Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Bath Spa - Lucky!

The program Kaun banega luckypati (who wants to be happy – the English counterpart) was going on full steam rather full sweat, the anchor was smiling, nervousness showing a bit on his forehead, the contestant was already ready to quit and given half a chance would have run away any direction opposite to the studio just like the two poles of a magnet repel each other. The grand prize question was coming up, if he withdrew now he could get away with the second prize rather than lose it all. There were few commercial breaks and the drama rather dilemma continued (like the old coffee bite ad – ‘the argument continues’). The question was…..What are you going to do during the bank holiday weekend, the long weekend in August?

The contestant and the anchor was me per se. Surprised? Don’t be. Well we were talking about some prizes and some nonsense what was that? Verbal Diarrhoea? Well the second prize which was the last prize would have been to spend 3 long days at home, wrapped up in a quilt that has stopped breathing due to its own smell, eating some crisps, cleaning up etc basically lazing at home with a guilty feeling of having wasted the valuable long weekend.
The first prize was to choose a place and plan for a short journey/trip.

I was glad that I decided to play the game till the end and I won the first prize. Like all prizes this prize too had many clauses.

I was left looking for my friends to join me, but that small number seemed to be spread across 3 divisions, none too favorable, 1 – who were going to a place where I had already gone, 2 – who had already gone to the place I was planning, 3 – who weren’t too interested in places of architectural and historical importance, so I was facing the possibility of making my first ever solitary trip.

As no one lets go of the prizes they win, I decide to fight the odds and travel alone to BATH SPA.

I quickly browsed through some sites and came up with a likely itinerary for a packed day of activities. Went online and booked my train tickets with first great western trains Guildford – Reading – Bath Spa. Quickly booked myself on an afternoon 4 hour tour to Stonehenge and Lacock Village from Max tours.

http://www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk/ - good advance fares are available.

http://www.madmax.abel.co.uk/ - one of the tours which covers Stonehenge and Lacock village in less than 4 hours.

Good sites which help to plan / things to do in Bath Spa:

Days went by and 23rd came rather fast, woke up at 5 in the morning and was eyeing my bed rather sadly, had a quick shower and was on my way to the station by 6:30 to catch my 6:43 train. The 6:43 train came rather late at 6:43, it was my excitement of a solitary trip making me rather impatient. I got off at Reading after a 45 minute journey and then took the express train from there, must say the seats were so good that I asked someone on boarding if they can guide me to the standard class, while I was actually in the standard class and not first class as perceived by me. 3 stops later, I was offloaded at the Bath Spa station. Walked out of the station at 8:25, quite early for crowds so made my way through thin crowds and walked into Upper Crest to have a yummy sausage roll as a supplement to the corn flakes that I had in the morning. Took the printouts of the various maps out of my backpack and started analyzing my journey details to the Abbey which was my first place to visit. Bath was a nice place to see, the building were all built of a particular Bath stone, yellowish – brown in color, similar to Jaipur – the pink city of India. Reached the abbey 15 minutes earlier than they even open to the public, so just took some pictures of the place from outside and was strolling about and listening to a old man singing some unknown songs…9:00 the Abbey opens and as I enter the place I am awestruck by the beauty within, tall pillars, beautiful roof designs, beautiful glass stained paintings, a calm and serene place – what a place to have or attend Sunday mass services. Went around the place, sat for a while just allowing the stillness and calmness of the place to sink in, after all travelling is not just visiting and clicking at new places but to also soak in their unique feelings. After donating some money as they don’t have an entry ticket they encourage donations to maintain the place. Then straight went into a national trust shop and was pretty surprised by their wide range of stuff that they had and picked up some funky stuff.

South West Trains

A Church Blinded By the SUN

Abbey - 8:45 shot

A Column of the Abbey

A flowery view of the Abbey

A crowded view of the Abbey

A ants view of the inside of Abbey

Design Patterns?

A persons view of the inside of Abbey

Next destination was the Putney Bridge and the cruise starting from there, I always love going on these boat cruises as these often offers a unique opportunity to see stuff that normally you can’t access from the land and the wildlife is pretty different. Putney Bridge was a nice old bridge had a cool steel staircase which brings you directly to the banks of the Avon River. Got my tickets and got into the boat and took the navigators seat next to the captain of the boat. As this was the first cruise/ride of the day the waters were clean, undisturbed and the wildlife wasn’t disturbed. Was a pretty decent ride with very soft engines, usually low sound, managed to spot a night heron sitting behind some branches and a couple of King Fishers. Got back in less than an hour and walked around town looking at the various beautiful buildings. Got lucky and watched a fabulous flute and guitar performance by a lady and a man respectively. They were performing in front of the abbey and must say I never seen and heard anything at the same time as good as this one. This is another thing which I love about the UK, street art, street performances are absolutely high quality and cheap. Then as I watched around another corner there was a cool guy performing on unicycles and giving many one liners and driving the crowd in hordes of laughter, must say I really appreciated his sense of humor and talent. He finally started juggling with 3 rods of fire while on a 10 feet high unicycle and continuously making every one laugh – a true achiever, as it got over, paid him too and moved in search of some chow like a migrating bird. Finally found a baguette shop which had a capacity of having 3-4 customers standing inside and the others forming a rather long queue outside, now this queue made me curious of their stuff they dough out, so I joined at the 10th position of the queue. As I made it to position one I had decided to have a tuna + green salad baguette and a diet coke….5 minutes later with my corners of my mouth looking dirty, I was praising the quality of the baguette that was missing all traces of existence.

Boat cruise:

Water Currents

Putney Bridge


Different Feathers


Scenery 2

Then I quickly made my way to the Orange grove which was the pick up point of the tour that I had listed myself on. After a round of introductions with our tour guide and driver Mr Kris or Chris we started off on the roads to Salisbury as Stonehenge is on the way.
Reached Stonehenge in about 60 minutes, the drive was a mix of several experiences, few rounds of drowsiness swamping me (I guess the 5:00 o clock wake up call was getting to me), and nice roads in the middle of lush green and brown fields. Stonehenge was really crowded; the car park was teeming with cars, peoples, buses etc. The tour had assured us of a speedy entrance but such was the crowd we had to wait for about 5 minutes. We got in; got an information player which you can carry in with you to listen to pre recorded information. Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument and is one of the most famous prehistoric sites in the world; Stonehenge is composed of earthworks surrounding a circular setting of large standing stones. Archaeologists believe that the iconic stone monument was erected around 2500 B and is on the UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites and it is also a legally protected Scheduled Ancient Monument.

I have always seen this picture on many computers as a wall paper and wondered what kind of place would it be in real life, was really happy standing in a place of history – felt the same while standing in Glencoe where many clans were wiped out. Went around the place for a while and then got back and resumed our tour to Lacock village.


Performer - Flute & Guitar

Unicycle performer.

Fiery Stonehenge

Grim Face- early man look!

Early mans work!

Lacock village is a small village which is very beautiful, has many weavers house and many movies have been filmed here. A weaver’s house is identified by the fact that the first floor would be protruding out as they need space to keep their spinning loom inside.
Some of the movies shot here are Harry Potter, Pride and Prejudice …
Chris was showing us the church there where the royal princes of England recently visited for a marriage. Then we had a chance to have a look at the places where the filming had taken place and we also had a chance to get into the room where drunks and disorderly people were looked in for the night, it was a small room where many were thrown in and locked for the night and the next day they were let out and the brightness blinded them and they used to stagger around for a while till they sight normalized and thus came the saying Blind Drunk (according to the tour guide).
Then based on the Chris recommendation visited the bakery and had a jam cake – yummy but expensive a small slice cost around 240 INR, after the small treat we walked into the ‘The George Inn’ a real old pub dating back to 1361, my grand dad could have been in a blind drunk state here :P… Another nice thing that I noticed about this small village was a small statue where they had inscribed the names of the people who died from their village in the First World War and then followed it up by the names of the people who died in the Second World War on the bottom – nice gesture. After about 50 minutes and several sessions of dropping my head down we reached Bath again and that was the end of the tour – pretty decent for a 4 hour trip.
Another story told by our guide was the story of how the term ‘its raining cats and dogs’ came; in those days they used to have thatched or tiled roofs and to have good insulation they used to cover the roof tops with hay and stalk, this layer being warm and inviting (like my quilt which is staring at me as I type this paragraph), the cats used to climb up and rub their tummies against the warm hay stalks but while it rained the roofs were slippery and the cats used to come tumbling down leading to this term [it seems !].

Then walked into the Roman baths – paid for my ticket picked up the audio guide and started exploring the various rooms that the early Romans had built and the superb technology that they had used, observed their various traditions, their way of cursing their enemies and so on and so forth. The bath water is still hot and I could visualize their days where after a tired day they would get into the hot water and laze around for a while. The amazing fact is that in those they had no access to technology to know that water could be heated by the springs / hot springs under the earth, and their best part was the drainage system that they had built.

Then had a quick walk to the Circus building, the Circus is a famous example of Georgian architecture in the city of Bath, begun in 1754 and completed in 1768. The name comes from the Latin 'circus', which means a ring, oval or circle.

Then walked down to the Royal Crescent building, the Royal Crescent is a notable residential road of 30 houses, laid out in a crescent, in the city of Bath, England. It was designed by the architect John Wood the Younger and built between 1767 and 1774. It is amongst the greatest examples of Georgian architecture to be found in the United Kingdom and is a grade I listed building.

Roman Bath

The Circus.

The Royal Crescent.

The best part is while viewed from the air the Circus and the Royal Crescent can be observed to be a giant circle and crescent, symbolizing the soleil-lune, the sun and moon.

Then saw that I had more than 1.5 hours for my train to leave so I went and sat in the Abbey courtyard and read the book ‘Kane and Abel’ by Jeffrey Archer, one of the best fiction books that I have ever read, real good read, would highly recommend this book.

Then reached the station and took the train back to Reading almost slept and missed getting off but luck was on my side, got off and went and had a pack of crisps and ginger beer (non alcoholic) for dinner as all joints were closed by then and took the Gatwick express and got off at Guildford and took a taxi back as I assumed that my tired legs wont take any more of my nonsense.

The end of a really eventful day.

I would suggest the following things to do at bath or a likely itinerary for a day visit to Bath Spa.
1) Reach Bath at around 8:30
2) Visit Abbey from 9 – 10
3) Boat tour 10 - 11: 40
4) Lunch & Roam 11:40 – 12:45
5) Any afternoon tour to Stonehenge (Maxx Tour) 13:00 – 17:30
6) Roman Bath – 17:45 – 18:45
7) Circus and Royal Crescent – 18:45 – 19:30
8) Leave Bath at 8:45

For the complete set of Bath Spa pictures on Flickr click here Bath Spa


1 comment:

Karthick Prabu said...

Good looooooooong write up :)

Good that you didnt waste the weekend and went out alone. The 'early mans work' pic is too good. Have seen that pic only in windows XP desktop.