Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Original Hot Springs

For the past three years, I have taken an annual trip with my law firm and some clients to play golf and watch the horse races in Hot Springs, Arkansas. We always joke that Hot Springs never changes, but it has nothing on the original resort town--Bath, England.

The River Avon as it flows under Pulteney Bridge in Bath

The Abbey Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, commonly known as Bath Abbey

The angels climb Jacob's Ladder on the west front

Bath is about an hour and a half from Oxford by train. We went for a day trip one Saturday. A trip to Bath is a good reminder of how far the Roman Empire stretched in its peak. There is archaeological evidence that there was human activity around the hot springs from as far back as 8000 B.C. The city was first established as a spa resort by the Romans in AD 43. In AD 70, the Romans built a reservoir around the hot springs, and then a sophisticated series of baths and a temple dedicated to the goddess Sulis Minerva.

Part of the Roman Temple reconstructed from ruins

I thought this would make a nice souvenir, but unfortunately it was not for sale

The view from within the Roman Baths

After the withdrawal of the Romans in 410, the town fell into decline. Although the use of the baths continued, they again became famous as a result of frequent royal visits. Legend has it that King James II's wife was  finally able to conceive as a result of the healing properties of the baths. Also, Queen Anne visited Bath regularly. These visits set in motion a period of development in which Bath became 'the premier resort of frivolity and fashion', and led to a great rebuilding of the city. In the late 1700's, excavations for new buildings led to the re-discovery of the previous Roman sites.

The Royal Crescent is a residential row of 30 houses laid out in a  crescent.  It is said to be one of the greatest examples of Georgian architecture.

One of the magnificent chandeliers that the aristocrats danced under during Bath's heyday

Of course, our day was not all history...

Our tour guide on the absolutely hilarious Bizarre Bath Tour.  According to Rick Steves, this tour has ‘absolutely no history or culture' and is ‘careful to insult all kinds of minorities and sensitivities.’  As Texans, we gave him plenty of ammunition!

As we were leaving, we learned a little bit of UK geography on the gigantic map in front of the Abbey:

Livingston is on the map!

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