We slept in today - so late that we missed breakfast altogether! We headed into Bath and bought pasties at a shop on Pulteney Bridge and sat along the Avon River to eat. The pasties weren't nearly as good as yesterday's but cheaper so that's something :) I bought charms for Ivy's bracelet and we stopped at an Oxfam shop and I stocked up on cheap books. There are lots of charity shops in England, several along the main road in Golders Green and we've seen several so far in Bath as well. (Oxfam is like Salvation Army or Goodwill). We walked in a big circle, crossing the river and back and then on to Bath Abbey. The first king of England, Edgar, was crowned here in 973. How cool is that? (Well, he's the first depending on who you ask but still...) The abbey is amazing. I can't even describe it really. I took lots of pictures but they can't do it justice. I think it's a shame we don't build churches like this anymore. To me the workmanship involved shows such reverence for the house of God and it is beautiful and awe-inspiring. It really does lift the soul toward heaven. I'm sure that worship in such a place could help one feel closer to God. There is an air of the sacred about it.
From the Abbey we went to the famous Roman Baths which were also amazing - though of course in a very different way. I'd no idea they were so large. The baths were an entire complex in the days of the Romans, complete with a sort of sauna, temple and sacred pool where the people could throw in their requests to the goddess Sulis Minerva. Sulis Minerva was a sort of meshed Celtic-Roman deity. Minerva was the Roman goddess of wisdom and Sulis was a Celtic goddess. I find it so interesting that this didn't seem to affect belief in the deity even though she was a sort of created hybrid. Most requests that have been recovered from the ancient pool and translated are requests for vengence on a wrongdoer. For instance: "Make the person who stole my toga die a horrible and violent death and also lose all his hair." I'm paraphrasing but that's the general idea. There was a sophisticated piping system for the waters and the "sauna" had a raised floor that allowed the naturally heated waters to run underneath and warm the room. We looked into the Pump Room (so well known to Jane Austen readers) where you can drink the "healing waters" but it's now a very pricey restaurant so we didn't stay long. We were all turned around by this point so just wandered a bit looking for a place to eat supper. We ended up in a more modern pub where Tim ordered bangers and mash (sausages and mashed potatoes) and I had a curry. We literally zigged and zagged our way all over Bath as we searched for our car. English towns (at least the ones we visited) aren't laid out on a grid system as a lot of US towns are. Streets curve around and have lots of little branches. Usually, at home if you miss a turn you can just turn at the next corner and end up parallel to your original course. Not the case in Bath. We didn't mind really though, we were getting to see lots of the town this way.
Down by the river there were pigeons everywhere. They were clearly used to all the people around and pretty much ignored us. Until I accidentally dropped some of my pasty. Then what had been a very Mary Poppins-esque scene became a bit Alfred Hitchcock in a matter of seconds. Tim saved the day by throwing some of his lunch well away from us and the birds left. My hero!
We've been very glad of the GPS. It got us to and from town today and we would very literally be lost without it since we still couldn't read a British road map to save our lives. Anyway, the driving in town bit is nerve-wracking enough without trying to figure out the route as we're driving. Bath has the narrowest streets ever and there are always cars parked on either side, lorries (I just can't say "trucks" in England - it doesn't sound right) park to make deliveries and take up half of the road. Tim actually first learned to drive on the left side of the road as that's how they drive in New Guinea but it's been awhile and our car is a stick shift which requires more attention. I can barely drive a manual at home, so no way could I do it here.
I've been disappointed in the TV. Because I love so many BBC productions and I was hoping to enjoy some here. We haven't had much leisure for TV really but I've tried it a few times. The first time I caught a talk show hosted by Kyle Somebody-or-other that seems to be the British equivalent of The Montel Williams Show. It was kind of fun to hear people being referred to as "plonkers" and "daft cows" but only for about 30 seconds. Last night when we first arrived at our new hotel (which is so fantastic - I LOVE it) I flipped on the telly while I was unpacking. And what was on BBC1 I ask you? Die Hard! Bruce Willis should not be who I am watching on the British Broadcasting Corporation channel in England! Come on! Tonight, I found a show called University Challenge which was only interesting because I saw a James McAvoy movie called Starter for Ten where he plays a contestant on this show.
We were too late today getting back to the hotel for tea so we have yet to experience an English cream tea. Maybe tomorrow. We called home for the first time tonight (I tried in London but my cell phone wasn't working). We talked to each of the kids briefly and they are clearly not pining away at home missing us! They seem to be having a great time with Grandma and Mimi and Papa.
My favorite feature of our hotel room is the huge window seat - it's big enough for both of us to sit comfortably and looks out over the countryside. If we ever build our dream house it's going to have a window just like this!
Our plan tomorrow is to see the Jane Austen Centre and maybe the Fashion Museum here in Bath then check out a town called Lacock where parts of Pride and Prejudice, Cranford and Harry Potter were filmed. Then on to Avebury which is, I hear, something similar to Stonehenge. Though I can hardly believe it since I used to be so fascinated by Stonehenge, we will probably skip it on this trip. I'm told Avebury is more accessible (Stonehenge is roped off) and there are too many things on our agenda for us to do both!