One of the most ancient towns in all of England, Bath is so named because of the naturally hot thermal springs that sprout forth in its central block, and that have been used for bathing and relaxation since Roman times. Bath is a very posh and expensive little tourist town, and it's a common weekend getaway spot for Londoners. I'm staying in Bath for a few days, and making it my base for exploring nearby places such as Bristol and Salisbury.
I needed to get the bus back from Bath to London this morning — but I hadn't booked a ticket; and I had no idea what the departure times were (I tried checking yesterday, but the terminal was closed). As it turned out, I was really, really lucky: I checked out of St. Christopher's, rocked up at the bus terminal at 9:40am, and just managed to jump on the 9:45am express bus to London! Phew — would have been quite a wait if I'd missed it. See, turns out that you don't have to plan and book-ahead everything here in Europe: sometimes you can get away with doing it the Latin way — i.e. turn up, and go somewhere, just like that.
Following the afternoon's Stonehenge tour, my final evening in Bath was quite easy-going. Just wandered up to the chill-out room at St. Christopher's, and made good use of their extensive video library by watching a few movies. I saw one called "Sleepers", a disturbing but very well-produced film about boys in juvenile prison in the 60s. Also saw one of my old favourites, "American Pie 2", with a few crazy American kids, who wandered upstairs as well (their pick). Plus, I couldn't resist a bit more curry for dinner. Nothing like a good Sunday night in front of the telly.
For lack of much else to do, this morning Christina and I went on a walking tour of Bath, which is held for free every morning by the Bath historical society. We survived about half of the 2-hour tour; after that, it was so cold and so boring that we couldn't take any more. We saw the Roman baths (the outside, at least), some of Bath's old houses, and other important architectural landmarks. We also heard a bit about Bath's history as a holiday spot for London's high society, and as a favourite town for high-roller gambling and other aristocratic pastimes. No idea what the tour contained after that, because we bailed out on it.
Christina's at the tail end of a 3-month trip around Europe, where (among other things) she's gone with several of her girlfriends on a road trip through the south-east (including the former Yugoslav Republic — brave girls!). She's in Bath for a few days (at St. Christopher's), before continuing on to Cornwall and south-west England. She's from the Bay Area in California — even better, she's a Berkeley girl.
Ayuko is a lovely Japanese girl, who's studying to be an English teacher over in Birmingham. She came here to Bath for a weekend holiday, and she's staying at St. Christopher's along with the rest of us. Her English is pretty good, but she'll have to keep working on it before she can start teaching it. She enjoys the odd cocktail or two, and she carries origami paper with her wherever she goes — in case she needs to make anyone an emergency Japanese souvenir.
This unique couple are staying with me at St. Christopher's, here in Bath. The guy is from Harvey Bay in Queensland, and he's been travellng and working for about 2 years straight; and (in true Aussie backpacker style) he has no idea when he's going home (if ever). The girl's from somewhere in Scotland, and nobody can understand a bloody word she says — lucky I'm not going to Scotland!
I'm making no secret about it: I didn't come to England to see the Queen, I didn't come to watch the theatre, and I certainly didn't come to enjoy the weather. I came for the curry! Found an excellent Indian take-away joint, a fair way down the main street of Bath, that does some Mutton Vindaloo to die for. England, thankyou for imposing your unfair colonial rule on India all those years ago: because India is now getting its revenge, by invading England back; and they're bringing their curry with them. Best dinner I've had in months.
St. Christopher's Inn is a great little hostel in the pub-infested centre of Bath. The bottom floor of the place is a regular pub, actually — open to the public every evening, and it gets just as many locals as it goes guests coming for a drink. It's not the greatest value for money (but nothing is in Bath), and it does have a few eccentric little annoyances; but it's good fun, and a nice place to crash for a few nights.
London's been good, but I can't stay there for all my time in England. It's time to scoot. The place is crowded, it's impersonal, and it's jaw-droppingly, nose-bleedingly, gut-pukingly expensive. So I've headed west to the town of Bath, where I'll stay and base myself for a few days. Bath itself is a lovely town with plenty to see and do; and Bath is also a good place from which to head out to nearby places, such as Bristol and Salisbury. Got the bus over here this afternoon, and I'm liking the return to a small-town atmosphere already.