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A Step Back into Britain's History: Part 2
Bath Abbey was our next stop. Many legends surround its construction, the main one being that Bishop Oliver King was, in a dream, instructed by God to build the Abbey and that the plan of the layout was revealed to him at the same time. In 1499 the Bishop had persuaded the community to raze an 8th Century church and build the Abbey, with its eccentric carvings on the West front in its place. We were fascinated by the Georgian inscriptions which gave us a better idea of the life and times of that period than anything else could have done. We also admired the fan vaulting over the knave, a beautiful addition by George Gilbert Scott who completed this in l874.
Another very real attraction of this town is that it has some of the finest shopping in England. Many people often come to shop at Bath's outstanding stores and boutiques, an excellence quite out of proportion to the size of the town. But this also dates back to the Regency period and was even notable in 1760 when Milsom Street was built, and even today it is not unusual to find members of the British Royal Family, quietly dressed and arriving without any publicity, pomp or fanfare, shopping in Bath before returning to their nearby residence.
To really appreciate the standard of the merchandise on offer, a walk down Milsom Street to Stall Street will lead to Bath Street and to the main shopping thoroughfares that contain major stores, boutiques, banks and book shops. As well as this, it is advisable to look for small passageways north of Abbey Churchyard and new complexes, like The Colonnades off Bath Street and Shires Yard off Milsom Street.
Then there is the roofed shopping area near Southgate and The Mall and, next to Guildhall, the town's covered market with everything from appliances to gourmet foods. The antique collector will find Bath an absolute browser's heaven. We noticed that there are over fifty reputable antique dealers in this town, many offering items not seen elsewhere.
There is an almost endless list of possible activities in Bath, from one hour boating trips along the Avon to free walking tours with the Mayor's Honorary Guides, (phone the Bath City Council at 461.111 for details). You can enjoy a hot air balloon flight over Bath, stroll a woodland park or a tropical bird garden. A visit to beautiful medieval manor houses or a cathedral and underground caves in nearby Wells, Somerset is also well worth while.
You can play golf, cricket or bowls, fish in or row a boat on the Avon. The Bath International Festival of Music and The Arts takes place between May and June, and during May there is also the Bath Contemporary Art Fair. Musical evenings and poem recitals are held in places like the Abbey, Guild Hall and the Pump Room, while the Bath Puppet Theater is a favorite of the young and young at heart.
Wonderful parks, the Bath Maze and fine restaurants are there to further enhance one's stay. Don't miss the historic Sally Lunn's Refreshment House, situated in the oldest house in Bath where this lady arrived in 1680 to make her name as a baker of delicious buns. We thoroughly enjoyed their modern counterparts.
Bath is also a museum town. There is a Museum of English Naive Art and a Museum of Costume, a Postal Museum, a Museum of Book Binding, a Geology Museum, an Industrial Heritage Museum and the William Herschel Museum located in the 18th Century home of this composer who was also one of the greatest astronomers of his time, and famous for discovering the planet Uranus from the back garden here.
With such a fascinating history, so much to see and so much to do, it is little wonder that Bath attracts so many visitors and that such a large percentage come back again and again.
Those planning to go to Bath may want to get information from the Bath Faxback Information.
This innovative service should be called from a fax phone. Switch your fax machine to the poll mode and after a short pause you will begin to receive pages of up-to-date information. The numbers to fax for the appropriate information are as follows:
Short Breaks: 44.891.194.602
Places to Visit: 44.891.194.604
Map of Bath and Car Parks: 44.891.194.605
Walter & Cherie Glaser are an international travel-writing team based down under in Melbourne, Australia.