When I went to bed last night, I had promised myself that I wouldn't sleep late and leave for Bath early today morning. But when I woke up at 7:00 am today, I was not sure if I wanted to get out the bed so early. I dragged my feet to the bathroom, and took 30 minutes to lazily complete the essentials. I switched on my laptop and sent out a few emails (yes, I know it's a Sunday) and devoured a couple of bananas. I got into a jeans and linen shirt, pulled over a light sweater (it was 13 degree centigrade in London) and started packing my National Geographic backpack. First went in the camera with 35mm lens and a 512 mb card, followed by Lonely Planet England, William Dalrymple's City of Djinns, iPod, a notepad, a pen and a bottle of water. I was now all set for a day trip to Bath. But all this while, I was still torn in my mind between a solo trip out of the city versus a lazy Sunday in London. I chose the former.

I took the tube to Paddington, purchased tickets for Bath Spa (very expensive at 47 pounds for a return ticket) and waited for the train on the platform with the novel I had packed. 45 minutes later, when the train started to move out of Paddington station, I realized this was my first train trip in England. I think the joy of traveling, as much as it is in exploring new places, people and culture, is also in learning new procedures and figuring out new customs. It's very exciting - when you discover your ability to discover new things. Change - that is what keeps us going. For instance, today I changed the way I tie my shoe laces. It was a strange kind of joy I hadn't experienced before ;-)

So after soaking in 1 hour 50 minutes of English scenery and Dalrymple Delhi, I reached Bath Spa station at noon. Bath is a small city in Somerset, England; and Avon is the river that flows through it. Bath can be easily covered on foot and the weather was just right for walking today. I stepped out of the Victorian station and walked towards the city square which is about 200 yards away.




Bath is everything you would imagine Europe to be. Or atleast the Europe of early 1900s. Set in the laps of lush green hills and on the bank of river Avon, Bath could easily be the most romantic city in England. The entire city is built with pale golden colored limestone called Bathstone. The architecture is Georgian and Victorian. Narrow cobbled serpentine streets, splendid villas, steep hilly roads and delicate gardens. The place looks as if it was frozen in time 100 years ago and the ice has just melted. It looks like a cinematographic set out of those world war movies - crescents of regal townhouses with imposing pillars and ornamental chapiters.

I wandered around the city square, the Roman baths, Bath Abbey. I walked past the city market where various street artists were pulling every trick out of their hats to impress the crowd and collect pennies. There was this stout gentleman right in the center of a large square playing a guitar which hung around him. His round head seemed to be precariously balanced on his round torso - his neck was completely missing. Two very old ladies and a gentleman sat on the bench listening to him. From the expression on their faces, it seemed as if they were cast in bronze. Let alone music, even a small blast wouldn't have moved them from their seats. A briskly walking young Japanese man was making the most of technology and clicking pictures at 3 fps.

Further down, on the corner of Union street in city market, a nurse and her colleague were peeking down a hospital window to listen to Indians (native Americans) play live music. Of the three artists who were performing, one was dressed in wolf-skin. The music was mesmerizing and brought the entire street to a stand still. They had a strange power in their music - I was so lost in it - I began to imagine what their native habitats must have been and what mountains they must have descended and what plains they must have crossed and what journeys they must have accomplished before they got to this street corner. Alas, the CDs they were selling were a bit expensive at 12 pounds.




At 3:00 pm, I was so happy and enjoying myself - I would have cursed myself if I didn't come here. I walked aimlessly - walking into any street that seemed inviting. At several corners, both directions leading out of the street looked equally exciting. I crossed Avon along Parade Garden bridge (?), walked along the river and crossed back along the 18th century Pulteney bridge. Trust me, it's a great joy to discover the city this way. The Lansdown Crescent I hit very soon was as impressive as the more popular Royal Crescent - only less crowded. Do you remember the key-dropping scene from Life is Beautiful. I always wanted to walk around in a place like that. Bath is one such place.

At about 6:00 pm, I came back to city square. The sun had retreated into its blanket of clouds and was starting to paint the sky in brilliant shades of red, magenta and blue. All the tourists had mysteriously disappeared and most of the business in the city was shut. I started walking along the river again. The gently flowing river, along the quacking of ducks, geese and an occasional swan added music to the very serene ambience. The dwindling light made the entire atmosphere more dramatic. So after a while and passing several bridges across Avon, I reached the other side of Bath city - the one less explored.

I wanted to go on, but at 7:00 pm my knees had started to give in. I had been constantly walking - uphill, downhill, no hill. I started to walk back towards the city. On my arrival, I slipped into a Thai restaurant, grabbed a quick bite of rice and chicken and took the 8:00 pm train out of Bath to London. When I look back at the trip, I was in Bath for just one day - a mere 8 hours. No, I didn't visit the Roman baths, I didn't take a tour of Bath Abbey, I missed visiting 1 Royal Crescent, I didn't have time for the boat ride along Avon. But the trip was extremely satisfying (read as: momentarily quenching my wanderlust). It was a great day spent walking with ample time to enjoy and reflect upon the beauty - both around and within us.

Bath is a wonderful day trip from London. If you have a chance, just go!



Tags: Europe

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