We spent the night at a Holiday Express just on the edge of Oxford and travelled through fairly hard rain to Bath, where we enjoyed touring the Roman baths at our own leisure using individual audio devices. I'm sure Roman ruins are not everyone's cup of tea, but I thoroughly enjoyed touring them and lingered in every area, listening to the audio and looking at all the placards and exhibits. I couldn't help but think of my son and wish he was there with me; in about 7th grade, he became interested in the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations, and I'm sure he would have enjoyed this part of the weekend!
When I finally left the baths, my stomach was demanding sustenance, so I stopped in a little shop and bought a "small traditional pasty". It wasn't bad, but I didn't care for it. I think I may have had my last one of those!
Next door to the baths stands the magnificent Bath Abbey, and I visited it next. I do not possess the words to describe its stunning beauty, so I hope you'll check out some of these images: Bath Abbey Completely covering the walls and the side aisle floors are hundreds, maybe even thousands, of memorials to those whose bodies are interred beneath the floor. It was quite sobering to see how young many of the people were when they died, but I noticed very few dates that indicated deaths of infants or babies. The markers I saw were all dated either the 1700's or early 1800's, and many of them including flowing tributes to the deceased. As a writer, I was intrigued by the wording of the tributes (not to mention the spelling of words), and I noticed numerous references to “piety” and “conjugal affection”. Many of the markers were written in Latin, and with a nod to Mrs. Malahy (my teacher for 3 years of high school Latin classes), I was actually able to make out, at least in a general sense, those passages as well.
An announcement was made that services would begin in 30 minutes, and I took that to be a very polite way of saying we tourists needed to be heading elsewhere; with an hour to go before our departure time, I decided to have tea at a lovely restaurant I had seen earlier (just across the courtyard from the Abbey and the baths). A large placard read “Tea, scone, clotted cream, and jam L4.50” (I can’t find the symbol for British pounds on my laptop, so the cursive L will have to do), and I was eager to try clotted cream, so off I went.
Where do I begin? First, I have decided that when I return to the states, I am going to continue my new habit of stopping every afternoon to enjoy a cup of tea. But I digress. I was seated at a small table in front of a picture window looking out at the courtyard, with the Roman baths directly opposite me. My little pot of tea for 1, scone, clotted cream, and jam were brought to my table, and I prepared my first cup of tea, oblivious to the gastronomical delight that soon was to be mine.
I prepared my scone, still unsure of what clotted cream was -- I could see it, of course, but I had no idea what it would taste like. I took a small, tentative bite, and I think I may have actually said “oh, my” out loud. Nobody looked at me in surprise or disapproval, so I can’t be sure. I’m also not sure what clotted cream is; I do know it is absolutely delicious. As was the jam. And the tea and the scone itself. In short, I was in heaven, and I savored every single bite and sip as I sat by the fireplace and watched as heavy rain returned and pelted the courtyard and tourists milling around.
Finally, alas, my tea pot was empty and my scone eaten, and it was time to return to the meeting place for our bus ride back to Canterbury. It had been a absolutely beautiful weekend; the rain, the wind, the cooler temperatures didn't matter a bit. All that did was the opportunity to experience yet another bit of this wonderful country and its history.