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
May Week is a University of Cambridge tradition—a week of mad revelry that happens, as you definitely would not expect, in June. The highlights of the week are May Balls, elaborate and elegant all-night parties hosted by the colleges. Larger colleges throw balls every year, but the smaller colleges take turns. This year, my alma mater (Corpus Christi College) hosted. Additionally, two white tie balls were held. (Most are black tie.) Since neither of those things happened last year when I was a student at Cambridge, I had to return this year to take part! My week involved very little sleep but lots of alcohol and lots of fun.
I arrived in England on Monday afternoon to the news that a friend had an extra formal hall ticket at Christ’s College that evening. So I dashed to the college, luggage in tow (thank goodness for porters!), and arrived just in time for sherry, good food, half a bottle of wine, and port. Since I don’t drink much in Munich, that was quite the boozy start to my week. In other words, it was good training for what was to come! After a day of meeting up with friends who still live in Cambridge, the real partying started Tuesday night with the St. John’s College May Ball. All sorts of rumors circulate about this party: Time once ranked it the seventh-best party in the world. They keep a reserve fund to buy extra fireworks at the last minute so they can be sure to top Trinity College’s display. I have no clue whether either of those rumors is true, but it was certainly a perfectly elegant evening. We went from bumper cars to swing boats and from pop-rock to beautifully sung opera. I was well-fed with crepes, cheeses, scones, macarons, and pizza. Particular highlights included the fireworks display and the tea bar.
Sam and I, at the beginning of the evening
Collecting strawberries at the strawberries and Champagne reception
Sam and I on the same bridge, later in the evening
Continue reading May Week in Cambridge