This is one guilty pleasure that I am not so ashamed to admit and I also know I am not the only one either but I just love the beauty of buildings. Pretty sure I should have been an architect or even a builder but I just can’t help but soak up the stories from the bricks and tiles used in constructing the buildings of our lives. Quite deep and philosophical but have a think about it, take for example an old church or listed building and breathe in the life of that one place, there is just something quite astonishing in the design, the structure and the method of how it was built. I am a big fan of wildlife, wild open spaces and nature but I definitely find the same appreciation for some man-made structures as well.
Bath in Somerset is my idea of building heaven. I have spent quite a lot of time in Bath and every time I go there I see something new, not a new building per se but a building that I hadn’t noticed before. A while ago now I was lucky enough to get the pleasure of jumping on one of those hop-on red buses that most English towns seem to have. Quite a nerdy way to spend a day but I was looking after my niece and nephew from the extended side of my family. They really wanted to go on a tour, for what I am not entirely sure but I am guessing that as they live in Kenya, English life and our concrete jungles are somewhat of a novelty. I know I was much more excited that the both of them put together but in my defence from a story or two up everything changes.
It’s no a surprise to me that Bath has been a World Heritage Site since 1987 largely due to it’s architecture. Fun fact of the day for you: it is the only city in its entirety in Britain to achieve World Heritage status (thanks Wikipedia). Quite impressive really, those statuses aren’t handed out like candy on Halloween, they take some work. A status that Bath is certainly well deserved of, from the high street shops, to the larger office and residential blocks to the Abbey and Roman Baths it does not disappoint. This is true architecture at it’s absolute finest, coming a close second to Budapest on my scale of love for cities.
Leaving out the nitty-gritty historical facts again here because I will only be stealing that information from online sources so I see no point. If you would like to know more Google will be much more useful to you but I will share with you some of my personal favourites and of course the most well-known buildings of the city. All of these can be seen on the bus tours, which run frequently and there are some options of types of tours that you can take. Tickets can be purchased just about anywhere but the best place to leave from is the stop near Bath Abbey. There is a large ticket office with maps and the standard touristy souvenirs for you to amuse yourself with and they have mountains of information too. They are really helpful and within a matter of minutes you can have a jam-packed schedule organised down to the last stop.
This is where my tour started from, but we paid a visit to Bath Abbey first. I am not a church-goer normally but a stunning building from the outside I couldn’t resist a sneak peek on the inside. Tours of the Abbey only happen at certain times of the day and all it costs is a tiny donation fee (exact information can be found here: http://www.bathabbey.org). As these tours only run at certain hours I would plan ahead so the levels of disappointment are kept to a minimum. You don’t have to spend long if you don’t want to, it may look big but in actual fact from the inside it isn’t as huge as you would imagine. Admittedly there is a lot to look at so if you are only there for a couple of minutes something went wrong. Take your time; soak it all up and read the given information too, the Abbey is so beautiful and such an impressive structure. I was in awe of all the finer details (check out the ceiling) and just the scale of the place, I went there purely for the architecture but for other people there is so much more to take from this. It is art in the truest sense of the word, take from it what you want but I will guarantee that no matter who you are you will find something that captures your attention. Please have a look at this link: http://olivingthedreamphotography.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/the-beauty-of-bath/ for some more of my photos. It’s all building and not much else but you get an idea of what I am going on about.
From here you meander around the city, the bus itself is just a big red bus (sorry the novelty has worn off for me) but with no roof it is ideal for sightseeing. Luckily as I went in the summer I was fortunate enough to be graced with sunshine, Bath is so beautiful that even in the rain you can still enjoy it though I am sure of this. The bus does have a covered base area but the top deck is the best place to get up close with the bricks and mortar so I recommend braving it if the elements are tolerable. As you drive around have a look at some of the houses, I don’t know what the buildings are called so I can’t tell which to look out for specifically but near the Jane Austen museum you will find quite a few that deserve your full attention, namely one that is covered in creepers, it can’t be missed. Don’t worry the audio guide will keep you informed at all times so nothing will be go past you unnoticed, this is also a much more interactive and exciting way to get all the history. Google is pretty cool but it definitely doesn’t beat running commentary. The tour goes on for a couple of hours but like I said there are some options. If you drive by somewhere you fancy spending some more time feel free to hop on and off, I think there may be restrictions on how many times you can do this and your ticket is only valid for 24 hours but you check out all the details here: http://visitbath.co.uk/things-to-do/tours-and-sightseeing, this site also gives you many other ways of getting round all of bath. Perhaps next time I go I will be looking for something more adventurous than a double-decker bus!
When you are done with the big red bus and have seen enough rooftops to satisfy your love for architecture then Bath is full to the brim of restaurants and bars. Finding a place that everyone will love won’t be an issue, the variety of choice is ridiculous and the settings are in their numbers too. I come from a family of chefs so I appreciate the finer dining and I was not disappointed, I guarantee that what ever you are looking for you will find it. Don’t settle for McDonald’s or KFC, it’s almost an insult to the city! If you aren’t sure where to go or don’t want to walk around searching then always ask the locals; they can maybe let you in to a little hidden gem. Just be aware that Bath is busy so it’s not a bad idea to plan ahead and book tables. Jamie Oliver does a good deli for those wanting a quick bite and there are plenty of good pie shops and sandwich bars around the main square. The ice cream and fudge around town is delicious too so same some space for dessert!
As with many British towns, the shopping is always a prominent aspect, with all the typical high street brands and even some not so well-known shops around every corner. The shopaholic among us will definitely find some amusement a long the main streets somewhere but don’t just stick to the main streets, if you head on out-of-town and keep your eyes out a long those roads, the shops get quite quirky but you are bound to find a few treasures among them. If shopping is not your thing then grab and ice cream, find a bench and watch the craziness of Bath unfold. From the man who has an unhealthy love for pigeons to painted models pretending to be statues you will be entertained for hours watching the world go by. As towns go Bath is really bizarre but in my opinion that just adds to its beauty.
Before you exhaust yourself completely with all things the city has to offer save some energy and excitement for the Roman Baths. I should really have mentioned this first but as they are such a big part of Bath I thought that I would give them the honour of a separate post. I won’t say much as I don’t want to spoil the surprise but just keep them in mind. They rock my world in so many ways from the audio to the architecture, you find yourself spending absolutely ages in there without even noticing! The tour itself seems endless but their beauty and charm is endless too. In my opinion they are definitely the icing on top of an already pretty delicious cake! (Excuse the cheese; architecture has that effect on me). I know there is so much more to see and do and I have missed out some important places as well, namely the Jane Austen Museum, but I will definitely be returning there again soon so if you aren’t sold on the city yet don’t worry there is definitely a lot more places to explore, don’t give up just yet.