BATHING IN HISTORIC CHARM

 

As I potter down a cobbled street lined with unique shops that exude an individuality so charming that I can’t help but feel drawn to explore, I hear the faint strum of a guitar and the low melody of a street performer, just a short distance away.

Surrounded by the welcoming sounds of bells ringing as people enter shops and the glorious sight of geranium-filled hanging baskets decorating the elegant 18th century Georgian architecture, I find myself in the wonderful city of Bath, Somerset.

Famous for well-known marvels such as Jane Austen, William Herschel and Thomas Baldwin, whom of which was the respected architect of Great Pulteney Street and Bath Guildhall (and probably not a relation), the Georgian city is steeped in fascinating history and rich character.

Over the years, Bath has shone in being an exceedingly clever city, more so now than when it first rose to fame, when founded by the Romans in the 1st century AD. For it has retained most pleasingly, its natural history, elegance and quaint atmosphere, whilst in turn moving with the times and becoming one of the most stylish, creative and sought after places to live.

There is an eclectic feel towards almost every street I turn down in Bath. One second I could walk past a building which has been a firm favourite in the city for many many years like Jolly’s, and the next I’ll be walking past Santoro’s only shop in the world.

Which brings me nicely onto Milsom Street. Understandably seen by many as the most fashionable street in Bath for many years, it offers a wide range of independednt and intriguing shops, such as Waterstones, India Jane, Vinegar Hill, Santoro, Paperchase, Hobbs and Café Rouge. There are also a couple of banks, a card shop and Milsom Place which takes you through a sweet passage, away from the bustle of main street Bath and eventually leads you to the likes of Jamie’s Italian, Cath Kidston and other little shops dotted around each curve and corner of tranquil.

Moving away from Milsom Street, there are an overwhelming amount of attractions still to cover, each and every one of them, a true delight and offering a unique experience for all. The Roman Bath’s is of course, compulsory, as is the Thermae spa itself; and attached to that is The Pump Rooms. It is in that room you will experience quite simply the true taste and atmosphere of the elegance and charm Bath holds within its heart. I have been most fortunate to visit there twice and both times I have enjoyed the three-piece orchestra playing softly in the back of the room, offering a welcome background melody while I sipped the best hot chocolate and nibbled the best cream scones I think I’ll probably find in the whole of Bath.

Onward’s now to the Parade Gardens. A firm favourite of mine, especially in the summer. Just around the corner from Pulteney Bridge, entry to the gardens does incur a fee, but for about £1.50, it is completely and utterly worth it. As I walk down the slope (there are steps but I always forget as I’m too excited by this point), I leave the cars, pedestrians and shops behind me as I walk towards the idyllic setting of paths and lawns and flowers and benches. To some, this may do absolutely nothing, to me, it calms me instantly as I wind my way through topiary hedges and majestic flower beds poised to thrill the influx of tourists and visitors. Once out of the magical entwining of leaves and paths, the view which I am then greeted with and the feeling it creates is something I assume to be very close to a child discovering Narnia in their wardrobe. Stunning views of Pulteney Bridge, the weir and the River Avon envelop my eyes and melt my heart. And if all of that wasn’t the most pleasing thing since tea with jam and bread, there are even some sneaky views of Bath Rugby ground and the big screen, so in the summer, the sports enthusiasts can take a peek from a distance at the games in full swing. Also in the summer there are picnics to be enjoyed, deck chairs to be lounged on and the occasional wedding to wonder at. From April to September the garden café opens for all to enjoy and hydrate. Concerts are also held in the bandstand in the centre of the lawn during summer months, which I’ve heard are events not to be missed if you’re in the area.

Just watch out for little teams of ducks which gather at unsuspecting feet while one eats a sandwich on a bench, waiting in earnest to be fed. Cheeky but sweet.

Other highly esteemed places to indulge in while in the area are, Sally Lunn’s, The Royal Crescent, The Circus, The Jane Austen Centre, Victoria Park, botanical gardens, Bath skyline and the really very good, ghost walk. I’ve done this a few times and it’s a real treat. Best done in the Autumn when nights are darker and the mist descends…

There are, of course, a myriad of other truly wonderful places to visit and things to do in Bath but I will leave you with this, an excellent website to navigate and plan your adventures around this beautiful city.

Bath, a true necessity for the mind, soul and body.

My Holiday In Devon & The Tragedy Of Dining Alone…

20th June 2015

Yesterday, I returned home from my week in North Devon with my wonderful friends.

The train journey there had started off rather dramatically, and I always welcome drama, when on the opposite platform, a man was taken away by police… It attracted, as expected, quite a lot of attention from fellow train-riders and I pretended to be absorbed in my book about Bletchley Park, but peeped over my glasses the whole time to gawk at the welcomed altercation!

That was all over fairly quickly, which was a shame but in hindsight, quite fortunate as if it had carried on until my train arrived, I probably would have stayed to carry on spying!

So yes, I got on the train a couple of minutes later and the hoards of loud people in groups also boarded too, much to my disappointment. A group of men in there 30’s and 40’s had been gathering round on the platform, clearly excited for whatever rowdy, drunken event that was about to take off.

And only a few meters apart from them, was an age matching group of women, dressed in matching t-shirts, making just as much noise, just as excited and also getting on the same train…

I reluctantly boarded a carriage and made my way in true disgruntled fashion down the narrowest alley way I’d ever known in a train.

The carriage was packed and so was the luggage rack, so with weekend bag and rucksack in hand, I squeeze messily into a seat by the window, and begin to pray I’m not going to be joined by any of the rowdy lot or a pervy letch!

I thought my luck had been chucked at me 10 fold when it seemed like everyone had found their own seat successfully and I was left with a whole seat next to me! My thoughts were confirmed when the train started moving slowly out of the station and a small, smug but victorious smile crept on to my face as I proudly placed my own luggage into the seat beside me.

Chuffed with my unexpected solitude, I decided that then was a good point to eat my egg sandwich I’d bought, as let’s face it, no one wants to be sat next to anyone eating an egg sandwich on a small train… And that was when it hit me, when I was at my most smug… I was travelling backwards…

That’s when my hand grasped egg sandwich came to a halt mid munch, a churning feeling in my stomach appeared and the words “only I could travel backwards on a train while trying to eat an egg sandwich” came into my head.

And then, just to add to my horror, my head slowly turned round, egg sandwich still planted in my mouth, to see this young girl smiling gleefully back at me, with not a smile of amusement, but a smile of no holds barred pity.

So after dealing with apparent trespassers who were somewhere between where the train was and the next station, the driver picked up full speed and I arrived a little calmer than when I started, just after lunch and waited for my friend to pick me up.
The first evening was spent on the beach with Prosecco, music and lots of giggles and I felt as free as a bird. We were listening to music from The Zac Brown band, who I found a few summers ago and their music fitted so perfectly for our evening on the beach and the words in the song rang so true for me at that moment.

For a girl who has never had more than one and a half glasses of wine before, the three Prosecco’s I’d had by the time the sun was setting on the beach, we’re definitely taking hold of me and the evening danced by with a light hearted frivolity. Pictures, giggles, dancing, singing and spending time with two of the nicest people I know. I felt truly lucky and very grateful for that evening and its San be perfect start to my week.

The rest of the week there passed very well, with explorations of the town and shops, a spontaneous trip to the local museum which turned out to be very interesting and I had a lovely chat with one of the ladies who volunteers there. I went to the beach again by myself and wrote my post cards, thought at one point I was going to be gobbled up by a dog, who just wanted to say hello, managed to get half the beach on my skin after caking myself in sun cream, and was sat there for a good two hours with my late grandma’s tartan umbrella to keep the sun off me. I must have looked like something from The Darling Buds Of May!

 


However, things took a bit of a nose dive on Tuesday lunchtime, when I found myself in a restaurant for lunch, in town…
I’d walked in the door and was greeted by a young girl who had rings on all fingers, red hair and was thin as a rake… Who promptly blurted for all the restaurant to hear, ‘Table for one?’

And that’s when it hit me. I hadn’t actually prepared myself for dining alone and the tragedy that comes with it.

No, I had been used to walking in proudly with my beau, waiting to be walked to a table for two and then going on to enjoy having company while I ate and moaned about everything I didn’t like with where we were. A favourite pass-time of mine.

But now, in a frenzied, tear-filled gaze, I was being led to a massive table at the window which felt like it played a part in the Banquet in Macbeth. All the time, I was being paraded to the village outside and my loneliness and raising level of uncomfortableness was being cast in an exhibition titled, ‘The Tragedy of Heartbreak’.

So, I sat there, sipping my new favourite drink Elderflower Bubbly, waiting 45 minutes for my food to arrive.

During that time, I had to endure every table in my sight containing smug couples, one table of which right opposite me, acting very loved up and kept looking my way in confused pity. I had to stop myself from glaring at them but their brazen public displays of affection were getting the better of me.

And then my distressed brain tuned into the music that was playing through the speakers. A medley of sad songs continued to pour out all the time I was there and I spent the entire time fighting back tears in public, once again.

There was no escaping, I’d ordered food, hadn’t paid for my drink, not to mention starving. I was trapped in the love torture pit of hell and I felt like everyone could see me squirming, everyone knew how sad and low I was. Horrifyingly humiliating, but in recent months, not something I’ve been a stranger to.

After a hideous wait, 45 minutes later, my food arrived and I was bitterly disappointed. It was a linguini carbonara and it was swimming in oil. By that point I had lost my appetite anyway, and with the amount of oil I was having to consume, I plonked my fork down mid meal, huffed loudly and sunk back into my seat tearing up and feeling queasy.
After paying and being polite enough to not moan about the quality of my experience there despite it bringing me to tears and queasiness, I made a hasty retreat and fled back to my friends house where I spent the afternoon feeling incredibly sorry for myself and yes, I watched The Jeremy Kyle Show.

One of my lowest points.

And it began to dawn on me that the more time I spent by myself, the more I was starting to think about him again, the lower I was feeling.

By Thursday night, I was a teary wreck again and needed to get things out of my system. Which I did thanks to my heroic friend who drove us up a hill at night to view the sea and talk. It lifted me so much by the following lunchtime and I returned home feeling a lot more at ease and settled again with my feelings.
The things I learnt while on my holiday, are pretty different to what I thought I would. I learnt that being by yourself at home isn’t always a good thing, I learnt that dining alone really isn’t something to launch straight into if you’re newly single with a broken heart, I learnt that friends are your life line sometimes and I am incredibly lucky to have some that care about me along with my family, and I also learnt that caking yourself in that much sun cream will only ever result in looking like a colourful version of the sand man.
An enlightening week which ended perfectly by being greeted at the station at home by my dad who took my bags from me and gave me a hug:)

I should be keeping a Gratitude diary from now on as I really am starting to notice the little and big things people do.
Not a changed woman yet, but a woman who is doing things she didn’t think she could do and who is getting stronger by the day.
Amy 🌸