Wednesday, November 14, 2001

Out of Bath, Back to London

Out of Bath, Back to London

We decided we had better go back to London and retrieve our other luggage. Our next port of call may just be colder than this one is and we will need our warmer clothes. We can’t survive with our nylon travel pants much longer. Anne and Bruce had offered to have us stay with them the night before we left and I understand that in responding to my e-mail, Anne accidentally hit the ‘Reply to All’ button, so some of you may have been introduced to her electronically. She does not get home until about seven, so we had most of the day yet in Bath to continue exploring before getting a train for the hour and a half trip to London’s Paddington station.

The one major site we had not seen yet was the major site of Bath, the Roman Bath. The story goes that a very early tribal king was ostracized from his kingdom due to his having leprosy. He was remanded to herd pigs in the distance away from his kinspeople. The king had noticed that his pigs that had scaly skin were perfectly clear after rolling in the mud caused from the springs that rose from the earth. He rolled in the mud himself and was cleansed of the leprosy. That is the story.

The Romans discovered that there were these hot springs that were rising to the surface of the earth. The local people had worshiped this area and named the goddess Aqua Sulis. When the Romans conquered them, they renamed it Sulis Minerva combing their goddess with the local goddess and built a city around the springs. Digging down the earth, they were able to build pools that would fill with the hot spring water and true to the Roman way, they did very advanced piping and engineering construction that is still evident today. The museum holds many artifacts that were tossed into the pools as a gift to the goddess. A golden head statue of Minerva was uncovered and is almost in perfect condition, but it is believed to have been a full body statue done in gold at one time.

In the 1700’s people of wealth would flock to the springs to been cured of illnesses thinking that the waters held a special cure. Many would arrive with instructions from their physicians describing their condition and prescribing the treatment needed in the baths to assist their illness. The content of the water has a high ratio of sulfur. It is believed that most of the center of the city has been built on the remains of the balance of the Baths, the temples, and other buildings that once surrounded it. One of the buildings is the town’s cathedral, so there is no chance of recovering much of the ruins that lie beneath.

The Pump Room, which I have referred to earlier, is the room that in 1706 was the center of social activity at the Baths. People would congregate there to socialize, gossip, and drink the waters pumped up from the springs, which were supposed to be healthy for them. This part of the tradition continues today. The Pump room is a very elegant restaurant where one can still meet, dine, and socialize. One can also go in for a drink of the spring water, which is reputedly foul tasting due to the sulfur, but healthy for you. No, we did not partake.

We did however go to the Hub café for a creamed tea before leaving for the B & B to pick up our carry-on luggage. If you need a refresher, creamed tea consists of scones, jam, tea, and clotted cream. The latter is the whipped cream that is neighboring on being butter. This clotted cream was even closer to being butter and was therefore not as easy to spread, but it lubricated the scones sufficiently enough that I did not have to waste my tea in order to get them down. It is only without taste buds that I can enjoy scones. With taste buds, they are so tasteless, you would think you lost your taste buds and are missing out on something.

For any of you who are Jane Austin fans, Sense and Sensibility, she lived in Bath for six years. The story is that she hated it here since she felt like she was just a country girl and the city was too sophisticated for her. She felt very out of place, however, she did write two novels that were occurred in Bath, one being Northanger Abbey. Her father is buried here, if that excites you to know. Charles Dickens liked to hang out here too, but their equivalent of a Writer’s Museum seemed less authentic than what we had seen in other cities, so we passed it by.

Train rides are so standard now that they pass by quickly when we each have a book in hand. We arrived at Paddington Station, London. If you remember the children’s story, Paddington Bear, this is where the story originated. A little stuffed bear was left in this station with a tag around his neck asking that he be cared for. A family found him and gave him the name Paddington after the station where they found him. This is the short version of the story. Needless to say, there is a kiosk where anything and everything Paddington Bear is sold.

We had to take two tubes to get close to Anne and Bruce’s, but we started getting back in practice of carting suitcases up and down multiple flights of stairs. The horror of two more huge suitcases gave me day and nightmares. Why couldn’t we be rich enough to chuck everything and buy it new each time we arrived somewhere or have the bucks to hire some unemployed person to haul it for us? Okay, no whining, we are here and have to be grateful for small, um, yes, large favors.

Anne and Bruce picked us up at the tube station and we went for Indian food. We treated to thank them for holding our luggage and for the anticipated night’s stay. What we had not intended was for it to also be a celebration dinner. Bruce and Anne started out sharing that they have been looking at houses in Kent. They are ready to move back there. Anne is teaching there and Bruce is a psychiatric nurse manager in London. He will commute until he retires early, in five years. Then they sprung the big news. They are expecting a baby. They found out about four weeks ago, right after we left them with our goods. We were thrilled for them and know they will both make wonderful parents.

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