Jan 4, 2012

Bathtime puns

Two days ago, we took an overnight trip to Bath. We got packed and on the road by midmorning, heading out across the green countryside, stopping only for a quick bite of traditional British fare: KFC  chicken wraps from the drive-thru.

The city name jokes got started before we'd even entered the city, only got worse as we approached Lacock, and didn't subside until we reached Salisbury.

Bath is a small, picturesque city. Most of the architecture is very Georgian, which reminded me strongly of Edinburgh, especially the New Town. The Avon river runs through it, so named because when the Romans came through wanting to document everything, they asked local Britons what the river was called, and the Brits responded avon meaning 'river.' The same story with the Neva river in Moscow.

Bath has held its place through the history of the UK by both the virtue of the baths in Roman times, its position as a border town between the Britons and the Saxons, and later in Georgian times as a resort town and high fashion center for the aristocracy.

We stated at the Hilton perched above the river, located in the historic city center, which centers around the baths. After we got checked in, we went for a walk down to Sally Lunn Buns, which was the self-proclaimed oldest house in Bath, as well as the residence of Sally Lunn, who invented the buns for which the town is well known. The house is very old, part of a line of adjoining houses along a narrow pedestrian street, but as we discovered on wikipedia, the myth totally falls apart. Sally Lunn was not her name, it was a very very rough Anglicization of a French name, as are the origins of the eponymous buns, and there is no evidence that she ever lived or baked in the house bearing her British name. (Lunn buns, by the way, are very similar to the rolls served in the southern united states- fluffy, large, and delicious) The food was good though. I had a Welsh rarebit on a Lunn bun, which is basically cheese,  by bacon, mushrooms, melted on top of the bun.

We then took the hop on hop off bus tour of Bath, which drove us around. We sat on top as long as we could before the cold and rain drove us below. The rain and the early sunset ended our day after we got off the bus, so we adjourned to a pub for a pint before retiring back to the hotel. Urbanist that I am, I wandered around in the light drizzle and dark, following my whim along streets and alleys. I found my way over to the Thermae spa, which is a modern spa/thermal bath which uses the water from the hot springs.

 In researching Bath, I decided that I really wanted to spend some time at these baths. First, I really wanted to follow the footsteps of the livestock, Britons, Romans, Saxons, and Georgians, who came to Bath to relax and soak in the mineral-rich hot springs. Secondly, I was curious about the architecture, built by renowned architects Grimshaw, in a modern design which picked up elements from the city. Bath is largely built of local limestone, especially Georgian bath, and Grimshaw used this material extensively for the baths. The mushroom shaped columns, which fan out at the top similar to Wrights columns at the Johnson building, strike me as interpretations of the columns terminating in fan vaulting in nearby Bath Abbey. Third, I could really really use some relaxation.

I was called back to the hotel and we took a taxi to a very swanky modern Indian restaurant, the Mint Room. The food was very good with the right mixture of spicy dishes and more mild dishes, and we amazingly ordered the right amount of food. I was really missing the burn on my cheeks and top of my head.

We took a cab back to the hotel and walked around a bit, trying to find a pub that served STP, but all the kitchens were closed at the relatively late hour. The clientelle was a lot younger as well, closer to Tay's age. We ended up playing cards in the hotel bar until about 11, when we call it a night.

I've actually been kind of surprised at how much dad likes to play now- we'd played a hand or two in Switzerland before, and he was lukewarm about it, but this trip, he's been really into it once he grasped the essentials of the game, and he's been wanting to play every night. He's getting better, but Tay and I are still beating him pretty consistently. I have a lot of experience, and Tay has a lot of experience, plus he's a pretty shrewd strategan.

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