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The next stop on my journey after Brighton was Bath. As I was unable to find a host in Bath itself, I spent four nights with two different hosts in Bristol, 12 miles away from Bath, and was able to spend a full day in Bath itself. I’m glad I stayed in Bristol, as that is a great city to explore as well.
On the first night in Bristol, my couchsurfing hosts took me out to see Clifton Bridge, a 412-foot suspension bridge which celebrated it’s 150th anniversary a couple months ago. Quite a fantastic sight. I got some great photos of it at night from a nearby cliff, and then we walked across. My only disappointment was that I was told it sways quite a bit in high winds, but I didn’t get to experience that myself. Oh well, I’ll have to save the adrenaline-junkie side of me for another day.
The next day I explored the rest of Bristol, including the Brunel’s SS (Great Britain steamship), Bristol Cathedral, Cabot Tower on Brandon Hill and the riverfront. I also walked around the city quite a bit to see all the street art. Banksy, a mysterious, world-famous graffiti artist is from Bristol and has a lot of his works of art there. I actually found several of them in the city without knowing it, and only found out they were his work later when I checked him out on-line. Should have taken pictures of those!
Bristol has its own museum which has quite a few spectacular works of art, as well as many other exhibits. I personally enjoyed the exhibit on gemstones and other types of rock formations, as well as the descriptive exhibit on ancient Egypt. But my personal favorites were the glass and silver galleries. I am always amazed how the smiths of old could fashion works of art out of silver and glass better than our technology nowadays can accomplish. And the museum had very impressive collections of both of these art forms.
The highlight of the trip was definitely Bath. I was fortunate to get to the town early (only £6 round trip from Bristol on the local bus). Within minutes, I found the free walking tour which covered the Bath Abbey, the portion of the Roman baths you can see without paying, the waterfront and many other local landmarks. The tour guide was fantastic and gave us TONS of local history and facts. It would take several pages to convey everything I learned about the town, but suffice to say, it was all fascinating.
There are a couple of highlights I wanted to share. One interesting tidbit is that the only stone used in the center of Bath was required to come from the local limestone quarry. The stone is nearly white when first mined, but gets darker over the ages. The sole use of coal for centuries to heat the houses helped to contribute to this process, and old pictures of the town would show it to be pitch black, literally. Btw, I confirmed this with an elder who grew up in Bath. They’ve spent the past half a century restoring the stone to resemble it’s natural color, but it’s a very time-consuming process, as sandblasting would destroy the stone. The picture here shows the contrast between the blackened stone and the restored stone. Incidentally, Jane Austen, the famous English author, lived in in Bath for years. She is rumored to have hated it because the town was so brilliantly white in the morning when she woke up. At least, that’s what the tour guide told us.
Another tidbit, and the main reason why I visited Bath, was learning about the actual three springs which fed the Roman baths two millennium ago. I learned quite a bit of information regarding them. It was interesting to hear about the healing properties of the water, as well as how and why it was used, off and on, for the past 2000 years. The tour guide explained how properties in the water help to leech metals out of the body. Wish I could have bathed in the water myself, but the opportunity was a little out of my price range. Someday I’m going to go back and fork out the £75 for two hours in the spring-fed bath, a tour of the Roman baths, a three course lunch and whatever else comes with the package. Yet another activity which stays on the bucket list. It’s the Law of the Traveler.
During the tour I met another traveler from New Zealand and after the tour ended, we enjoyed another several hours together walking around the town. Definitely a great companion to talk to and I look forward to meeting up with them later in my travels. They even offered to host me when I make it down to NZ, which is great, as NZ and Iceland are the two countries I want to visit most.
My final day in Bristol was particularly special for me. I met a fantastic friend who introduced me to chai coffee at Cafe Ronak, and true Bristol cider at The Cider Press. Our time together was fairly short, as I had a bus to catch to Wales, but the time we did have together I shall never forget. I certainly look forward to meeting them again in the future.
And that was Bristol and Bath. Next stop, Wales.