Bathing in Bath's Beauty
Copley News Service
 
BATH, England - Just a 90-minute train ride from London's Paddington Station led me to the mystical storybook city of Bath. Known since Roman times for its natural springs, Bath immersed me in more than nurturing waters. There are a myriad of museums, fine restaurants and boutiques in this tidy town steeped in stately Georgian architecture and history.

In fact, approximately 5,000 Georgian buildings exist. It's no wonder the city is a World Heritage site. As I strolled through this museum-piece city of narrow stone streets, I discovered beauty in every turn. Many writers have also been enchanted with the city, including Jane Austin, who scripted several of her noted novels here.
 
Bath, England - Beverly Mann
HOT SPOT - In the mystical city of Bath, hot springs create bubbling pools. Shown is the King's Bath, 2,000 years old and presently open to the public. CNS Photo by Beverly Mann.
A great place to discover Bath's rich heritage is in the center of town amid the 2,000-year-old Roman Baths, a masterpiece of civil engineering. Only the King's Bath has been in use for all these centuries and is presently open to the public. The hot springs that feed the baths burst forth from the ground in a bubbling pool of murky green water and cascade down into a narrow stream to a river. The 10,000-year-old waters stream down through limestone where it's heated and then rise once again. A million gallons are bubbling free in the center of Bath, while the statue of the goddess of healing Minerva overlooks the site.

Connected to the Baths is the elegant 18th century-style Georgian Pump Room, which is situated above the Roman temple and sacrificial altar. The spacious Pump Room is a lovely place to dine for a delectable two- or three-course meal ranging from $37 to $42. I enjoyed lunch here while listening to soft piano sounds under enormously high ceilings. The restaurant features Martin the Pumper, dressed in Edwardian garb, who serves glasses of natural spring water pumped through an ornate fountain. A glass of this precious water costs 50 pence ($1). Residents profess that the water cures just about anything, but it tastes rather strange.
Bath, England - Beverly Mann
MEET MARTIN - Martin the Pumper is at your service at the elegant 18th century-style Georgian Pump Room Restaurant. He serves glasses of natural spring water that residents profess will cure just about anything. CNS Photo by Beverly Mann.
  Adjacent to the Pump Room stands the medieval abbey with its contrasting contemporary sculpture by Laurence Tindall. The abbey's colorful fanned ceilings are well worth the visit. The nearby Thermae Bath, an approximate $30 million project and Bath's newest architectural addition, creates quite a vivid contrast to the ancient edifices surrounding it. A high-tech, green opaque structure, the spa uses the natural waters that are treated and monitored for purity.

Don't expect total comfort and tranquility, though. The practical side of the building misses its mark. Dressing rooms and lockers are coed, bathrooms are an elevator ride up or down from the locker room, the waiting room for the treatments is more like a doctor's office than a luxurious spa, and a day's usage of the pool ($40) is a bit costly for many. Treatments are also a bit pricey. The highlights of the spa are the swimming pools and thermal baths. However, when I entered through an archway to get to the pool, there wasn't a sign warning me I was going to be showered upon. Unfortunately, I was wearing my robe.
A 20-minute walk from the center of town, the McDonald Bath Spa Hotel in seven acres of landscaped gardens may provide a more elegant surrounding for a spa treatment. With its $20 million renovation and $6 million spa, the hotel consists of six new treatment rooms and an outdoor hydrotherapy pool on a sun terrace. A 24-hour butler service is available for guests to be totally spoiled. Such celebrities as Joan Collins, Reese Witherspoon, Emma Watson and Peter Ustinov have bathed in luxury here.

The hotel opened in 1990 with two fine-dining restaurants. The more casual Alfresco serves Mediterranean cuisine and is located in a long foyer adorned with lush plants. The award-winning and more formal Vallore restaurant features a continental fare of such savory entrees as chicken liver parfait with toasted fig bread and roast breast of chicken wrapped in bacon with crusted new potatoes. A dark chocolate tart tops off a three-course meal.

I visited the Holburne Museum down the road from the hotel. The museum now has the Target Collection of 20th century British art, ranging from the 1930s to 1970s, including works of Keith Vaughn and Christopher Wood.
As I headed back toward town along the Pulteney Bridge clustered with shops and eateries, there was the city's Victoria Gallery overlooking the waterway. Every six weeks brings a new exhibition. I saw an unusual showing of Edwinda Bridgeman concerning developing awareness of the poetry in everyday life - looking at small events and memories that make us happy. The museum is also a great place for children to explore art through an interactive play center.
 
Bath, England - Beverly Mann
A MODERN TOUCH - Thermae Bath Spa, Bath's new $30 million, high-tech structure, creates quite a contrast to the older spas but still utilizes the city's natural spring water. CNS Photo by Beverly Mann.
I continued my walk along Union Street and reached the Museum of East Asian Art, housing 2,000 stored objects from ancient to contemporary times, the largest collection outside of London's British Museum. Upstairs is a room devoted just to ceramics. The museum touts the most comprehensive jade collection in England. It is located off the Circus, near the Royal Crescent, a massive complex of Georgian architect created by John Wood. Building No. 1 was the first home to be built.

After a short walk back toward town, I meandered through the Costume Museum, also the only one of its kind outside of London. More than 60,000 items have been collected. Particularly interesting were the embroidered Victorian pockets, in which ladies kept their most sacred items, including their love letters. I was able to try on one of the many corsets that were on display to experience what women had to endure 150 years ago.

Connected to this museum were the assembly rooms, where aristocratic parties and gatherings were held. Here lies the largest Georgian Room in Bath. Jane Austin and her family enjoyed many a celebration here.
Bath, England - Beverly Mann
KID FRIENDLY - Victoria Gallery (right), offers a variety of exhibitions including an interactive play center for kids. It is situated along clusters of shops and eateries on Pulteney Bridge. CNS Photo by Beverly Mann.
 
Speaking of Austin, there is the Jane Austin Centre on nearby Gay Street in the very house where her family lived. I enjoyed a tasty scone and clotted cream by a warm fireplace in the upstairs tea room. The classical music in the background gave the atmosphere an even more Victorian feel. I chose the High Tea with Mr. Darcy-finger sandwiches, cakes and scones for $20. The young staff was extremely cordial and polished.
Before I left Bath the next day, I couldn't miss a stopover at Sally Lunn's, the oldest building in Bath, dating back to 1492. Now a thriving restaurant and bakery, Sally Lunn's is noted for its light and bountiful buns that eventually gained popularity in the 17th century. Ms. Lunn, a young French refugee, arrived some 300 years ago. Her baked goods soon became a delicacy in Georgian times. I could really sense the warmth and hospitality of the people in this cozy dwelling. Note that there exists a museum in the cellar featuring the original kitchen and medieval foundations.

After some tasty treats, I left for the train station, just a five-minute walk from the restaurant. With a few jars of Sally Lunn's house-made cinnamon and brandy butter, along with the famous boxed bun in hand, I felt I was taking a bit of Bath back home with me.
 
Bath, England - Beverly Mann
SALLY'S IS STILL STANDING - Sally Lunn's, the oldest building in Bath, dates back to 1492 and is now a thriving restaurant and bakery. CNS Photo by Beverly Mann.
IF YOU GO
General information on Bath: www.visitbath.co.uk

Sally Lunn's: 4 North Parade Passage, open every day at 10 a.m. and Sunday at 11 a.m.

McDonald Bath Spa Hotel: Sydney Road, www.macdonaldhotels.co.uk

Thermae Bath Spa: The Hertling Pump Room, Hot Bath Street, www.thermaebathspa.com

Pump Room in Abbey Church Yard, www.romanbaths.co.uk

Jane Austin Centre: 40 Gay St.

^top of page
Website design by
Freeman-Designs

Copyrighted 2005 - All Rights Reserved by Beverly Mann