A person's experience of a place is far from objective. While our thoughts and feelings about a location might be irrational, they certainly do not invalidate our opinions.
The city of Bath is known for its historic Roman Baths and gorgeous Georgian architecture, as well as having Jane Austen as one of its residents for a brief period in her life. Prior to my trip, it was those details that defined my conceptions of the city. However, now, having walked its streets, I can now understand that the Roman Baths are more than historic and the Georgian buildings are more than just gorgeous.
Am I sprouting a load of horse manure? Maybe. If I explained myself, it would go something like...
Bath exuded a certain aura and majesty. Perhaps, this feeling was influenced by the knowledge that the ancient Romans, a people who walked the Earth long before I was born, held this destination in high regard. Coupled with the city's stunning exhibition of Georgian architecture, it's no wonder the place holds a sort of magic within its soul.
But that's just me trying to rationalize my feelings. Honestly, it sounds like what anyone else would say.
What I mean to say is, I really liked Bath.
And, I guess, beauty is often incomprehensible. In fact, it might even be a waste of time to try to understand it.
Instead, what we should do is... appreciate it.
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A DAY IN BATH
When I arrived in Bath, I decided to make the Roman Baths my first stop.
Built by the Romans around 60 AD, the spas of Aquae Sulis, the Latin name by which the Romans called the town, was built up, on top of natural hot springs, over a span of around 300 years until it fell into disrepair in the early 5th century.
I'm always a bit cautious when it comes to "touristy" places. However, those feelings were quickly assuaged when I walked in. When you enter, you find yourself in a hallway overlooking the Great Bath (the baths are below modern street level). The experience strikes a good balance between educating visitors and presenting the physical site itself. (Usually, I'll have a greater appreciation of a site if I understand a little bit about its context and history.)
As I was strolling through the site, I made sure to take a minute in every room to imagine who was standing in that very same spot nearly 2,000 years ago. What kind of person were they? What was their profession? What occupied their thoughts?
What makes us the same, or different, as beings of the same species separated only by time?
After the Roman Baths, I ventured forward in time (aren't we all?) to the Georgian masterpiece that is the Circus. It is a circular street, with three entrances dividing the street into three rows of townhouses. A circular green park sits in the middle of the circle.
Personally, I was amazed by the street's symmetry and balance. The fact that it's a circular street makes it a bit of a novelty.
It is only after Googling the street later that day that I learned (via Wikipedia) that the Circus was designed with the Colosseum as its inspiration. The Circus was intended by the architect, John Wood, the Elder, to be viewed from within the circle, whereas the Colosseum's magnificent columns are experienced from the outside. Also, I thought it was fascinating that the reason why the street has three entrances is so that any visitor would be faced with a classical facade from whichever way they enter. Sadly, John Wood, the Elder, did not live to see his masterpiece completed. His son, John Wood, the Younger, however, took on the task after his father's death.
I wasn't done marvelling at Bath's Georgian buildings though. Afterwards, I ambled over to the Royal Crescent. It's as if John Wood, the Younger, wanted to one-up his father and came up with the Crescent. Although it is only half a circle, it is no less impressive compared to the Circus. (It's a draw in my book; they are both extraordinary works of humankind.)
The rest of the afternoon was spent walking around the streets with no real destination in mind. A true leisurely walk.
I did stop by Topping & Co. Booksellers because I love bookstores. Coincidentally, Topping & Co. recently opened a bookshop in St Andrews where I did a semester abroad in 2012!
On a side note: I love the street signs. They're etched in stone!
On my "leisurely walk," I discovered the Pulteney Bridge, an absolutely delightful find. From the street, it looks like an ordinary street with shops on both sides of a road. Except it's not ordinary at all. It's a bridge!
As I headed back to the train station, I bid adieu to the city, thanking it for a wonderful day. In reply, I was left with one final impression of Bath: the glorious sight of a city kissed by the remaining rays of the setting sun.