Roaming around Bath on a Friday night felt like going back in time. I wasn’t expecting it, and it took a while before I could realise what had caught my eye. Most of the people around looked much younger than me, with my baby face and all; most likely students, celebrating the beginning of their weekend. Watching them play pranks on each other and laugh out loud, I suddenly remembered what it felt like to be me eight years ago. The deceitful sense of security you get from knowing more than you did yesterday, easily confused with maturity, as it’s far too easy to forget that you know less than you will tomorrow. The bliss of living your best years to the fullest, and the dangerous illusion that they’ll never end. Who cares if you dance the night away, or end up sitting on a sidewalk with a bottle of cheap booze; as long as your friends are there, life can’t be that bad.
At night, Bath buzzes with the vitality of youth; the morning after, it shows an entirely different face. At 10am on a Saturday, the streets are empty, as if the town was, too, recovering from the previous night’s excesses. A city that sleeps until late, and indulges in the pleasure of waking up refreshed; you don’t get that in London. But this eerie sense of peace is bound to vanish, too. It doesn’t take long before the lively chatter of the tourists queueing for the Roman Baths, standing outside the Cathedral, or posing for pictures next to Jane Austen’s wax sculpture, prevails over the sleepy quiet.
Bath is a sightseeing gem, and rightfully so. Its Georgian buildings are like nothing I’ve ever seen before, in Britain or anywhere else. Even the shopping quarter looks quaint and cosy, miles away from the dreariness of old, weary Oxford Street. If London hints that you’re doomed to surrender to the daily grind, Bath offers you a breath of fresh air. If London has you fear that the world is too overwhelmingly big for you, Bath reassures you that you can handle it just fine.
Visiting the Roman Baths felt like a revelation to me. Ancient history was one of my least favourite subjects in school; dates, names of emperors, details of battles and peace treaties never made their way to my brain as easily as literary quotes and catchy French words did. This, though, was different. I, famous for drifting off five minutes into any history lesson, found myself soaking up facts like the diligent student I never were, letting every stone, wall and column teach me everything I should have learnt in school. It was a case of “seeing is believing”: no amount of time spent in front of a textbook can ever rival the amazement of seeing wonders built thousands of years ago right before my eyes.
My partner and I spent three hours at the Roman Baths; long enough for the sun to pop out again, gifting us with the pleasant weather we’d been hoping for all along. In the sunshine, Bath showed all its charm, and spurred us to keep exploring until we ran out of energy. Past the town centre and through uphill streets, we reached the Circus; a bit of a trek, but all worth the while.
“What’s so special in a group of houses with a grassy area in the middle?”, I hear you ask. “Go see for yourself” is my answer. Walk to the centre of the Circus, right in the middle of the tall, thick trees, and cast a look around you. Take in the leafy branches, granting you a sort of fragile, momentary sense of privacy. Observe the world as if you were standing outside a window, watching the world you know from an entirely new perspective. Do it for long enough, and you’ll feel you have discovered a secret spot: a perfect location for a clandestine encounter, a safe post for observing without being observed. Me, I thought of that wonderful Kate Bush song, Under the Ivy; for all I know, it could have been inspired by a place like this.
Bath’s iconic Royal Crescent is very close by; regal, elegant, and every bit as beautiful as I had imagined it. My partner, on the other hand, wasn’t as mindblown as I was, and more than once wondered what all the hype was about. What was it about those Georgian houses, that attracted masses of tourists who seemed content with simply admiring them from the outside.
Well, it was everything. The different shades of paint, dirt and smog on the walls, creating different colour and light effects, all of which I could have spent hours photographing. Royal Victoria Park’s green expanse, where we enjoyed the most peaceful, relaxing walk I’d had in ages. I’m no Jane Austen fan, but if I had to guess how living in the world of Downton Abbey and Pride and Prejudice felt like, this would be it.
Liked what you read? You’ll enjoy these too:
- Watch more pictures from my weekend in Bath on Flickr
- Read my review of The Great Bangers and Beer Fest at The Roman Baths Kitchen