Updating our view of Bath

We weren’t here with Jane Austen – just missed her. But we were here once in 70’s (the 1970’s) and found the town to be depressingly neglected, a bit seedy. Flash forward to about ten years ago when we came here at Christmas and found it had been scrubbed up and curated with tourists in mind. It was charming.

Bath still holds much of its charm, but the tourist-readiness has been blown all out of proportion. Walking from the train station, we thought we had entered an American mall, with Apple, The Gap, Anthropologie, Banana Republic and – ugh – Yankee Candle among those brands claiming retail space. No need to mention Starbucks, which is epidemic here. Guess it was inevitable. We naturally chose to take the high road and focus only one the most scenic parts we could find, hustling off immediately to Sally Lunn’s for cream tea. Obligatory.

We are staying at Harington’s Hotel, named after an ancestor of the landowners who invented the flush toilet, and – as his first name was John, he may be remembered daily in English slang. We are honored, and find the lavatories here quite satisfactory.

Yesterday we only saw bits of Bath, having spent most of the day in Wells. Rugby fever was evident everywhere, as last night was the World Cup match between England and Wales. (Wales won!)

Today was our final day to revisit all the places we remembered from our last trips. First, we gave our clothing a bath in Bath, taking advantage of the local laundromat. It was just around the corner from the Royal Crescent, which is truly a wonder to behold, as is the Royal Circus right behind it. (Guess even those residents have to do laundry somewhere.)

Lunch today was in a massive and excellent Indian restaurant near our hotel. As is quite evident, we avoided the crowds and got there early.

We then took one of the official Lord Mayor’s walking tours of Bath, with the wonderful guides who volunteer to show us their lovely city. We went into the Pump Room, peered down into the Roman Baths, tipped our hats to Beau Nash and his final home, saw the new spa and admired the wonderful Georgian architecture for which we can thank John Wood and his son. The weather was gorgeous and the crowds were enormous, but that just made it feel like the town of the 18th century, packed with tourists. We started in Abbey Square and ended – fittingly – at the Royal Crescent and Royal Circus. Can’t see them too often.

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