England: Bath and Stonehenge

I realize it’s been quite a while since I posted – so sorry to keep all four of you in suspense! This past weekend I had a minor disappointment. I had planned to take a National Express Coach to the Peak District, national park in central England where Elizabeth Bennet went on a holiday with her aunt and uncle Gardiner. Unfortunately…the bus drove right by my stop, causing me to miss out on the holiday weekend. I hope to someday get back to the Peaks and channel my inner Edwardian woman of modest dowry, but until that day I will content myself with Bath (and Stonehenge!).img_9216

The day started with the guided coach tour towards Stonehenge. While it was surreal being there, it is a ring of very large rocks. No one knows why they were put there, and of course that is interesting to wonder about as you circle the stones, but in the end it is a ring of rocks in the countryside. What did make the visit very enjoyable was my walk back to the Visitors’ Centre. Instead of taking the shuttle, I walked through a large field for about a mile. img_9243

I’ve found that I am more deliberately outdoorsy since being in England, and it’s one of the things I will try to keep up when I return home. I realized that I have been to seven parks in London, walked through at least four different fields in England, climbed two different peaks (Edinburgh and Norway), and hiked a forest in Assisi. I’m certainly going to miss having such easy access to a diverse variety of nature when I’m back home (I don’t think many farmers would be happy with me walking through their fields!).

After Stonehenge, we drove through the Cotswolds – an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Known for its thatch roof-ed cottages, sheep, rolling hills, and idyllic scenery, the Cotswolds are one of the most visited parks in England. It spans over multiple counties and could take days to tour. We did not stop, but I know that’s another place I will be back to visit.

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Anne Elliot, another Austen heroine, spent a considerable and unhappy time in Bath, England. I, on the other hand, thought Bath was lovely.

I opted out of the guided walking tour because I knew I was pressed for time, choosing instead to buy an inexpensive paper map and work off of that. I started my trip at the Jane Austen Centre of Bath – a museum devoted to my favorite author’s life during her time in Bath and her writing. My tour guide was Fanny Price, which was kind of a let down, but we can’t win ’em all. The highlight of this museum was dressing up in Regency clothes at the end – so much fun!

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From the Jane Austen Centre, I walked up to The Circus and the Royal Crescent – Bath’s two most easily recognizable architectural features. This is where, when Bath was most popular, the most fashionable people lived. It is very close to the Assembly Rooms, where young and old could dance and become acquainted…and perhaps get invited to a haunted abbey?

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I then toured the Roman Baths, a fairly recently excavated Roman bath house where the Master of Ceremonies wanted to build a restaurant. The Baths house the famous “Bath waters,” a natural hot spring that led the Romans to think it was a sacred site. In the 1800s and beyond, people would flock to Bath for help with fertility, health, and beauty – all apparently coming from the really, really disgusting water. Now, people just drink it for the novelty.

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The rest of my time in Bath was spent walking down random side streets and into small shops, as well as strolling along the river and manmade waterfall (which truthfully reminded me of Sheboygan Falls).

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Though I was sad about missing the peaks, I really did love my time in Stonehenge and Bath, and who knows if I would have been able to visit those places if I wouldn’t have “lost” the weekend. I look forward to more semi-unplanned trips in the future as well as the planned ones!


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