Somehow, in a year of living only a couple hours away, I never made it to Bath, England. This is doubly surprising because I’m pretty fond of Jane Austen, who lived in Bath for many years and set several of her books there. So when some Facebook-friends-turned-real-life-friends suggested a meet-up in Bath on a weekend when I would already be in England, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to see this charming city.
Bath is named after its oldest and most famous attraction, the Roman Baths. Lots of Roman cities had baths, but these were special because of the naturally warm mineral spring water. Bath had the largest public bath in the Roman empire despite the small size of the town because the water didn’t need to be heated! The water also supposedly had healing powers—a belief that continued into the Regency era. There was probably some truth to this: in a time before vitamins, drinking and sitting in water with extraordinarily high mineral content could cure some infirmities. The place to “take the waters” nowadays is the Pump Room next to the baths, where an ornate fountain lets visitors taste the spring water. Most make faces at the sulfuric smell and gritty taste. I banished that taste with afternoon tea (with all the traditional accompaniments), which I ate as I listened to the delightful Pump Room Trio.
The classic Bath view of the abbey behind the Roman Baths
A priest blessing visitors to the Roman Baths
This lion’s head used to stand above the entrance
The goddess Sulis Minerva
Natural hot spring water flowing through the pipes
A fountain of spring water in the Pump Room
The Pump Room
My historical adventure continued at the Fashion Museum and Assembly Rooms. The Museum was simply paradise for anyone who loves historical clothes. I’ve included photographs of a few of my favorite pieces from the collection (conveniently labelled by year) in the gallery below. I just wish a larger portion of the collection had been on display! The same building houses the old Assembly Rooms, a meeting-place for Georgian society. Concerts, balls, card games, teas—they all happened here under the careful planning and watchful eye of the Master of Ceremonies (the most famous being Beau Nash, who was “King of Bath” between 1704 and 1761). Continue reading Historical Bath
I’m spending most of Fasching/Carnival at dances in Vienna, but I saved one weekend for Venice! Despite extensive travels in the south of Italy, I had never been to Venice before. When I arrived, I simply couldn’t get over how pretty it is. It’s one thing to imagine a city as a collection of islands with canal-streets and another to actually see it. Of course, it’s an old city, too, which means there are lots of beautiful old buildings (and bridges).
Water as the main street. So pretty.
This church has so much going on.
Bridges and boats are essential.
I have no clue what this building is, but doesn’t it look interesting?
Classic Venetian gondolas, hiding from the flood.
This is a scuola grande—a charity society founded by aristocrats (now a museum). So much marble.
Churches and more churches.
It’s me! I was really there!
Small side canal.
The Basilica in Piazza San Marco.
Even the winter decorations have a winged lion!
The Rialto bridge.
My first day in Venice was a little flood-y. By which I mean the water was up to my knees in some places. Lots of shops had to close, and the vaporetti (water buses) were not running.
During high tide (acque alte), police set out elevated platforms on main roads.
Still high tide.
This trattoria lacked the usual metal barrier to keep out water.
By the afternoon, the tide was low again, so I went on a walking tour of the city. I grabbed cicchetti (the equivalent of tapas) with some other tourists. (They were from Chile. My Spanish was a mess after a day of trying to think in Italian.) The polenta and gnocchi in Venice are excellent. Then I did something completely predictable: I went to the Goldoni Theater and got student tickets! There was a very strange Pirandello piece on—I’ll write and post my review soon. Continue reading Carnival in Venice