For a fervent reader of Jane Austen novels, Bath feels like a familiar place. Although the talented British writer detested the pretentiousness of the Bath crowd, the place is haunted by characters of her novels, strolling in the spacious squares with their lace bonnets.
In less than two hours, we arrived at beautiful Bath. First activity on our list was the free guided tour, that has been successfully offered to the keen tourists for 75 years. Collins, an enthusiastic civil engineer from Bath, guided us for a couple of hours around busy and chilly Bath. The journey in time started from the Roman years, that left behind the famous and fascinating Roman Baths. The unique attribute of the water to reach 46 Degrees Celsius rendered it ideal for the creation of Roman spas for religious, therapeutic and social reasons. For four hundred years people gathered from all around the world to indulge the benefits of the natural hot water in the largest pool of the roman empire. The museum which has been erected now at the same location, shares interesting facts about the life in the spa, such as the curses that the agitated spa lovers addressed to the bathrobe thieves via the Goddess Aquae Sulis.
Although advised by the numerous signs “not to touch the water” I could not resist the urge to dip my fingers in the steamy water. The doctor’s advice was to spend two hours daily in this water in order to heal any medical conditions. The same touristic magnet is still in force through the modern spa facilities of Thermae Bath Spa worth waiting in the queue for.
Halfway through the tour I was wondering how Bath developed into the favourite venue of the upper class. I figured that there was no straightforward answer to this question. Bath owed its name partly to its natural gifts and partly to mighty traders, masons and public personas. Specifically, Ralph Allen exploited the Oolite limestone, another valuable asset which both boosted the economy through trade and played an essential role in the unique architectural beauty of Bath. Additionally, the infamous Richard Nash, known in the upper class as the master of ceremonies was primarily responsible for the transformation of Bath to a fashionable centre during the 18th century. Squares and paths were created for the ladies to take their walks, tasteful boutiques offered the latest trends and social events gave the opportunity to the privileged crowd to dance and get acquainted with each other.
However, there is only one of the influencers of Bath that impressed me highly and happened to be an architect who left his trace well founded in the city. His name was John Woods and came from a humble background. In his early years though, Woods sought further education in London, where he was inducted into freemasonry but never abandoned the dream of bringing Bath to its former glory. Due to the unwillingness of the local society to invest in his vision, he had no other choice but to rent the land for a substantive sum of money. Personally, I was extremely happy that he took the hard decision and we can subsequently now admire the Queen’s Square, the Circus and the Royal Crescent. Notably, the Vetrouvian proportionality and the various carved masonry symbols do not go unnoticed.
Another fact that impressed me was the tax system that they came up in order to collect money. A window tax was imposed on the properties. In other words the state tried to cash in the eternal agony of the British, for some sun. A house with an abundance of windows was synonymous of wealth. At the same time a lot of windows would be bricked up to avoid this absurd tax. As the tour was coming to an end, I couldn’t help but travel mentally back to Greece.
As a proud chocolate lover, I could not type a full stop on this article without mentioning the Fudge Factory. It is a paradise of … What other than Fudge! The chocolate is present in every form. Milk, dark, white, with caramel, in brownie, marshmallows and the list goes on. One bite is enough to make you close your eyes trying to capture this moment and memorise the impeccably rich flavour. I could definitely write a chapter about the virtues of my fudge experience, but that would be impossible without overshadowing the other remarkable beauties of Bath.
Shockingly enough, Jane described my situation perfectly in Northanger Abbey : “Your head runs too much upon Bath; but there is a time for everything — a time for balls and plays, and a time for work. You have had a long run of amusement, and now you must try to be useful.”