November 16, 2009

England and Wales, part 2: Bath

After leaving London, we boldy rented a car and set off on a terrifying, death-defying, left-side-of-the-road driving adventure (note: I was too chicken to drive). First stop, Bath.

The Abbey in Bath

Bath was just gorgeous. The architecture was incredible, and everything was made from a lovely golden sandstone, which seemed to practically glow. We arrived in the middle of a nice afternoon shower, and got the whole place to ourselves for a few hours.

Then of course there's the history. Perhaps on account of its natural hot springs, Bath has been continuously inhabited since Neolithic times. In the 1st century A.D., the city, then known as "Aquae Sulis", was a well-populated Roman resort and religious center. And in Georgian times, the city rose out of relative obscurity to become a major resort town for the wealthy. Much of the city's most prominent architecture dates from this period.

The Bath. The lower levels (around the pool) are Roman, the upper levels date to the 19th century.
Note the two "Romans" having a casual conversation by the pool.

"I say, good fellow, which way to the frigidarium?"

The Pump Room at the baths. My inner Jane Austen nerd has died and gone to heaven at this point.

Image courtesy

After leaving the Baths, we ran across this interesting structure- supposedly "Bath's oldest house" (with some elements dating to the 15th century), and the mythological point of origin of the famous Sally Lunn Bun. How could I pass up the combination of historic structure, tea house, and creepy "kitchen museum"?

To be honest I had never heard of a Sally Lunn bun before, but apparently they're quite famous. The plaque says so.

According to the restaurant's website (improper use of quotation marks in the original),

"It is a rich round and generous brioche bun similar to the historic French festival ‘breads’. Sally Lunn, a Huguenot refugee (perhaps better known as Solange Luyon) came to Bath in 1680 via Bristol after escaping persecution in France. In Lilliput Alley she found work with the baker and introduced her now famous light and delicate ‘bun’ to pre Georgian Bath."

While in the tea house, I had a smoked salmon sandwich on a toasted Sally Lunn bun and a pot of tea. I felt very British.

In the basement of the building is the restaurant's "kitchen museum", a recreation of the original 17th century kitchen. 30p for admission, or free with purchase of buns! I think the creepy mannequin is supposed to be Sally Lunn.