Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Bath, Castle Combe and Stonehenge

The weather gods continued to favor us yesterday as we made a 14-hour long day trip to Bath, the village of Castle Combe and Stonehenge. We ran into rain as we headed west from London, and we experienced on-and-off light rain in Bath and Castle Combe. But on our way to Stonehenge, the skies cleared, and by the time we got there, they were blue and cloudless. 

As many may know, Bath is a town that was built around the rediscovery of a large bath that was built by the Romans. In the 18th-century, the baths were rediscovered, dug out and put back in operation, taking hot spring water from a natural spring there. The place became quite fashionable among the upper classes throughout the rest of the century and on into the 19th century. Jane Austen, the English author, lived in Bath for five years, apparently hated it, and based a couple of her books on what she experienced while there.

Our guide explained that windows used to be taxed because they were an indication of wealth. As a means  of 18th-century tax evasion, many buildings simply filled up their windows with brick or stone. Now, because this whole area is protected, current owners of the building cannot remove the stone.

As we took a walking tour around the town, our guide pointed out places and streets that had been used in films. It took a bit of imagining to see the town without cars, but once they are removed and a bunch of dirt and dung is spread out on the streets, one can see how the place would be used for period pieces such as "Pride and Prejudice."

My favorite part of our time there in Bath was when Mark and I ducked into Bath Abbey (pictured in the lead photo of this post) for a few minutes before heading back to our tour bus. Our guide had explained that, though the current building only dates back to around 1500, it was in a church on this site that the first monarch of a united England, Edgar, was crowned 1000 years ago. The service that was composed for that coronation has been used for every succeeding coronation right up to that of Queen Elizabeth II.

What I found most interesting about the church were the memorial plaques that lined the walls on either side of the nave, such as those pictured below.

From Bath, we headed to the quaint little village of Castle Combe (pronounced "Coombe") where we had lunch in an old pub, then wandered the (few) streets taking pictures. It was an enchanting place.

Thence to another small village, Lacock (about the name of which Mark made a rude comment), which has featured in many films, including Harry Potter.

The sun had come out by the time we reached Lacock, and by the time we reached Stonehenge the sky was a brilliant blue. The lighting couldn't have been more perfect as we approached one of the most mysterious and photographed places in the world. As we wended our way around the structure, our guide explained the recent groundbreaking work of archaeologist Mike Parker Pearson, who has put forward new theories about the origins and meaning of the henge. Fascinating.

From Stonehenge, it was a two-hour drive back to our meeting place, then another 10 minutes to our hotel by cab, where I irritatingly left my jacket. (Argh!!) Today, we're off to the British Museum followed by a wander through Soho, culminating in a foodie tour there this evening.

No comments:

Post a Comment