Sunday, November 19, 2006

Bath and Stonehenge

It's always painful to wake up and leave the house before seven, even if it's for a fun reason. The streets were still dark and it was pretty cold.

But about 1 1/2 hours, there was Stonehenge, fenced off from the main road, with cars zipping by this ancient wonder. It was quiet, little noise from the visitors as everyone listened to the audio tours from large grey devices that reminded me of the mobile phones of years ago.

It is an amazing sight, these ancient stones, in formation, in the middle of these fields.

I am no writer, so I shall (as the audio tour did) use some lines from Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles:

“What monstrous place is this?” said Angel.

“It hums,” said she. “Hearken!”

He listened. The wind, playing upon the edifice, produced a booming tune, like the note of some gigantic one-stringed harp. No other sound came from it, and lifting his hand and advancing a step or two, Clare felt the vertical surface of the structure. It seemed to be of solid stone, without joint or moulding. Carrying his fingers onward he found that what he had come in contact with was a colossal rectangular pillar; by stretching out his left hand he could feel a similar one adjoining. At an indefinite height overhead something made the black sky blacker, which had the semblance of a vast architrave uniting the pillars horizontally. They carefully entered beneath and between; the surfaces echoed their soft rustle; but they seemed to be still out of doors. The place was roofless. Tess drew her breath fearfully, and Angel, perplexed, said —

“What can it be?”

Feeling sideways they encountered another tower-like pillar, square and uncompromising as the first; beyond it another and another. The place was all doors and pillars, some connected above by continuous architraves.

“A very Temple of the Winds,” he said.

The next pillar was isolated; others composed a trilithon; others were prostrate, their flanks forming a causeway wide enough for a carriage and it was soon obvious that they made up a forest of monoliths grouped upon the grassy expanse of the plain. The couple advanced further into this pavilion of the night till they stood in its midst.

“It is Stonehenge!” said Clare.

And after an hour's drive, Bath, where we hit the Roman Baths Museum. And listened to yet another audio tour - but one which also included insights from Bill Bryson which were more interesting.

You don't actually get down to the main baths until much later through the museum. Instead there are various artefacts to look at first.

Then you get to the bottom level, which you've been getting peeks and glimpses at through the windows of the museum above, and then you can truly appreciate the ingenuity of the Romans, and their penchant for a good soak.

A view of the Bath Abbey (where a Roman temple probably had once stood) from the Roman bath.

The plunge pool

And after all that history, the afternoon was free to wander around this beautiful place.

A walk through the Royal Victoria Park

At the entrance of the park, a fairytale cottage

The Royal Crescent

The Pulteney Bridge

And after, a 3 1/2 hour bus ride back to Brighton. It was a long day but a good one.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ah, Bath, even before I read the description I recognise from your pictures the Roman temples and the baths. Brings back fond memories.