in Bath's Beauty
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.