My original plan was to actually visit the spa in Bath and have a soak for my weary legs in the same waters (ish) the Romans and the Georgian English would have done. Instead, I walked all over the place, along the remnants of medieval wall, to the Circus (which is a circle of conjoined houses at a place where three streets meet), and then No. 1 Royal Crescent. One of the top 5 architectural wonders of Britain, according to the brochure a nice Scottish girl at the front desk gave me. (I could listen to that accent all damn day).
The most interesting part of that was how very modern their world was back in 1800, yet…not. For example, they had highly specialized do-dads on their writing desk that did everything from trimming wicks for heating letter sealing wax to drying ink, etc. And in the parlour were cabinets reserved for a piss-pot in case you needed to relieve yourself. Women would just squat in the streets, and it was considered poor taste to acknowledge knowing them if you happened to pass by at that moment. At dinner, you just wiped your dirty hands on the tablecloth. But there was all this fine china and silver you were eating from. Bathroom etiquette was much different. As was kitchen sanitation. Raw meats and vegetables were kept in the same larders, mice overran the places so badly that suspended racks held meat to keep the vermin off until you were ready to cook.
I have seen similar museums in the States. Usually restored Victorian homes, where docents wear period costumes and talk about odd dining room table implements. Not a lot changed really since the Georgians and Victorians other than their sanitation and kitchens. Bedrooms haven’t evolved much in the last two hundred years. So, the docents and I got on a roll, talking about all sorts of stuff. It’s always fun to talk history with people that are passionate about it. It was funny that they were more curious about my take on things than the topics they illustrated for tourists every day. One of the docents and I talked about the American Civil War at length, even after I tried to shift the focus to English history a few times. Nope. He wasn’t having any of that.
The political climate is very interesting in the UK right now. It is hard to gauge what someone’s viewpoints are, but in a lot of ways, they are extremely interested in the American…oeuvre. I use that word because it’s more than Trump and more than the news they get. It’s a whole realm of perspective and for me, it was hard to perceive just how much world influence America had until then. The docent mentioned American imperialism, almost with a wink, and how similar the British Empire was to the American Empire of today. And my response, was probably not unlike a lot of those during the Empire days: America might be one of the richest economies in the world, but it’s not like I’m seeing much of that wealth. The docent acquiesced my point with a nod. But did make a point that even as lower middle class as I might be, I could still fly across an ocean to see other places. Touche, sir. Touche.
I got so involved talking with the docents at the Royal Crescent that I lost track of time and wouldn’t have had enough time at the spa before I had to make my 6:35pm coach back to London. I stopped by the Jane Austen house, which sold a lot of Jane Austen stuff. It was staffed by lovely young women in roughly Jane-Austeny costumes, who seemed to like my American accent. They told me that Jane Austen’s house was actually up the street at 20 Gay Street, which was owned by a realtor. They were closing, but the tour seemed to be just more of the same Georgian life that I had seen at No. 1 Royal Crescent.
Though it was neat to think that I was walking the same streets and visiting the same parks as a literary legend two hundred years later. I had to think that Jane and her sisters had really great legs from all this walking. Probably under all those skirts, legs to put Betty Grable to shame. Good for them.
I stopped at a tea house and bought some Rainbow Ceylon and some Black Pearl loose leaf tea in bags. The people running the shop even noted how British tea culture is not what it once was, with most people steeping their tea in bags in coffee mugs, rather than how it used to be done. Most people, they said, just drank coffee anymore.
Then for dinner, I had a “salad” at a pub. It was a cheeseburger chopped up and laid out on a bed of lettuce and French fries. There were so many “American” influences I had been noticing, especially in food. And this was one. Not too bad, if a little dry.
Being really late in the afternoon, the tourists were beginning to vacate the town. I did see the spa I had been planning on seeing, but I will have to come back another day to do that. I would definitely visit Bath again. I think two days would have been great for the area, especially with so many other sights to see in the vicinity.
There’s always other trips.
On the way back to London, the greens of the passing hedgerows and fields of the English countryside lulled me to sleep. Stone bridges. Towns. So many with the same flat, pale stone of the Bath quarry. The same stone the Romans used nearly two thousand years ago. For me, the age of this place was almost overwhelming. The layers of civilizations that have come and gone. I wonder what they would think of us?
One of my favorite parts of the entire trip was just talking with people whenever I could. Getting to know their take on things, their perception of me as a visitor was also interesting. It’s funny though, but to some, I think the American accent was just as mesmerizing as the Scottish accent is to me. I might have mentioned already, but I did find that I had to be clearer and more succinct with how I spoke so I was easier to understand.
Sometimes I would slip into my Colorado drawl, droppin’ g’s at the ends of words, and even the cadence of how I would talk, and word choices (i.e. “talk” instead of “speak”) would be confusing. So, I tried to clean it up most of the time. Ironically, they weren’t really getting much of the real me, and I wonder how much of the real them I was experiencing too.