• Deborah Kade

Bath, UK

Had a very delicious breakfast to start the day. They have a lovely dining room overlooking the garden. Flowers in the garden are just starting to bloom.

A buffet table is set up with fresh fruit, fresh baked pastries, cereals, dried fruit, juices, etc.

You then can order your hot breakfast.

  • Traditional English Breakfast.

  • Grilled wiltshire bacon, pork sausage, tomato and mushrooms with a free range.

  • Egg; fried, scrambled or poached on a toasted muffin.

  • Smoked Salmon & Scrambled Eggs.

  • Smoked scotish salmon with scrambled eggs on a homemade blini.

  • Omelets

  • Haddock and Poached Egg.

  • Undyed smoked haddock topped with a free range poached egg.

All is served with a selection of fine teas, freshly brewed coffee, toast and preserves.

Today we opted for the two hour walking tour around Bath which actually turned into the three hour tour. Excellent tour and guide.

The tour is conducted by the Mayors Guides. Our guide was Richard. He was so informative and charming. I could tell he really enjoys being a guide. He certainly is informed about all the history of Bath and he told some interesting stories about the origin of some sayings.

Here are three stories Richard told us.

For instance, do you know where the word nightmare originated from?

They used to use male horses during the day to travel from Bristol to London. Stallions are very high strung and wouldn't run at night. In order to complete the trip faster, they switched to mares (which were calmer and didn't mind running in the dark) and the mares ran all night (versus the day). When the horses ran through the small villages, they were so loud that they would wake up the children and scare them.

When their parents went into their bedrooms, they would say "those are only the night mares, don't be scared".

Another saying that originated in Bath is: you can't see the forest for the trees.

It refers to a concourse of houses that were designed by the architect John Wood. There was a tree planted directly in front of these houses, and it grew quite large. So people began to exclaim: "You can't see the Wood for the tree!" Because foreigners couldn't understand the phrase, it was changed to "you can't see the forest for the trees".

Another interesting addition to the English language came from the Window Tax.

The window tax was introduced in 1696 in the final years of King William III's reign and had its most profound effect on Britain's housing during the reign of Queen Anne. It worked on the assumption that the bigger the house, the more windows it was likely to have, and the more tax the occupants would pay. The tax was unpopular because it was seen by some as a tax on "light and air". The phrase "daylight robbery" is said to have emanated from this period.

I digress, so back to talking about the guides.

The earliest mention of the Guides is in 1934 when Alderman Sturge-Cotterell showed visitors around Bath on Boxing day and Easter morning. The service appears to have continued, even during the period of the second World War. In 1951, during the Festival of Britain, daily walks were given from June to September but only for groups that had booked in advance.

By 1960 formal training sessions were held for new volunteer guides. Local experts were engaged to give lectures on a wide range of subjects relating to the city. By 1975 the frequency of the walks increased to twice daily and on every day except Christmas day.

Today there are about 85 volunteer guides who turn out in all weathers. As far as anyone can remember the walks have only been cancelled twice. In 1981 a spell of alternate thaw and freezing left the ground too treacherous to walk on. In 1996 a hurricane force wind blew through the city uprooting trees and causing chaos and the walk was again cancelled as it was felt it was too dangerous.

The walks have become popular with visitors and sometimes up to 100 people can gather outside the Pump Room at the starting point with four or five guides each setting off leading smaller groups.

The guides are proud of the service they offer. It is free and no guide accepts a tip. The reward is the satisfaction of welcoming visitors from across the world and, on behalf of the Mayor, leading informative, interesting and entertaining walking tours of the beautiful and historic City of Bath.

The Mayor of Bath's Corps of Honorary Guides received The Queen's Award for Voluntary Service in June 2014. This is the highest award for a volunteer group in the UK and is given for outstanding work in the local community.

A little history about Bath.

The written history of Bath starts with the arrival of the Romans nearly 2000 years ago but stone tools, possibly votive offerings, dating from around 5,500 BC have been found near the hot springs. The countryside around Bath also has many signs of pre-historic activity, and nearby sites including Avebury, Stonehenge and Cheddar hint at the power and richness of pre-Roman society in this area.

It was during the Roman occupation of Britain during the 1st Century AD that Bath first became both a recognised health spa, based upon utilising the natural hot spring waters, and a centre of worship (albeit pagan for the first few hundred years).

During the 8th Century, the first of three Christian churches on the site of today's Abbey Church was constructed. Then, in 1088, King William II appointed John of Tours as Bishop of Somerset, who decided to base his See in Bath. This led not only to the construction of a mighty cathedral on the site of the original Saxon church but also the building of a new spa facility, which provided healing waters right through to the present day.

In 1499, King Henry VII appointed Oliver King as Bishop of Bath and Wells, who was responsible for the original construction of todays smaller but beautiful Abbey Church on the same site. Although King Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries resulted in the end of the role of Benedictine monks in Bath - stretching over the previous five hundred years - and the stripping of the Abbey Church in 1539, the church was fortunately fully restored at the initiative of Queen Elizabeth I, following a visit to Bath in 1574.

The ongoing influence of the spa and its healing waters resulted, during the first half of the 18th Century, in the city of Bath becoming the centre of English society and fashion, and then, by the end of the century, a renowned centre for shopping. A number of personalities were associated with the rise of Bath during the period, among them the architect John Wood, renowned for initiating the construction of the beautiful and elegant Georgian city, and Richard Nash, who was equally significant in transforming the social life of the time in his capacity as Master of Ceremonies, notably ensuring that society adhered to the same conventions of conversation, dress and behaviour. At the same time, the spa facilities remained second to none in the country, notably for treatment of the sick, visited by all levels of society including royalty. Social behaviour during the period was also increasingly expressed through consumption - with Bath gradually being portrayed as a consumer's paradise.

Modern Bath continues to benefit from the inheritance from the 18th Century with its magnificent Georgian architecture, the ancient Roman Baths and the modern spa facilities and the range of wonderful shops together with a wide choice of fine hotels and restaurants. The perfect place for an enjoyable visit!

We are going to take the Roman Baths tour and the Abbey tour on another day so I will talk about them then.

A few other highlights from the walking tour.

The Royal Crescent

The Royal Crescent is a row of 30 terraced houses laid out in a sweeping crescent. Designed by the architect John Wood the Younger and built between 1767 and 1774, it is among the greatest examples of Georgian architecture to be found in the United Kingdom and is a Grade I listed building. Although some changes have been made to the various interiors over the years, the Georgian stone façade remains much as it was when it was first built.

The 500 feet (150 m) long crescent has 114 Ionic columns on the first floor with an entablature in a Palladian style above. It was the first crescent of terraced houses to be built and an example of "rus in urbe" (the country in the city) with its views over the parkland opposite.

Many notable people have either lived or stayed in the Royal Crescent since it was first built over 240 years ago, and some are commemorated on special plaques attached to the relevant buildings. Of the Royal Crescent's 30 townhouses, 10 are still full-size townhouses; 18 have been split into flats of various sizes; 1 is the No. 1 Royal Crescent museum and the large central house at number 16 is the Royal Crescent Hotel. John Cleese the actor lives in one of the town homes.

The Circus

The Circus is an example of Georgian architecture, begun in 1754 and completed in 1768. The name comes from the Latin "circus", which means a ring, oval or circle. It has been designated as a Grade I listed building.

Divided into three segments of equal length, the Circus is a circular space surrounded by large townhouses. Each of the curved segments faces one of the three entrances, ensuring that whichever way a visitor enters there is a classical facade straight ahead.

One section consists of 10 houses, the next section 11 and the third section has 12 houses.

The Circus, originally called King's Circus, was designed by the architect John Wood the Elder, although he never lived to see his plans put into effect as he died less than three months after the first stone was laid. Wood, convinced that Bath had been the principal centre of Druid activity in Britain, surveyed Stonehenge and used the same dimensions (318 feet) for The Circus' diameter.

It was left to his son, John Wood the Younger to complete the scheme to his father's design. The initial leases for the south west segment were granted in 1755-67, those for the south east segment in 1762–66, and those for the north segment in 1764–66.

The Circus was part of John Wood the Elder's grand vision to recreate a classical Palladian architectural landscape for the city. Other projects included nearby Queen Square and the Forum (which was never built). The Circus is the culmination of Wood's career, and is considered his masterpiece.

Three classical Orders (Greek Doric, Roman/Composite and Corinthian)are used, one above the other, in the elegant curved facades. The frieze of the Doric entablature is decorated with alternating triglyphs and 525 pictorial emblems, including serpents, nautical symbols, devices representing the arts and sciences, and masonic symbols. The parapet is adorned with stone acorn finials.

When viewed from the air, the Circus, along with Queens Square and the adjoining Gay Street, form a key shape, which is a masonic symbol similar to those that adorn many of Wood's buildings.

The central area was paved with stone setts, covering a reservoir in the centre that supplied water to the houses. In 1800 the Circus residents enclosed the central part of the open space as a garden. Now, the central area is grassed over and is home to a group of old plane trees.

Between 1758 and 1774, number 17 The Circus was home to Thomas Gainsborough and used as his portrait studio.

During the Bath Blitz of 25/26 April 1942, one of the Baedeker Blitz retaliatory raids on England following the RAF's raid on Lübeck, a bomb fell into the Circus, demolishing several of the houses. These have since been reconstructed in the original style.

The Royal National Water Hospital

From the 16th century the needs of the "deserving poor" who came to take the healing waters of the Roman Baths were recognised and an act of 1597 gave them the right to free use of the waters. This attracted beggars and was repealed in 1714 but large numbers were still attracted to the city and St. John's Hospital was only accessible to local residents. Plans were suggested for a hospital to receive them in 1716 with supporters which included Lady Elizabeth Hastings, Henry Haare and Beau Nash.

The hospital was founded in 1738 as The Mineral Water Hospital, and is still known locally as "The Min"; it is also signed locally as the RNHRD. Then, it provided care for the impoverished sick who were attracted to Bath because of the supposed healing properties of the mineral water from the spa. The original building was designed by John Wood the Elder and built with Bath stone donated by Ralph Allen. It was later enlarged, firstly in 1793 by the addition of an attic storey and later in 1860 by a second building erected on the west side of the earlier edifice. There is a fine pediment, in Bath stone, on 1860 building depicting the parable of the Good Samaritan. The hospital possesses a number of interesting oil paintings in particular a picture of Dr Oliver and Mr Peirce examining three patients in 1741. It is the oldest hospital in Europe still in operation. Unfortunately, it will cease operation in September 2018.

Jane Austen

Jane paid two long visits to Bath towards the end of the eighteenth century, and from 1801 to 1806 Bath was her home. It also provides the backdrop to two of her novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, and features in her other novels and in the collection of letters to her sister, Cassandra.

Jane Austen (16 December 1775 – 18 July 1817) was an English novelist known primarily for her six major novels, which interpret, critique and comment upon the British landed gentry at the end of the 18th century. Austen's plots often explore the dependence of women on marriage in the pursuit of favorable social standing and economic security. Her works critique the novels of sensibility of the second half of the 18th century and are part of the transition to 19th-century literary realism.

It is possible that Austen developed cataracts and died because of arsenic poisoning, researchers at The British Library have said.

July marks the 200th anniversary of Austen's death and so the cause of her passing, at the early age of 41, is a current hot topic as well as a continued mystery.

Austen has many documented complaints about her eyesight near her death. Poor eyesight is one of the side effects of prolonged exposure to arsenic.

Sandra Tuppen, the lead curator for modern archives and manuscripts at the Library, spoke about the Library's examination of three pairs of spectacles, locked away in Austen's desk since her death.

When the author died in 1817, her sister Cassandra inherited her portable writing desk. The family kept the desk until 1999, when they placed it in the care of The British Library.

According to Tuppen, the spectacles - one wire-rimmed and two tortoiseshell - were tested, revealing that they are all convex and would have been used by someone who needed them for close-up tasks such as reading and writing.

Austen is known to have complained in letters about her "weak" eyes. When the test results were shown to a London-based optometrist, Simon Barnard, he suggested that Austen gradually needed stronger glasses because of a "serious underlying health problem". Cataracts occur when the lens of the eye becomes cloudy and less flexible. The condition could have been brought on by diabetes, although few lived even to 41 with that disease at the time. But it's not known whether Austen actually had cataracts - she may have used the three sets of spectacles for different activities. A more likely cause would have been accidental poisoning from a heavy metal such as arsenic, Barnard said. "Arsenic poisoning is now known to cause cataracts. Despite its toxicity, arsenic was commonly found in medicines in 19th-century England, as well as in some water supplies," Tuppen said. The poisonous effects of arsenic, a crystalline metalloid found in the Earth's crust, are linked an array of health problems, including cancers of the skin, lung, bladder, kidney and liver.

Jane Austen on television

Many of Jane Austen's novels have been made into television adaptations, this includes Northanger Abbey (1987), Persuasion (1994, 2006) and Mansfield Park (2007). The 2006 ITV version of Persuasion was filmed in 14 different Bath locations and stared Sally Hawkins as Anne Elliot and Rupert Penry-Jones as Captain Wentworth.

Becoming Jane (2007)

Starring Anne Hathaway and James McAvoy. It shows how a little known love affair with the brilliant, roguish young Irishman, Tom Lefroy (McAvoy), played an influential part in shaping her work.The film shows her inspired to fulfill her potential and make a life for herself as a writer in an era when independent thought for women was not encouraged and choices were severely limited. This true romantic encounter during a fascinating period in Austen's life is portrayed in a moving and exciting story, in the spirit of Jane Austen, one of the most inspiring female novelists of all time.

I so enjoyed the walking around Bath!!!

After the walking tour we decided on Afternoon Tea.

A little history about Afternoon Tea.

Afternoon tea, that most quintessential of English customs is, perhaps surprisingly, a relatively new tradition. While the custom of drinking tea dates back to the third millennium BC in China and was popularised in England during the 1660s by King Charles II and his wife the Portuguese Infanta Catherine de Braganza, it was not until the mid 19th century that the concept of "afternoon tea" first appeared.

Afternoon tea was introduced in England by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, in the year 1840. The Duchess would become hungry around four o'clock in the afternoon. The evening meal in her household was served fashionably late at eight o'clock, thus leaving a long period of time between lunch and dinner. The Duchess asked that a tray of tea, bread and butter (some time earlier, the Earl of Sandwich had had the idea of putting a filling between two slices of bread) and cake be brought to her room during the late afternoon. This became a habit of hers and she began inviting friends to join her.

This pause for tea became a fashionable social event. During the 1880's upper-class and society women would change into long gowns, gloves and hats for their afternoon tea which was usually served in the drawing room between four and five o'clock.

Traditional afternoon tea consists of a selection of dainty sandwiches (including of course thinly sliced cucumber sandwiches), scones served with clotted cream and preserves. Cakes and pastries are also served. Tea grown in India or Ceylon is poured from silver tea pots into delicate bone china cups.

Nowadays however, in the average suburban home, afternoon tea is likely to be just a biscuit or small cake and a mug of tea, usually produced using a teabag. Sacrilege!

To experience the best of the afternoon tea tradition, indulge yourself with a trip to one of London's finest hotels or visit a quaint tearoom in the west country. The Devonshire Cream Tea is famous world wide and consists of scones, strawberry jam and the vital ingredient, Devon clotted cream, as well as cups of hot sweet tea served in china teacups. Many of the other counties in England's west country also claim the best cream teas: Dorset, Cornwall and Somerset.

There are a wide selection of hotels in London offering the quintessential afternoon tea experience . Hotels offering traditional afternoon tea include Claridges, the Dorchester, the Ritz and the Savoy, as well as Harrods and Fortnum and Mason.

We went to the Pump Room for afternoon tea per recommendation of Toni, our inn keeper. Michael and I decided on the Set Afternoon Tea Package which included the following:

A pot of traditional Pump Room loose leaf tea with complimentary refill.

Cucumber sandwich, honey roast ham sandwich, egg mayonnaise and mustard cress sandwich, roast beef and watercress sandwich, poached salmon shot with red and black roe, cucumber and pepper crisp breads, cheddar scone with tomato and chives cream cheese, two scones (1 plain and 1 with currants), clotted cream and strawberry jam, fresh fruit tart, chocolate and coffee opera cake, raspberry choux and macaroons.

The Pump Room Trio (violin, cello and grand piano) played classical music.

We finished the meal with a glass of mineral water.

The Pump Room is part of Bath's hot spa water.

A little history:

The Geological Source

Bath Spa water fell as rain up to 10,000 years ago on the nearby Mendip hills. Driven down through carboniferous limestone cave systems by pressure from the high water table on the Mendips, the water has reached depths of 2 to 3 kilometers

The water penetrates overlying strata of impermeable Lias clay through fissures and a fault to rise at 3 points in Bath. The greatest source is the King's Spring. Here the flow is 13 liters per second or 1,106,400 liters (250,000 gallons) per day. The water temp is 46 degrees Celsius (115 F).

The Mineral Content

There are 43 minerals in the water. Calcium and sulphate are the main dissolved ions with sodium and chloride also important. The water is low in dissolved metals except for iron which gives the characteristic iron staining around the baths and contributes to the waters distinctive flavor. The mineral content is 2.18 grams per liter.

Curative Properties

In medieval times a cure for conditions such as paralysis, colic, palsy and gout was sought from bathing in spa water. Lead poisoning was a cause of many of these afflictions. Many occupations involved exposure to lead. Alcohol, especially port, was adulterated with lead as a sweetener and fungicide. 18th century records from Bath Mineral Water Hospital show that patients benefited from the cure. Today it is fashionable to be skeptical about the curative properties of spa water although spas in Europe remain popular.

Taking the Waters

The fashion for drinking spa water arose from new medical ideas in the later 17th century. The Pump Room was opened in 1706 to provide a place to drink the waters.

The water was taken in the morning. For most visitors a pint or two was sufficient, but as much as a gallon a day could be prescribed! It is hardly surprising that the new Pump Room, opened in 1795, was criticized as lacking facilities for "when the waters begin to operate."

The Pumper

There has been a charge for taking the waters since the opening of the first Pump Room in 1706. The position of Pumper was leased by the Corporation and following the opening of the present Pumper Room the lease cost 800 pounds per year. Visitors could take out a subscription to the Pump Room which entitled them to take the waters. In subsequent years the value of the lease fell and for a period water was distributed free of charge. Today the water is dispensed without charge to disabled visitors and residents of Bath and North East Somerset.

The present Pumper is a member of the catering staff, which provides the catering service to the Pump Room. Refreshments can now be taken throughout the day, at times to the accompaniment of the Pump Room Trio.

Daffodils, English primrose, forsythia are starting to bloom around the city. Loved strolling through a few of the city parks.

I took notes on the tour so I could remember some important locations etc. and I know my writing is a little long today so I will stop writing for now and include some pictures.

Hope you enjoy today's blog and pictures.


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