Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Somerset & Bath

It was great to pick Mum up from Heathrow much too early on a Saturday morning a week and a half ago. Even if that did mean driving through London well too early on a weekend - not that days of the week have too much meaning to me at the moment. We continued west towards Somerset, ducking off when the M4 was closed & wandering around a pleasant little Wiltshire village, lunching & then trying our luck again on the roads. The direct route west through Bath was too snarled up, so it was north back to the motorways. Eventually we were at Mum's cousins' (Gary & Joan) place, where I promptly left her to get over the jetlag (which apparently never eventuated) to go down & visit John & Anna (who I met years ago biking in Rotorua) & their young twin daughters. Esther & Lydia sure have grown since I was in Canada. My shoulder dictated that this was my first visit to Taunton without a bike; even so I enjoyed just hanging out as we watched the girls, shared travels stories and looked over my photos from North America.

Back up at Burnham-on-Sea Mum & I spent a relaxing few days trying to avoid getting painted when we walked through the hallway, moseying around various quaint villages (I didn't get any cheese in Cheddar - "Not much call for it? It's the single most popular cheese in the world!", visiting various family & friends, frequenting charming centuries old pubs. I even managed an interview in Bristol on the Tuesday for a job I wasn't particularly keen on - it was a mercifully short interview. I was delighted to have the new Jack Reacher novel arrive on my Kindle mid-week - a good look as to how Reacher came to be drifting around the States "solving" various problems with usually staggering amounts of violence.

Highlight of the week was getting to Bath finally - a place that I've skirted around on the motorway numerous times & never quite had the time to pop in & visit. Unfortunately it ended up being a rather rushed visit, but I got to see the main things I wanted to. That Wednesday was the start of a purple patch of weather - five sunny calm days in a row with the mercury getting up in the high-20s each day. A very pleasant surprise as the days get shorter heading in to October. Consequently, there were plenty of people out & about in Bath (I imagine there usually are - except on the bleakest of days) & we briefly wandered through town towards the Abbey & the Roman Baths.

The Celts first had a temple here around the geothermally heated spring & the Romans built up a temple & the baths here in the first century AD. Those first baths were eventually lost after the Romans left Britain, but much of their complex has been revealed & is part of the facility today. Most of the current buildings & statues date from the 1800s. The audio-tour is very informative & it's always nice wandering around old architecture & engineering. The various artefact displays & reconstruction of some of the Roman temple were very well done too.

The main drain - nice algae too

There was just enough time to enjoy the late afternoon sun & walk up to see some of Bath's famous Georgian architecture. The Royal Crescent is particularly impressive - as you would expect a Grade I listed building to be.  With a huge green lawn in front of the crescent, it's a wonderful setting for the arc of facade that was finished in the 1770s.  I found it interesting that the architect (John Wood the Younger) designed & built the facade only.  This meant that people bought their own section of the front & then had their own architect design the house behind.  At the front this shows up with many different styles of windows & doors, while at the back there is a real hodge-podge of building styles & sizes.

The week rounded out with Mum & I driving down to Dorset to see another cousin (Pamela - Gary's sister - who I'd last seen when I was four, apparently I've grown a bit). All the driving on A-roads was just tedious - so busy & small. After a week of driving through various parts of England on tiny roads in an under-powered rental, I was really missing driving my Outback around the big empty wide roads of North America. There was a much longer & better job interview on Friday near Southampton before we got back to London. The weekend of great weather was mostly spent with Mum organising herself for university, more meals with family & eventually taking Mum up to Colchester & moving all her belongings in to her flat on campus. It's a little odd taking your mother to university.

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