Ah, Bath

Bath has the only hot spring in Great Britain, and it’s been a hot vacationing spot since Georgian times.

Before that, it was a hot spot for the Romans. The ruins of the Roman bath were unearthed relatively recently, having been covered up by streets and the more modern Georgian era bath.

Now there’s a museum to which tourists flock. There’s also a live bath/spa for anyone who wishes to take the waters.

Other tourist attractions include an interesting abbey, and a lot of Georgian buildings. Tour buses roll into town mid-morning and disgorge themselves of the hordes, and late in the day swallow them up, so the town seems a relative ghost town in the evening.

Very interesting fanned ceiling in the abbey.

At one time Bath was a small, walled medieval town. There is one stretch of the wall, about 20 feet long, intact, and a single well-hidden minor gate.

The town was bombed by the Germans in 1942 in retaliation for an allied bombing of a couple of historical German resorts.

The Avon River borders the town.

That bridge is lined with shops, reminiscent of Florence’s Ponte Vecchio.

We happened upon this boat diverting from the Avon into a canal by way of locks that were operated by the boaters. Fascinating to see.

There’s a really great free walking your conducted by the “Mayor of Bath” that runs three times a day.

Bonus to whomever identifies the speaker whence this entry’s title was parodied.

We met this pair at breakfast, then ran into them on the walking tour. The lady, Susan, grew up in Greensboro.

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Paradise

It might be presumptuous to call your B&B “Paradise,” unless you can back it up. Our home here in Bath is living up to its name.

Room view

But first … we had to get here. Departing the maze of reconstruction that is downtown Birmingham was no cakewalk, but miraculously we found the highway.

Most of the way to Bath was smooth, albeit uninteresting, sailing. Then we took a few turns off the highway, wound down a narrow, winding hill, and arrived within sight of a roundabout leading into the town.

A totally choked roundabout. It took 15 minutes to get into the roundabout, and another 15 to get halfway through it. Maybe longer. And town was still a couple of miles away.

GPS to the rescue. We were able to sneak into the escape lane so we could return in the direction whence we had come, and reroute to the back way into town.

Twenty minutes later we arrived at Paradise. Perfectly trained, attentive staff. A relaxing flute of champagne in the parlor. Recommendations and reservations for dinner at the nearby White Hart Tavern, where we had a truly memorable meal. Seclusion from the hordes of tourists who clog Bath during the daytime, yet an easy walk into town. Poached eggs for breakfast cooked to perfection.

City of Canals – Birmingham?

Birmingham has more miles of canals than Venice – who knew?

The city may not have the highest reputation, but there’s a renaissance going on there. Vibrant downtown, interesting waterway, tons of eateries. Sounds like Raleigh, except for the canals.

Queen Victoria looks down with approval at statue of nude bather.

Building boom should be complete in a couple of years.

Symphony Hall and Conference Center.

That weird yellow and ? building with the circular hat is the city library.

Well, and a little bit of history. For instance, the city’s museum, which is suspiciously similar to the Scotish Museum in Edinburgh, is housed in a Georgio-Victorian building that matches a lot of the older architecture standing in stark contrast to the modern buildings growing downtown.

I suspect Prince Albert had a hand in the development of the museum.

Birmingham Museum has a nice collection of stained glass.

Guess where I am

Turns out there’s more to St. Andrew’s than a golf course.

For instance, St. Andrew’s University is the oldest University in Scotland. It’s pretty interestingly laid out, with University buildings intermingled with the other buildings of the town.

And there are some interesting ruins, especially a cathedral and a castle.

The waterfront is probably pretty unusual, but the fog was getting thick by the time our late-day walk got us to the shore.

But yes, there is a golf course, the Old Course, the birthplace of golf, and on Sundays they don’t play golf on it – they open it up to the public to take a good walk without having it spoiled.

And that’s what we did.

Compare that to our experience at the car rental office this morning, where we stood in queue for over an hour before we finally got our car, and then through a series of missed turns took a half hour to drive the mile back to our flat to check out.

And then, it turns out to be a major three-day weekend holiday here in Britain, and we were turned away by our first restaurant for want of a reservation.

Fortune smiled on us at our next try, Forgan’s, where the manager squeezed us in, and we had a delightful meal.

Finished off the day with gin flights at the St. Andrews Brewing Company

Edinburgh

This post will be short on narrative and long on photos.

This morning we went to the bottom of the hill below the castle, climbed a steep path up the cliffs to the castle, and were turned away at the top due to construction.

But we made it around to the entrance, toured the castle, and walked down the Royal Mile.

We visited parliament, climbed a big gorse-covered extinct volcano, and finally found our way back to our flat.

Margaret’s Chapel, oldest building in Edinburgh

Inspiration for Raleigh’s iconic acorn?

Changing of the guard at Edinburgh Castle

Crashed a tour lecture in Parliament

Gorse-covered mountain

Monument to cousin Bobby Burns

Biggest Vermeer you’ll ever see

No, really. Rebecca is a Vermeer birder, and her eyes lit up when she saw the Scottish National Gallery has a Vermeer.

Imagine her surprise when the Vermeer was full-size. It is the largest known Vermeer. Also of note were a couple of Rembrandts, a Leonardo, and some really cool Cezannes.

Jewelry for a witch. This necklace was used to encourage women to confess they were witches.

Our other museum of the day was the National Museum, a really fun museum filled with a lot of animal remains, a bunch of machinery, a nice history of Scotland, a wing of women’s clothes, and a bunch of interactive displays for the kiddie in you.

The outside of the museum is a typical Edinburgh block stone facade, but the inside is a Victorian dollhouse, with some modern wings. I think I heard it was Prince Albert’s last project.

Sculpture of St. Andrew toting his cross, which became the Scottish flag.

We finished the day with a literary pub crawl, where a couple of thespians talked about Scottish writers and the dichotomy of Edinburgh. Cousin Bobby Burns was prominent, but Robert Lewis Stevenson’ s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (apparently it’s pronounced Jeekle) is the more apt metaphor for Edinburgh.

Maintaining a theme, we started our pub tour at The Beehive. Those of you with short memories might not recall the Beehive at the Dingle Peninsula. More obscure is a hike at Acadia N.P. known as the Beehive, which is archived somewhere.