After leaving the Isle of Wight via an alternate ferry from East Cowes to Southampton, we made fairly easy progress towards Bath via Stonehenge.
Travel on a budget certainly means making a few sacrifices, and the cheat’s version of Stonehenge was one of them – aka Stonehenge-through-the-fence. It was still cool to see it in person, though we’ll have to wiki some more of the facts and history given we didn’t get the audio tour! The commercialisation of some of these places is often surprising, when the images we have in mind include not a soul, barrier or signpost in them, yet the real thing is smack next to a roadway and surrounded by a path full of disinterested children. Still, a pretty fascinating place.
Unfortunately, Bath would be somewhat bad luck for us. En route the tiniest of tiny stones caused a big crack on the driver’s side of Cee-apostrophe-d’s windscreen. A huge bugger given it means an insurance claim, and we spent a bit of time in Bath and Bristol trying to get it replaced before we carried on. It seems Hertz have a fair amount of bureaucracy to prevent customers making their job easier, and their approval was going to take too long. The helpful team at National Windscreens assured us it was fine to leave until we drop it back, and that with the state of their roads it could just happen again! So the crack stays…
Our accommodation in Bath was a hard to find Travelodge with no parking – something we will be more careful of when choosing future places, especially after the whopping parking ticket we got and the cost of city parking spots. Another mark on the stupidity/bad luck board, which we’re intent to end at that!
Bath itself was fab. Like much of the UK seems to be, it was hideously expensive, apart from the rare gem we found in a free walking tour. It was hosted by a lovely old lady who lead us around the streets, stopping at various points to narrate the history of the area and point out things we otherwise would have missed. The stories behind the springs that give Bath its name were quite neat, centered around the amazing Roman Baths in the middle of town. Cost would prohibit us going inside this time, but maybe on another visit.
Our guide enthusiastically told stories of Ralph Allen who came to Bath in the Georgian period. At 27, Ralph had taken over the postal office and made a fortune by using Bath (rather than London) as a postal hub, making the service more efficient. He spent his new fortune acquiring the land next to the town, which contained heaps of stone, and was able to build a bigger fortune by building Bath – with the help of the architects John Wood the Elder and John Wood the Younger. The Woods are responsible for architectural creations around the city including The Circus.
There was mention also of Jane Austen, who lived in Bath with her parents and based two of her novels there. We would later find her books for £2 each in Wales – perhaps I should be persuaded to pick up a few more of the classics?
Possibly most fascinating was the architecture and town hierarchy centuries ago. The street fronts of all the buildings are uniform and smart at instruction of the architect, but the individual builders who bought rights to sections of the buildings could do as they wished with the rest. The walking tour was just over two hours and was definitely the best use of our short time.