Friday, November 14, 2008

Soaking Up Culture (Bath, England)

Graced with timeless Georgian architecture with its focus on perfect symmetry and simple elegance and coupled with a world famous Roman spa, Bath is surely one of England’s greatest travel wonders. On discovering natural hot springs, the ancient Romans built baths and associated therapeutic qualities to the mineral-rich waters. They dedicated the site to Minerva, the goddess of wisdom.

As the Roman Empire failed, the springs were forgotten until the spa town was reinvigorated with the royal patronage of Queen Anne. Refined buildings were erected to house the stately and prosperous folks of the day.

The Royal Crescent is a superb semi-circular honeycomb-coloured limestone building of thirty houses with a lush lawn as frontage.

Equally superb is The Circus, a masterpiece which forms a complete circle cut into three equal segments by roads which lead into the complex. All roads face straight onto one of the segments. Inspired by the Roman colosseum, the three storeys showcase three classical columns – Doric, Ionic and Corinthian. Many famous people have called The Circus their home including William Pitt (ex-Prime Minister), the painter Thomas Gainsborough and African explorer, David Livingstone.

The Pulteney Bridge remains as one of only four bridges in the world with shops across the entire bridge. Spanning the Avon River, near a small cascade, it is built in the style of Ponte Vecchio in Florence. To build an element of relaxed and refined living, the city forefathers planned parklands to run alongside much of the Avon River in Bath, encouraging people to stroll the river banks or sit and enjoy the city’s charm.

Nearby Bath Abbey with its huge vaulted ceilings has a point of significance for Australians. It is the memorial to Arthur Phillip, the first governor of the colony of New South Wales on European settlement in Australia in 1788. Similarly, a memorial to Isaac Pitman who invented shorthand is in the abbey.

However, the Roman Baths are undoubtedly the highlight of Bath. Built below today’s city level, the view from the terrace offers the first view over the baths. The most inspiring element of the baths is the advanced engineering used by the Romans to manage the water flow and control the heating.

Hot, warm and cold baths were all built within the public bathing complex. The sacred spring can be seen through the steam within the complex along with the orange-coloured deposits from the rich mineral content.

If you wish to test the medicinal qualities of the water, a sample can be drunk from the running fountain in the elegant glass-domed Grand Pump Room next door to the Roman Baths.

It is my favourite English city with its relaxed elegance and a treasure trove of travel wonders. Sip the waters, stroll the relaxed streets, enjoy the striking Georgian architecture and be astounded by the ingenuity of the ancient engineers in the remarkably intact Roman Baths.

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iWalk said...

I knew Bath from a friend who worked at the British Embassy three years before. She gave me many pictures of this city and told me it's a place must visit. :)

Nomadic Matt said...

i love i loved being there this summer. beautiful place. your photos do it justice...

Mark H said...

@iwalk: It is a must visit.

@nomadicmatt: Thank you. It is my favourite city in Britain.

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