stories of life & wanderlust

Monday, May 12, 2014

My Favorite English Town: Bath

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It is no secret that I love photography. I may not be a professional, have a fancy camera or know all the ins and outs of manual photography, but I sure love to learn and constantly work on my skills to take better and more interesting pictures. On my last visit to London, I took a daytrip to Bath in Somerset and while I did expect to see some gorgeous Georgian architecture, I was surprised by just how beautiful this historical town is. Move over York, Oxford and Cambridge – for me, Bath is the most photogenic town in England!

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My boyfriend had a deadline for university, so I went to Bath alone and while I love traveling with other people, the thing that I cherish the most about solo travel is that it allows me to completely focus on my photography. It was a gorgeous day and even though Bath is one of the prime tourist destinations in England, it was still calm and peaceful when I arrived in the morning.

My battle plan had been hastily thrown together after a quick look on Tripadvisor and wikitravel and my first stop of the day was Pulteney Bridge that spans the scenic river Avon. I have visited Bath twice before – once with my parents when I was barely even a teenager and a second time a couple of years later when I took a language class in England – but I don’t remember seeing this bridge on any of those previous visits.

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Pulteney Bridge is not far away from the city centre where the tourist masses tend to concentrate, but unless you go looking for it, you probably won't stumble upon it by mistake. And that would really be a shame, because Pulteney Bridge is one of the most impressive buildings in town. It is also one of the most interesting things to photograph and I vowed to myself to return later in the day when the light was better.

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Once you stand on Pulteney Bridge, you wouldn’t even know that you are not on a regular street. I cannot imagine many places that would be more unique to live in!

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I took a couple of more pictures from the stunning riverside before I finally managed to tear myself apart from the view - after all, there were still plenty of things to discover in Bath!

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I had read online, that the view over Bath from the hills surrounding the city was really lovely and since I wasn’t short on time, I decided to head to the Bath Skyline in the east of the city. It's a bit of a walk from the city centre, but it is so worth it because you pass many gorgeous Georgian buildings on your way. The streets reminded me a lot of Edinburgh's New Town, but unlike this Scottish city - and Bath's main shopping district - these streets are quiet and peaceful. Most visitors don't seem to make it much farther east than Pulteney Bridge!

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What is the worst thing that could happen on trip that you wanted to devote to photography? Your camera runs out of charge! Well, maybe I’m a little bit dramatic (I  could definitely think of worse things to happen while traveling!), but I did want to smack my head against a wall when the battery sign started to flash in red. Lesson learned: Always, always charge your camera before you leave for a trip and/or bring back up batteries – everything else is asking for frustration!

I took one last picture of a squirrel – one of my favorites of the trip, actually – and then begrudgingly put my camera away deciding to save what little charge it had left for later and then got out my trusty iPhone.

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The wonderful thing about traveling without the obsessive need to take a picture of every beautiful sight that comes your way is that you really start to appreciate the moment – and that’s something I could definitely use a lesson in! It is really easy to get caught up in the online sharing craze when you travel – Blogs, Facebook, Instagram & Co have made it so easy to share your adventures with the world, that it can sometimes feel like you need to document every waking moment of your life.

But that defeats the purpose of travel.

Yes, it is awesome to share one's travels with other people. And it is sort of flattering to have friends ask you whether you’re traveling the world after you have posted a picture to your Facebook page. But that’s not what travel is about. Traveling is about experiencing new places and new cultures, discovering beauty and adventure, becoming interested in the world and its issues and about growing in your knowledge and personality.

Photography has definitely helped me with all of the above. Seeing the world through my viewfinder has let me to find beauty in places where I wouldn't have looked for it before and allowed me to gain a new perspective of the world. But when you start to care more about the picture than about the experience, the camera can quickly turn on you. I love having beautiful pictures as a reminder of my travels - but I also love having beautiful memories and stories to go along with them.

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As I started to ascend the hills, it quickly became obvious that the walk was more than worth it. Catching an aerial view of the city is a definite must on a visit to Bath: Most cities look impressive when spread out before you, but Bath is particularly gorgeous!

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I took a different way back to the city centre and stumbled upon the canals of Bath by accident. And I am so glad I did! The canals are absolute hidden gems and definitely worth seeking out - especially if the weather is gorgeous! I also have to apologize for the overuse of the words and expressions most beautiful, gorgeous and stunning in this post. I promise I am not exaggerating my feelings - Bath really is the most beautiful town I have visited in England!

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I had lunch at a great vegetarian restaurant called Green Rocket Cafe and properly nourished decided to take on the reason people really come to Bath: The Roman Baths. I took Latin for almost nine years in secondary school and have hence developed a certain affinity for the Romans. My interest may not be nearly as big as my boyfriend's (I'm sure he would tell you that I greatly exaggerate my interest in Roman history right now!) who I would have loved to experience it with, but after visiting Hadrian's Wall in February, I was curious to see yet another piece of Rome in England.

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As soon as I entered the Roman Baths, I regretted not making this my first stop of the day when Bath was still calm and quiet – the place was packed! And I wasn’t even visiting during High Season. I do okay with large crowds, but there were moments when I was almost ready to shove other people out of my way. I can’t guarentee that you have more luck when you visit earlier or later (I probably went at 2 in the afternoon), but it is also worth a try.

However, the Roman Baths are famous for a reason. The Baths are in a fabulous condition – well, as fabulous as something can be that was build two thousand years ago and it is so easy to imagine that people actually bathed in the water and walked through the rooms such a long time ago!

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Because of its mineral composition, the water in Bath was said to have healing properties and in the 18th century many people came to the city for a sip of the miraculous water, making Bath one of the most fashionable places to be in in England. If you are curious about the taste of the water, there's a fountain at the end of the visit when you can try it for yourself. I didn’t find it as horridly disgusting as some other people have, but I’m not sure I can speak for its healing effects – I got a cold a couple of days later! ;)

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I still had some time before my bus left for London again, so I decided to visit the Fashion Museum at the Assembly Rooms towards the north of the city centre. The Museum showcases the evolution of apparel in England and features a large collection of garments, especially from the 19th century, though there are some modern pieces as well. The focus of the museum is more on the sociological sides of dressing than the act of dressing stylishly itself, so you don’t have to be very into fashion to get something out of the museum. I was surprised just how much time I spent there!

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I would have loved to spend more time in all of the gardens around the city, but time had passed much more quickly than I had expected and soon I had to be on my way back to London again. It takes about two and a half hours to get to Bath from London by bus, but taking the train is faster, though usually much more expensive. Both Oxford and Cambridge make for more convenient day trips from London, but if you’re in England for a longer period of time or it is not your first visit to this island, it is well worth a visit!



Travel Tuesday

linking up with Bonnie, Kaelene, Van & Sammy
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