“Inspircation” Day 9: Dipping into the Roman Bath House

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Today marks the half-way point of our “inspircation”—our inspirational tour through the UK and Ireland.

Great things have been happening creatively for me, and since I’ve been on this tour I’ve even agreed to an amazing project for when I return back to work in the studio. And, wouldn’t you believe it, the theme of that project is “travel.” So the universe continues to do its work.

But that’s the future! As for today, we spent it exploring the city of Bath and enjoying some arts and culture.

Our day began with a tour of the Roman bath houses. Our host at our B&B advised us to get an early start, so as to avoid the larger tour groups. This was good advice; we arrived by ten, just in advance of the first large group. This meant that we could enjoy the site amidst a relatively sparse crowd, allowing us to take lots of great photos and linger at the baths themselves.

I love this particular photo, which shows the main bath and the abbey in the background. In Roman times, this bath house was covered, first with a wooden roof, and eventually with stone. Now, as you can see it is open.

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The bath house truly is remarkable. This is most likely the oldest site I’ve ever walked through since my time in Egypt many years ago, and it truly is humbling. So much of the structure is still intact, still working the way it was designed all those hundreds of years ago. Here are some other photos of our exploration . . .

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You’re not supposed to touch the water, but, of course, my mom did. (If it’s not her, then it’s Marcie—they seem determined to defy all the no-touching rules.) Thankfully, we avoided a lecture from any number of attendants lurking about the site.

Below is a photo showing the structure of the subfloor. Originally, these were pillars to support the floor, and this would have been the place to heat the floor. Apparently, in some places in the bath house, the floor was so warm that one needed to wear sandals to avoid burning!

bathhouse_subfloor

The photo below is of a mosaic tile floor. It caught my attention in particular because it shows a herd (school?) of hippocampi. I have dealt a lot with hippocampi recently, since I taught a workshop on mythical sea creatures when I was in Korea in July.

bathhouse_mosaic

After the bath house, we ventured up to the fashion museum, which is situated in a Georgian style house. We took a quick spin in the ball room . . .

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. . . and, afterwards, took a guided tour through the special exhibit of the Georgian clothes. As luck would have it, it was just the three of us on the tour, so we really were able to soak up a wealth of inspiration. The exhibit consists of original items (NOT reproductions) and gave me a lot of inspiration for character design.

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My favourite piece was this embroidered coat from the 1720s. It has me thinking, in particular, of one specific character in a book I’m currently writing. (But more on that another time.)

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After the Georgian exhibit, we came across an area where we could dress in Victorian clothes and pose for photos. Marcie leapt at this opportunity. I was a little bit more reluctant at first (didn’t they have lice and all manner of vermin in the Dickens’ time?), but eventually my inner kid took over.

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There was a group of older woman nearby, and they absolutely thrilled with how Marcie looked. “Oh, my, don’t you look lovely,” they kept saying.

For our evening entertainment, we went to the Theatre Royal to see Mrs. Henderson Presents. Before the show, we chose to eat in The Vaults. This is a restaurant located right beneath the theatre in . . . well, vaults. It’s a very cozy and intimate space and the food was delicious.

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As for the play, it was a riot and it was good to hear my mom laughing out loud. (Really good, because the play was a bit racy and I wasn’t sure exactly what she would think of it first. But it wasn’t ME who booked the tickets; that was Marcie). Some might know Mrs. Henderson Presents from the film version; myself, I had never heard of it, but it was the perfect sort of play to see, as it is based on the real-life Windmill Theatre that was running in London during World War II. It was funny, dramatic, and poignant all at once.

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Tomorrow is our last full day in Bath. Not sure what we’ll get up to. Perhaps it will be a day of taking it easy.

As usual, I leave off with some door photos. There’s a chapel we pass by on our walk into town from our B&B and it has some very interesting doors—I’d say rather steampunkish.

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“Inspircation” Day 8: Bath from Above

Yesterday, we left Exeter and headed to Bath. Believe it or not, we did not get lost—in fact, we did not get turned around once! Of course, that still doesn’t mean that we didn’t experience any glitches. We arrived at our B&B, smug because we didn’t get lost, only to discover that we had actually arrived too early. The place was locked tight and there was not a soul to be found.

We went for a walk, grabbed a bite to eat, then came back only to discover the same. We were finally able to borrow a mobile phone from a kind local and phoned the number on the outside to track down our host. Turns out, he was just down the lane picking blackberries with his kids!

One of the reasons we came to Bath was for the history, and the other was for the Jane Austen connection. Marcie has been re-reading Jane Austen this whole trip and has been most excited to explore the city where she wrote her great works. Alas, our B&B host told us that Jane Austen only lived in Bath for three weeks and rather hated the city. He said that he thinks her connection to Bath is a rather tenuous one! Still, we found the house where she lived:

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You can’t go in—just look at the plaque. Still, kind of neat and we might go explore the Jane Austen centre later on in our stay, even though it was not recommended to us.

Otherwise, we had fun exploring the city. This is Great Pulterney Street, which is supposed to be the widest in England:

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And this is the view of the bridge over the River Avon. It is one of those old-fashioned bridges that have shops on either side—though cars now back and forth, so it’s not quite as romantic as I had imagined.

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Perhaps the greatest fun of the day was visiting The Abbey Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul.

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We decided to take the tour to the top. We made the last one of the day and climbed up the 212 steps to the top. The way was narrow and tight (though not as much as previous towers we’ve climbed). However, it was my mom’s first time making such a climb and I was worried how she handled it. Thankfully, it was not a problem.

Our guide was a senior himself (by my guesstimate, 110), and he pretty much jogged up those stairs. I was right behind him and felt compelled to keep up. By the time we reached the first level, both he and I were minutes ahead of everyone else. I asked him how many times a day he climbed up those stairs and he said it was sixth time that day!

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Finally, Marcie appeared, panting behind us (and I was waiting to photograph her!):

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On this first level, we could see the bells, the bell workings, and the clock face. There are ten bells in total and we got to see how they were rung and chimed (which are two different things, apparently).

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After this stage, we headed up to the very top to get some fantastic views of the city.

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There was a small wooden door in one corner of this rooftop terrace:

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One of the tour members asked what it was for and our guide responded by saying that, as far as he knew, it hadn’t been opened in years. Got me wondering . . .

Here are a few other doors and knockers that I found throughout the city. (My favourite one is the door knocker enshrouded in a spider’s web.)

bath_abbey_woodendoor bath_doorknocker_facewithorns bath_doorknocker_lioninwaiting bath_doorknocker_withspider

Next up: the Roman Baths!