Chapter the Eighth – Bath!
Despite my inexpert attempt to remove the cowpat, the stench of the teenage filled bus masked the rich odour of my shoe and we drove away from Stonehenge to Bath. The scenery was delightful and my heart began to thrill at the thought of soon seeing the very place in which Jane Austen herself had trod in her dainty slippers (I hoped unblemished by cow pats).
At last this wonderful town appeared across a valley, every expectation being answered. I saw the crescents, the river and Pultney Bridge, the Bath stone all glowing in the sunlight!
The coach drew up outside Bath Cathedral and we debouched to line up to see the Baths themselves. The crowds were enormous but I thoroughly enjoyed looking at the different sections of the baths which had been so well preserved. The roman sections were astonishing and to see the hypercausts, and the tepidarium, frigidarium etc. were a revelation.
Trying to imaging the Regency aspect of the Bath was a little more difficult as the only attempt at setting a scene was a blowsy woman dressed in a lopsided 18th century wig and drab who nodded for no obvious reason as you went past. We were warned to wash our hands if we touched the water in the Bath and it certainly looked like it had not been cleaned since the scrofulous and gout ridden invalids of the 19th century had disported themselves in it.
As the students had now run out to buy gimcracks and gegaws at the shops I found myself alone in the Pump Room! There was I by the very pump which no doubt Jane Austen herself had stood to drink the waters.
A friendly wench offered me a glass of the health giving waters for a mere 50pence. Another frisson of excitement electrified me as I elegantly moved the glass to my lips. The water was not unsavoury. A little like brackish soda water in fact, and I drank the entire glass in homage to my literary idol. A quick turn about the pump room ended my time at the bath and I raced away from the burgeoning crowds, determined to find a quieter place to live my dreams of Bath proper.
I found Pultney Bridge and delightedly crossed it twice, thrilling to be on a bridge that still had charming shops on each side. I raced about searching for the noble crescents but I think I must have missed them and I searched for Laura Place in vain. As time was short, I snuck into the Cathedral and wondered at its soaring ceilings and the stained glass and then returned to our meeting place to troop back to the coach and so back to Oxford. So delighted was I by the experience that I do not recall what I had for dinner and went to bed happily knowing that I had at last visited the place so vivid in my imagination thanks to the best of English Authors.
Papa Bouilloire’s other adventures can all be found HERE if you would like to know more of this remarkable individual’s reminisces.