Day Ten – Eggscellent Breakfast, Showers In Bath, We’re Walking Here, Circus But No Tent, Ponte Vecchio: British Style, Hat Trick, Lunch In A Department Store, Kim & Mary Have A Ball, Father Of The Bride, She Doesn’t Look So Bad, Tom Pulls An Uncle Billy, Fool On The Hill, Kim & Mary’s Martini Dinner and I Don’t Think It’s Really A Heart Attack
After a glorious night’s sleep, the MaiTai Four filed down to the beautiful Hill House dining room for a breakfast from heaven.
Along with our tea and coffee we were given the choice of Eggs Florentine, Eggs Benedict or a typical English breakfast (hard for me to wrap my mind around baked beans for breakfast). There was also a table filled with granola, fruits and juices. I had the Eggs Benedict and they were cooked to perfection. Satiated, we were ready for the day.
Walking down the hill, we felt something that we really hadn’t felt on this trip. Kim said, “See I told you it would rain tomorrow.” Sure enough, we had our first significant rain shower. It barely lasted until we reached our first destination (the Roman Baths) at about 9:25 a.m., which have been here since around 75 A.D. The baths were dedicated to the goddess Sulis Minerva. During the reign of Queen Victoria’s, the Baths were rediscovered, and there has been constant excavation since.
Cost to enter is £12.75, which includes the very informative audio guide. For a while, we became sewer rats. They used water from natural springs.
The museum is well presented, and we spent about an hour wandering through all the excavations. The Roman bath complex houses some of the finest Roman ruins in the country.
We could have spent a little longer there…
…but right outside the Roman Baths was a free walking tour of the town, which was going to begin promptly at 10:30 a.m.
Our tour guide, Chris (a former nurse), took us on a 2 hour and 15 minute jaunt around town, and we saw all the major points of interest.
We stopped by historical buildings, walked by Queen Square (below) and headed over to The Royal Crescent. The obelisk celebrates the 1738 visit of Frederick, Prince of Wales.
Showers once again reared their ugly spigot (for about five minutes).
The Royal Crescent was built in the late 1700s and comprises something like 30 houses, which, as the name implies, forms a crescent shape.
Then we headed to the Circus, the one without clowns (fortunately). Circus Place contains Georgian buildings all built in a circle that is only interrupted by a few streets in between. Thomas Gainsborough (of Pinky and Blue Boy Fame for we Southern Californians who have visited the Huntington Library and Gardens) lived in one of these houses back in the 1700s.
The walk continued through Bath, and Chris was full of information. The tour is a great introduction to the town.
Our last stop on the tour was the Pulteney Bridge, an 18th-century span that has a bunch of shops and restaurants on it. Our guide told us it is one of only three bridges in the world to have shops across its span on both sides. The other two are The Rialto in Venice and the Ponte Vecchio in Florence. “We have the Bridge Hat Trick,” I exclaimed.
Kim and Mary were much more interested in this spot because this was the bridge used in the movie version of Les Misérables where some guy called Javert committed suicide (probably because he had to listen to that soundtrack too often). Thankfully Kim and Mary are not Jane Austen fans (so no Jane museum for us), or I might have had to join old Javert floating face down at the bottom of the bridge.
The two couples split up for lunch. We wandered into a restaurant that was also a department store. Café Lucca (1 Bartlett Street) is located inside The Loft, a store that sells everything from clothing to house wares to shoes (I assumed Café Lucca’s special would be filet of sole).
The restaurant was quite good. Tracy enjoyed her Butternut Squash Soup with a couple of Bacon & Fontina Crostinis. My Roast Beef, Shaved Parmesan with Horseradish Panini (£8.95) was just what the doctor ordered (that and a cold beer…more foreshadowing). Our waitress here happened to be born in France and raised in San Diego. Obviously servers in Britain are not allowed to be British.
Kim and Mary had lunch right down the street at a restaurant they found to be quite enjoyable, too. It had the unique name of Same-Same But Different (also on Bartlett Street), and they said the food was quite good.
We hooked back up with Kim and Mary to wander down to the very crowded Pulteney Bridge (crowded enough to be the Ponte Vecchio). We wanted to go to the Holburne Museum. Kim still had a bad case of museum fatigue, so we split up and said we’d meet back at the hotel for some vino before heading out to dinner. Up until this point in time, the day had gone pretty smoothly…we had seen lots of interesting sights, dined at a couple of good restaurants and everything was seemingly normal. The rest of the day and night would be anything but.
Tracy and I walked toward the Holburne Museum, but first made a slight right to catch a glimpse (from a distance) of the big rugby match that was taking place. Little did we know that Kim and Mary were, at the same time, becoming part of the game’s action…almost.
According to Mary: “While walking past the rugby field during the match, we were wandering on the river side, along the bank, listening to the roar of the crowd when the game ball came bouncing out the entrance walkway towards Kim and I. It rolled to a stop next to us, and a young man that was working at a boat bar next to us ran over, scooped it up and passed it to one of the security guards at the gate. That guard ran it back into the field to the roar of the crowd. Had either Kim or I had stooped forward we would have had the game ball as a souvenir!”
I wondered what I would have done. I t sure would have been a fun souvenir for my Sports Room. Mary and Kim, of course, did the right thing. By the way, maybe next time the teams could spring for an extra ball or two for the big game.
Meanwhile Tracy and I continued our walk to the Holburne Museum, an 18th century building which houses paintings, silverware and ceramics. Outside the building was a double-decker bus that had a sign that spelled out “Wedding Special” on the back.
A well-dressed man standing next to the bus came up and introduced himself as the father of the bride and asked where we were from, and we told him California.
While the bride and groom were having their photos taken in front of the museum, the extremely affable father of the bride escorted us over to a few of the wedding guests and said, “Look, we even have people from California who came to the wedding.” I think pops might have had a couple of pops by now. We exchanged some pleasantries and bade farewell.
Inside the museum were some nice paintings, but there was one painting on loan from the National Portrait Gallery in London that we were particularly interested in seeing. It was the first official painting of Duchess Kate…the one that had so many people’s knickers in a knot recently.
Paul Emsley’s portrait of The Duchess of Cambridge was maligned by many, but not by us. There was also a short film on how the project took place. We had to take a photo of the video, because there was no photography of the actual painting allowed.
Exiting the museum, we almost reached the sidewalk when the “Wedding Special” Party Bus, circled back from its previous direction and headed back toward us. As the bus made its turn onto the next street, Tracy and I waved to the bride and groom, and they (along with many other people on the bus) gave us a nice wave back. Someday I am going to look at our many European adventures to see just how many weddings we have stumbled across.
Walking across the bridge on the way to Hill House, I decided to get something from the rugby store for my buddy Dan (whose camera has been at the bottom of a Venice canal since my 2005 report) to put in his Sports Room. I bought a little £8 horn, paid by credit card and off we went.
Before heading up the hill, we made a quick stop at Bath Abbey.
We were told that Bath Abbey was built in the Perpendicular Style (kind of like me in college after a night of drinking).
The abbey has more than 50 stained glass windows and it also has a number of tombs and monuments throughout the interior. Queen Elizabeth I came to Bath in 1574. She ordered a national fund to be set up to restore the abbey.
The ceiling and stained glass windows also caught our eyes. There are more than 50 stained glass windows throughout the abbey.
A girl at the entrance tried to talk us into a Tower Tour, but we barely had the energy to make one more walk up that hill to our B&B (damn, lots of foreshadowing alerts lately). Outside the abbey, Tracy ran into a new friend who looked like he could use a bite to eat.
After trudging up the hill, I remembered I was supposed to pick up some cheese and bread for our little get together in the room before dinner. Harry was about to take his dog for a walk, so he walked with me to the little store where I would pick up provisions. When I got to the counter to pay, I realized I was missing an integral part of the paying process…my MasterCard. I went though my wallet a few times, and then went through the process of where I might have left it. It was at that damn rugby store on the bridge where I had bought the horn.
I told Tracy when I got back, we alerted Harry’s B&B partner, Douglas, who attempted to call the store. There was no answer, and the store was scheduled to close at 5:30, which was less than 20 minutes from that moment. To make matters worse, the store would not be open the following day, and we were going to leave early for Tetbury anyway. Now I knew exactly how Uncle Billy felt after he lost that $8,000.
Well, just like Jimmy Stewart, I started running through Bedford Falls (I mean Bath) with Tracy on my heels.
There were no Mr. Potters yelling at me from the windows as I tried to make it to the shop before it closed, but it was very near closing time. We arrived back at the store at exactly 5:30.
As it turned out, I could have walked backward to the store because when we got there the line of people stretched all the way to Wells. Bath had won the game (thanks to Kim and Mary not stealing the game ball) and everyone was lined up to buy Bath rugby gear.
When I tried to get inside, the guard momentarily stopped me, but when I told him my sad tale, he let me go to the front of the line. The cashier got a big smile on her face when she saw me and said, “Thank God, we had no idea how to get in touch with you,” and handed me my card. As I walked outside, a bunch of concerned fans (of the Bath team, not me) asked, “Did you get your card back?” Worn out, I just nodded affirmatively.
Tracy and I (slowly) walked back up the hill, showered and went to Kim and Mary’s room for wine, cheese and bread. Harry had made reservations at a restaurant called Martini for that evening. We had seen it the night before, and it looked cute. The places where we had wanted to go (like Restaurant Eleven) had no reservations available.
(I’ll just throw in some random Bath photos for the rest of this crazy story)
Sitting in Kim and Mary’s room, I suddenly felt a pretty sharp pain in my chest area. It would keep coming and going (but mostly coming). My arm wasn’t numb or anything, and my heart rate and pulse seemed fine so I didn’t really think I was having a heart attack, although I thought back on my run down the hill to the shop and was a bit concerned that I might have overdone it.
Then, without provocation, Dr. Mary reached over and pinched my earlobe as hard as she could. “What the heck (I might be changing the word I used there) are you doing,” I screamed?
She said that if I was suffering a heart attack, pinching my ear wouldn’t have hurt. I said that her pinch would have hurt even if I was dead. Mary and Tracy both concluded from this barbaric ear experiment that I had a bad case of gas (guess it doesn’t matter with me in Europe, gas seems to be a problem whether in me or in cars). Whatever it was, it was an incredibly painful feeling at the bottom of my chest, so I was still a tad worried I was having a heart attack.
I could see the tombstone already: “Here lies Tom…Sorry, we really thought it was gas!” The women were blaming this gas attack on my beer consumption since I had arrived in England. Although I hadn’t drank that much beer, I hardly ever drink it at home, so they thought perhaps my body hadn’t adapted to my new found fondness for dark ale.
In any event, we decided to play it safe and stay home while Kim and Mary went to dinner (no need for everyone to starve). Kim’s description of Martini Ristorante (photo above from stayinbath.com) was “good food, bad service and a dodgy atmosphere.” The boy is becoming a Brit at heart, I tell ya.
I, on the other hand, felt awful whether I was lying down and sitting, however I felt much better when standing. Tracy gave me some back rubs and stomach medicine, we contemplated calling 911 (or whatever number you call in Bath) and I drank a bunch of Bath (tap) water.
Ninety minutes later, as suddenly as it started, the pain subsided and stopped. We turned out the lights and were asleep in seconds. It turned out just to be another fun story to tell my doctors when I got home. I like to keep them entertained with my health woes.
Bath would be in our rear view mirror tomorrow, as we would drive into the southern Cotswolds. Along the way we’d visit some charming towns, take a tour at one of the true highlights of our journey and end up at the best bed and breakfast place we have stayed at in our entire life. All that AND dinner with a Brit from my travel board…who could ask for anything more?
Next: Day Eleven – I Got My Thrill With Blueberries Hill, Are You Sure That’s The Name, A Brush With Combe, Sunday Roast, Butterflies Are Free, Admitted To Berkeley, B&B Perfection, Someone Get This Dog A Drink and Dinner With A Fodorite Bearing Homemade Gin