Christmas has come and past a few weeks ago already, but with the blistering heat we have been having here in South Africa for the last week, I am longing back to the snappy cold Saturday I spent exploring Bath in all its Christmas splendor.
The one place my mom had told me I had to visit on going to the UK was Bath. Obviously, my mom knows me best and she knew that the wonderful Georgian architecture and history of the ancient, yet modern city would capture my imagination, and it did. Before going to the UK I was scared of travelling alone, but when it came to my last Saturday in the UK I knew it was time to explore by myself. With all my assignments handed in (ahead of time I might add) I got on the 8:30 train to Bath on one of the coldest days I had experienced in the UK up to then (I literally had my gloves on the whole day, if that gives you an idea of the cold).
The night before had been a farewell/Christmas party at one of my classmates place with malt wine and talks until late into the night so I was pretty tired on the train, but the excitement kept me awake all through the ride to Bath. I stepped off the train into a town dripping with Christmas joy. Now I have to mention, I love Christmas time in Europe and when I came back home it just didn’t feel right seeing our copied European Christmas decorations. A summer Christmas is amazing and I love it, but it’s what I grew up with. A European Christmas is different, it’s magical. Bath was like something out of a fairytale!
The streets dripped with Christmas lights, perfectly resembling the splendor and extravagance which has always been associated with Bath. Some of the Christmas lights were even in the shapes of chandeliers, which I learnt the city is actually very famous for (more extravagance).
If Christmas lights didn’t bring the Christmas spirit enough, it was time for the annual Bath Christmas Market. Apparently it is the biggest Christmas Market in the UK and I could believe that. Small wooden houses were set up in every main and side street that could hold them and they were selling anything and everything you could think of. Christmas lights hung between the wooden shops and in front of the old Abbey was a huge Christmas tree. As the sun set and its lights turned on, the tree became a very popular selfie spot. The market items where almost all hand made and very unique but either too big to take home or too expensive for this student budget. The food however looked and smelt amazing. Of course, I made sure to taste as many samples as possible (I think that might be one of my favorite parts of markets).
As I was only in Bath for one day I did decided to do the touristy thing as well, but instead of braving the city with all its hills (it’s quite a walk all the way up to the top of the city from the center) on my own or take one of those red buses, I opted for a walking tour. It was so worth it as it is free and you just have to tip at the end. The tour lasted 2 and a half hours and we were taken all over the city by a student volunteer who studied at the University of Bath. I was so impressed with her knowledge and it was nice as we were only 3 in the group and could ask a lot of questions and everyone waited for each other while we took photos to our heart’s content.
I was fascinated by the amazing architecture and of course, my obsession with beautiful doors was fueled to an intensity not yet experienced in England. After the tour I went to visit the Jane Austen Centre, but decided not to go inside as it was £8 (and that is the student price) and the tour takes less than an hour. I’d also heard that most of the things in the museum are replicas and thus I bought a postcard and went to explore the streets some more.
One place I did decided to go into, despite the high price (£12 for students) was the Roman Baths, and it was worth every pence! I was in there for over 2 hours and saw some amazing things and history. I’d seen photos of the baths but I never actually thought about whether the water was hot or cold, but it is actually very nice and warm. Of course, travel schedules don’t always allow for weather choices but if you can get to Bath on a freezing day like the one I had, the baths are an even better experience. One can see the steam rising from the water and in the corner pool, the bubbling warm water looks very inviting. The Baths are very well kept, the route you take through well thought out and the audio guides are very informative. The only negative thing I could say about the Roman Baths might be that there is too much to take in, but luckily there are little benches all over the place for you to sit and admire the amazing engineering that went into creating these baths.
Coming back from Bath was not as seamless as going there had been. It seemed half of London had decided to visit Bath with me and wanted to get back home with the train at the exact time I wanted to head home. To ensure that the station didn’t become swamped with people, the whole station was closed until the trains arrived and all travellers needed to wait outside the station in lines. People did not like this and I was a little bit scared of being trampled by the running people going up the stairs to the platform. I was also very lucky to get a seat on the train because many people had to stand and with the huge amount of Christmas presents spilling over into the paths, I almost felt like I was back home using public transport in South Africa.
The trip was fine though and I got home safely, glad for the warmth and full of wonderful memories. If you only visit one city in England, I would recommend it being Bath. The city is diverse, old and modern at the same time and simply just magical. I also think it is a good central place to stay over a night or two as there are many places to visit close by, Stone Hench being just one.
Bath is yet another English city that has stolen my heart and in the warm South African summer I will always remember my wintery Christmas time in Bath.