Greetings from the bottom bit of Ah-fricaa! I’ve been catching up on tons of work since coming home to Cape Town so the upcoming travel posts from September are pretty delayed… I’m already itching to travel again but also looking forward to a Cape Town Summer and working on making some serious cash dolla to fund next year’s adventures! Towards the end of my UK stay I decided to make the approx 2 hour bus trip to the ancient Roman town of Bath to spend a couple of days exploring.
The trip got off to a rather dramatic start when I literally made my bus by 30 seconds and the other passengers shot me irritated looks while the patient driver hustled my luggage underneath and I clambered into a seat with my tomato red exercise face and free-flying shoelaces (why do they always manage to untie themselves at the most inopportune moments?) I usually like to stay as close to the heart of things as I can afford to, but I had decided to book an en suite loft room in an Airbnb that was about a 20 min drive from the town centre because it had the most stunning countryside views and I was hiring a car so wasn’t stressed about transport. By crazy coincidence, my host was also originally from Cape Town and her husband had actually met my uncle while visiting SA due to their mutual interest in astronomy- talk about a small world!
My fellow country(wo)man was most hospitable, even providing breakfast each morning. After months in the crowded bustle of London I really appreciated the peaceful farm vibes and the magical views. I woke up one morning just after sunrise only to look out my bedroom window and see a herd of lovely lady cows right outside, all queuing politely for their morning milking.
Hiring a car was definitely my second best decision. The buses in Bath are confusing (I had to catch one from the coach station to the car hire place) as the stops are neither called out nor written on a display. The driver said he thought my stop was in 4 stops and I hastily downloaded the bus’ app in an attempt to track where we were going but got hopelessly confused, overshot my stop and had to haul my luggage down a moerse long hill in the rain. Fun fun. And it was honestly such a treat to drive again, I genuinely miss it when I’m in London, especially when the weather is being a dick. The only downside is that you can’t really find street parking during the day and the public garages are not cheap- I had to fork out £8 for a few hours and an even bigger tragedy was forgetting my leftover pizza on top of the parking pay machine! They do have Uber though, so that might be your best travel option if you are staying in the town centre.
Bath is a great location for a foodie like myself as most of the restaurants are of a very high standard. The aforementioned pizza was from The Real Italian Pizza Co. in York St which is rated the best in town and I did really enjoy my thin-based veggie pizza with feta, spinach and walnuts and a liberal DIY application of their homemade garlic and chili oils. My actual favourite meal is one I don’t have a photo of, sadly. I think I put it on insta stories but can’t locate the original pic now. It was at Yum Yum Thai Cafe, Bath’s top-rated Asian eatery. I’ve never been a big Pad Thai fan (always thought of peanuts as a standalone food that shouldn’t be put into other things, ditto raisins) but I gave their prawn one a chance and holy crap I am converted!!! It was so good I’d totes do a day trip to Bath again someday just to eat that.
Bath is also known for ice-cream which since living in the UK I now happily partake in, even in the vilest of cold weather.
Of course, the main attraction of Bath are the old Roman baths for which the town is named. They are a fascinating walk through history of Roman settlement and involvement in the UK. They were a place where slaves could bathe side by side with their masters, peasants with nobility and even visiting Roman emperors. How’s that for democracy? And those Romans were hella advanced- the woman even got their hoohas plucked here! I don’t understand science and geology all that well so I marvel at the fact that hot water still flows into these baths thousands of years later! Sadly, unlike the baths in Budapest you aren’t allowed to go into the water anymore, but coming from Cape Town’s worst drought I’m used to not being allowed to wallow in a bath…
On my 2nd night I did the comedy walking tour that they were advertising in the town square. It runs every night in the Summer(ish) months, rain or shine so long as there are enough people assembled. There weren’t on the 1st, stormy night when I attempted to go but the effort netted me a free ticket and a significantly larger group set off on a drizzly Wednesday evening traipsing after our host who lead the way with a rain-sagged balloon.
To be honest, I wasn’t blown away. It’s a creative concept, the comedy-meets-magic was moderately entertaining and it’s a convenient evening activity for a solo traveler but I think it definitely would have benefited from two comedians so they could play off each other and up the energy.
I spent the rest of my short trip exploring the shops and side streets and taking a little much needed R&R in my pastoral loft room. If there’s one suggestion I’d make it’s to visit over a weekend. This is because Bath by night during the week is dead as a dodo. Perhaps it was the chilly, wet weather but there was no nightlife to speak of, no live music to be found (always my favourite activity) and many restaurants were straight up closed. In fact, when the tour ended around 21:45 there was nowhere still serving food save for one pizza place that agreed to rush me a pizza as their final customer and then subjected me to a freezing draught while the staff brought all the outside furniture in.
But rainy ghost town vibes aside, Bath is well worth a visit. You can easily get through all the main attractions over a 2 night stay but I’d recommend 3 if you want to unwind a bit too.
On my final morning I made the 45 minute drive out to neighbouring Salisbury to tick Stone Henge off my “Yup, Seen That” list. Unfortunately I was rushed and wind-battered and wasn’t able to spend much time marveling the odd bits of rock and contemplating aliens or even explore the museum; you definitely want to schedule 2 hours for your visit, excluding transport time. But hey, at least I got my instagram pic!