45. Bath, England, U.K.

The last time I went to Bath, I was 17, it was Christmas Day and we didn’t get off the bus. Everything in England was closed. Seriously, everything. They even managed to close Stonehenge, somehow.

So when I went for a day before my work trip to London, everything was pretty new. I had a great tourguide in my friend Ruth, who lives there, and we spent a day wandering, cider-tasting and chatting with Roman impersonators.

Overview:
Bath, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was founded by the Romans as a thermal spa. Much of the rest of the city developed in the 18th century under George III, who’s responsible for Bath’s neoclassical Palladian buildings.

Today, it’s a beautiful, safe, walkable city with tons to see and do, and it’s day-trip distance from London.

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How I got there:
After flying into London overnight, I grabbed the Heathrow Express to Paddington Station and from there bought a train ticket to Bath Spa (making sure to get one that went direct, without a change in Bristol). It was pricier than I thought it would be for a trip so short–about $66, and it took just over 1.5 hours to get there–but considering we have Amtrak, I really have nothing to complain about.

What I did:
Our first stops were Bath’s Royal Crescent and The Circus, both beautiful examples of the Georgian architecture that characterizes the city. I’m told they’re best viewed from above, where you can see them in all their circular glory, but I had to settle for the ground view, and it wasn’t half bad.

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Bath Royal Crescent
The Circus
Bath Circus

After that, we wandered into the Assembly Rooms, where you can see where rich people used to dance in Jane Austen novels–and in real life! They’re pretty ornate, and you can poke your head in for free, and that’s pretty much all I have to say about that.

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The real highlights, for me, began with Mr. B’s Emporium of Reading Delights, and independent bookshop where the employees seemed to know everything about every book ever written. The shop was so adorable and everyone was so friendly that I was quickly convinced it was the type of store I wanted to support, and I walked out with the first novel I’ve bought in years.

We also strolled past some gardens, the River Avon (did you know Avon MEANS river?! yep, learned that one on my Christmas Day bus tour) and the site where Javert committed suicide in the 2012 big-screen adaptation of Les Misérables. I recognized it immediately. It’s a good scene, despite Russell Crowe’s Singing voice.

Our last stop was a 7:00 p.m. visit to the Roman baths, made possible by July and August evening hours. I’ve never seen them in the day, but I have to say, it seems like evening is the way to do it. The main bath is lit by torches, which really enhances the ambiance. And beyond that, you can get a stellar view of Bath Abbey during golden hour.

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Also there to enhance the ambiance were a pair of ancient Roman impersonators. Here’s a fact about me: I hate historical impersonators more than basically anything. We managed, for the most part, to avoid the guy walking around in a toga and barking at people to whip each other like slaves, but the lady “folding laundry” was harder to dodge. Luckily, she was pretty chill for an impersonator, and for the most part, she talked to us like a normal person, save the odd references to Gaul and horseback travel here and there.

Where I ate/drank:
We stopped for a beer at Hall & Woodhouse, a bar with rooftop views of that beautiful architecture. And later, we went to Stable Pizza for dinner (The Fitzwilliam was amazing) and a cider flight. While it was interesting to taste a range of ciders–we had really dry through really sweet–500 mls is more cider than it looks like, and probably more than I ever want to consume again in a single sitting.

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What I missed:
Actually bathing in one of the thermal baths. Another day!


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