you ask.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on October 6, 2002
Paradise House Hotel
It''s a converted Italinate mansion, circa 1850, with a turret and a balcony. Perched atop Bathwick Hill and surrounded by gardens (which are totally overgrown, but cool, in a gothic novel sort of way), it''s a memorable place to stay.
The hostel is a little more than a mile from the train station, but take the bus (the Badgerline 18). You can get books of 10 bus tickets for about nine pounds. They''ll be the best nine pounds you ever spent once you see Bathwick Hill and realize that the bus saves you from lugging your stuff up it.
I stayed in a nice, clean quad overlooking the gardens. If you''re lucky, you can snag one of the quads in the towers, insuring a great view of the town below. There are lockers for your gear in the bedrooms; bring your own padlock.
Showers are hot, powerful, and found in large, clean bathrooms down the hall. Breakfast is not included in the nightly rate, but a decent one can be had pretty cheaply in the cafateria.
As an added convienience, the hostel has coin-operated laundry machines, and you can buy tickets for various tours and attractions (some at a discount) at the reception desk.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 9, 2002
Bath YHA hostel
Restaurant | "The Pump Room"
It''s not such a social lynchpin now, but the Pump Room still serves refreshments to Bath''s many visitors--light meals, snacks, and afternoon tea, all of which are far more substantial (and appealing) than the spa water which it originally purveyed.
Afternoon tea (served from 2 PM to close) is the best time to come here. The tea isn''t cheap--it runs about $12-$15, but it''s a good value. The Pump Room Tea consists of a pot of tea, finger sandwiches, hot scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam (mmmm--scones), and your choice of a tart or slice of cake. If you''re feeling really decadent, add a glass of champagne for about $4. All this food can easily take the place of dinner.
The room is very attractive, with a bay window overlooking the medieval bath, neo-classical plasterwork, and an apse at one end where a pianist usually plays in the afternoon.
Alas, tables that fill the space now prevent you from taking the refreshing turn about the room that Anne Elliot took in Persuasion, but you can still be like Anne and have a glass of naturally warm spa water for for 75p. And if you can''t stick around for tea or that healthful glass of H2O, you can get Bath Buns and pastries to go.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 6, 2002
Pump Room Restaurant
Bath, England BA1 1LZ
+44 1225 444477
Restaurant | "The Wife of Bath"
Actually, "basement" is something of a misnomer, since the Wife of Bath rambles through the basements of serveral Georgian townhouses. There are lots of cozy, quiet corners that allow you to enjoy your meal and have a respite from the tourists that swarm into Bath in the summer and on weekends.
The food at the WoB is tasty, with genreously portioned servings of both carnivorous and vegetarian entrées, so if you''re a vegetarian and get tired of the food at Bath''''s most famous veggie resturant, Demuth''s, you can have a yummy meal here.
If they have it on the menu when you are there, ask for the excellant homemade cream of mushroom soup. It comes with yummy fresh bread.
The Wife of Bath also serves a reasonably priced ploughman''s lunch -- lots of sharp cheddar cheese, apples, a green salad with a dijon vinagrette, and a basket of fresh wholegrain bread for under £4.
Wife of Bath
12 Pierrepont Street
Bath, England BA1 1LA
+44 1225 461745
Restaurant | "The Rajpoot"
The restaurant itself is in the basement of a Georgian townhouse and is accessed via several flights of steps--it's two stories below street level.
The Rajpoot specializes in the Moghul cuisine of northern India, and the decor reflects this, with an overall feeling of being in an Aladdin's Cave of color. Deep purples, reds, and greens, with bright brass lanterns providing warm light, create an intimate, exotic feeling.
Upon entering, you are seated in the bar, on a cozy banquette with a giant brass tray as a table. The host gives you a menu, and you order at the bar, giving the staff time to prepare your table according to what you have ordered.
I had the set menu A, an excellent value at about 16 pounds per person. It included aloo bara (a potato and coriander croquette), chicken pakora (white-meat chicken fried in a lightly spiced batter), rice, naan, saag paneer (mildly spiced spinach and homemade cheese), delicious bhona gosht (lamb and tomatoes in a spicy sauce), and chicken korma (chicken cooked in a mild coconut-milk sauce). The set meal also included coffee (very good and strong) and creamy kulfi (Indian ice cream in either mango or pistachio) for dessert.
The wine list is reasonably priced and well chosen, with a selection of full and half bottles and wines by the glass.
A set meal here is arguably one of the best values in Bath--our meal for two, including a half bottle of wine, came to 23 pounds per person, for more tasty food than either of us could eat.
You can check out the Rajpoot's menu for yourself at its website, www.rajpoot.co.uk.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 31, 2003
4 Argyle Street
Bath, England BA2 4BA
+44 1225 466833
Equipped with your acoustiguide, you go out onto the gallery surrounding the great bath. It''s surrounded by Victorian-era "Roman" statues -- not authentic, but impressive. You can get some nice pictures of the pool, steaming and green, from here.
As you progress, you go back into the building and wind though a series of exhibits explaining about the Romans and the temple and bath complex they built. There''s an interesting model of what they think the complex looked like, as well as artifacts from the site.
Back outside again, you can walk around the edges of the great bath (sorry, you can''t bathe there anymore, not that you''d want to -- it''s kind of scary looking in there), and look into other areas of the excavation, including the caldarium(sort of like a Roman sauna), complete with an ingenious system of underfloor heating, and the frigidarium, where the Romans ended their baths in a cold pool.
The Roman Baths adjoin the Pump Room, so you can cap off your visit to the classical ruins with a look at some fine neo-classical architecture.
A ticket to the baths costs about US$12. It''s really worth it -- I''ve been to the baths twice now, and will go again when I''m in Bath to check out the new spa this spring.
If you plan to see the Assembly Rooms and the Museum of Costume too, save about $4 by getting a $15 combo ticket.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 8, 2002
The Roman Baths
Abbey Church Yard
Bath, England BA1 1LZ
+44 1225 477785
Attraction | "One Royal Crescent"
If you’ve ever wished for a window into this life -- the life of the privileged class during the winter season in Bath’s heyday -- then this is the place to come. One Royal Crescent is a carefully restored townhouse at the Brock Street end of what is still Bath’s most prestigious address. It’s furnished with antiques and art appropriate to the period, rather than the belongings of a specific family who owned the townhouse. This is because the units in the Crescent weren’t owned by a family, but were up-market vacation rentals, and the tennants provided their own furnishings and decorations.
As you enter each of the museum’s rooms, you’re given a card that details the history of the various items contained in it. If you have any questions that the flyer can’t answer, just ask the friendly volunteers who make up the staff. If you are interested in painting or Georgian furnishings, you’ll find Number One fascinating. It contains portraits by Gainsborough, Sir Godfrey Kneller, and Francis Cotes, among others.
The most striking piece of furniture, in my opinion, is the painted four-poster bed with stunning hangings of reproduction fabric. As you leave the bedroom and go into the upper hall, you can see a portrait of Ralph Allen, once Bath’s postmaster and one of the men who encouraged (and made his fortune on) the mid-18th-century building boom.
In the lower hall, check out the sedan chair that sits under the stairs. Because Georgian Bath was too small and hilly for carriages to be a practical form of conveyance, these were the town’s taxicabs.
The restored kitchen is in the basement. Kids will especially like the dog wheel, used for turning the spit on which roasts were cooked. Unfortunately for beer aficionados, the brewery —- a staple in most early homes —- no longer exists, and you’ll have to content yourself with the gift shop that has taken its place.
One Royal Crescent is owned and maintained by the Bath Preservation Trust, which also runs the Building of Bath museum. Admission is £4 for adults. Save the ticket, because it’ll save you £1 if you plan to go to The Building of Bath museum.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 14, 2003
Royal Crescent Museum
1 Royal Crescent
Bath, England BA1 2LS
+44 1225 428126
Attraction | "The Assembly Rooms and the Museum of Costume"
The Assembly Rooms here are the second set built in Bath, the first having been completed in the early 18th century. The first rooms were located in the Lower Town not far from the Pump Room and the King's and Queen's Baths.
By the latter part of the 18th century, the Lower Rooms seemed small and stodgy and the Upper Assembly Rooms were comissioned of John Wood the Younger. They were completed in 1771.
The building is composed of four main rooms--the Octagon, the Card Room, the Ballroom, and the Tea Room. This was a revolutionary plan--to have rooms dedicated to each of the amusements common at an assembly, so that the card players would not be incommoded by those who wished to eat supper, and the dancers could dance on without impediment.
The Ballroom is gigantic--the largest 18th-century room in Bath. It is two stories high, painted sea green with graceful white plasterwork adorning the ceilings and trim, and lit with a row of six glittering chandeliers. To fill it with dancing ladies and gentlemen, musicians, and watchful duennas, however, requires imagination (and perhaps the help of select passages from Jane Austen, thoughtfully provided on your acoustiguide)--the Ballroom, like the other rooms in the building, is empty except for some chairs to sit in.
At the upper end of the Ballroom is the door to the Octagon and the Card Room. The Octagon links all the rooms together. It was originally intended as a card room, though cards proved so popular that a card room was built, leaving the Octagon as a room for conversation and music.
The final major room in the building is one of the most arresting--the Tea Room, where, as the name indicates, refresments were served. The Tea Room also served as a concert venue. You can see it used as such in the movie version of Persuasion.
The rear of the Tea Room is dominated by stunning columns. The stonework here is faintly pink--the result of a fire when the Assembly Rooms suffered a direct hit in a bombing raid at the end of World War II.
In the basement of the Assembly Rooms is the Museum of Costume, which traces fashion from Elizabethan times to the present.
If you had problems visualizing the Georgian and Regency revelers, a visit here may help--you can see and hear about 18th century and Regency dress, as well as 17th century court dress and Victorian fashion.
Perhaps the most interesting (and frightening) exhibit is the "Dress of the Year", where every year since 1963, a dress has been selected as representitive of the time. (1966 is particularly groovy and 2000 is your chance to see the infamous "J-Lo Oscar dress" up close.)
Admission costs £11 for adults as a combo ticket with the Roman Baths museum, £5.50 for admission to the Assembly Rooms and Museum of Costume alone.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on May 4, 2003
Assembly Rooms Bennett Street
Bath, England BA1 2QH
+44 1225 477789
Attraction | "The Building of Bath Museum"
The Building of Bath Museum, located in the Countess of Huntington''s Chapel, off the Paragon, tells the story of how the 18th-century city we see today came to be.
The admission fee allows visitors to browse through the exhibits that are arranged roughly in a time line -- the early section tells the story of prehistoric, Roman, and Medieval Bath, moving quickly on to a watershed period in Bath''s history -- the first decade of the 18th century, when Queen Anne came to take the waters and Beau Nash helped to make Bath the most fashionable spa in England.
There are exibhits on the men whose fortunes were made and lost here by speculating on real estate, and exhibits on Bath''s most famous architects, John Wood the Elder and his son, John Wood the Younger.
The majority of the museum, however, is devoted to the actual constuction of the Georgian town, from the purchase of lots, to the design of the exterior facades (interior layout and decoration were left to the discretion of the builder), quarrying the Bath stone used for constructiuon, and the myriad skills needed to finish the interiors, including carpentry and fancy plaster work.
Across a small courtyard is a section of the museum devoted to interiors -- paint, wallpaper, case goods, soft furnishings, and the like.
Taken together, it''s a comprehensive and fascinating picture of 18th-century urban development.
It will, however, likely bore younger kids senseless, unless they''re building mad. They''ll probably be happiest looking at the giant scale model of the town at the far end of the museum.
If you go, be sure to save your ticket stub. If you present it at the One Royal Crescent Museum, you''ll get £1 off admission.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 14, 2003
Building of Bath Museum
The Countess of Huntingdon's Chapel
Bath, England BA1 5NA
+44 1225 333895