Roman Baths and crummy motels
We were more than happy to leave the Holiday Inn at York. While the reception area was nicely renovated, the actual hallways and rooms were dirty, nasty and dated. I really should have complained. Although they may be in the process of updating, having workman walking the halls while I was in a separate room from my daughters was unnerving. I emerged from my shower still feeling dirty, thinking the name of the next town sounded even more inviting.
Bath is a very alluring English town with a long history. The history and the water is a little murky but what is known is the Roman's developed an intricate pool system around the hot springs around 120AD. The warm waters feed into the river Avon. At some point, the area was abandoned and the spring buried in mud. Fast forward 1000 some odd years and the spring was recovered and a newer pool built upon the Roman foundations, about 3 feet higher in elevation, modern day elevations are yet another 2 feet higher.
Bath had a Georgian heyday, with powdered wigs and flowing silk gowns, smallpox marks and lead-based cover-up, not to mention chamber pots in every room (cubbies exist behind wood paneling for the pots to be placed after use, servants then removed and dumped the contents, also a partition screen is in situ for discretion). I do believe that ladies were withdrawn to the "drawing room" after dinner so men could relieve themselves in their pots outside observance by said feminine society. Bath was considered the Other Ton and young ladies visited for The Season despite close neighboring of London.
Bath has lovely hillsides that are a visual relief to the flat grass lands we have been driving through and the town itself loves their curves. The Royal Crescent is a half-moon row of early 1700 town homes, often rented by society for months or years at a time. The architects were none other than John Wood the Elder and John Wood the Younger. After the abolishment of slavery, the wealth of Bath diminished quickly. Today, thanks to Romans, Chaucer, Austin, Shakespeare and a Univeristy, Bath enjoys much wealth and success, my pocketbook is much lighter for it.
I complain, but the B&B we stayed at was very nice and the kids liked the town so much they wanted to stay for an extra night. We even stumbled upon the Forest of Imagination at the Bath Abbey, an artistic project to bring awareness to the global deforestation problem. And I would be remiss if I didn't mention the Museum of Fashion, an Evelyn favorite.
On our final full day on the isle (for this leg), we drove the Portsmouth, but first we stopped at Old Sarum, outside Salisbury. This heritage location was a castle site of William the Conquerer. We found out later that he evidently built many castles and then gave the land and rank to high ranking officers etc to encourage loyalty across the country. A few years after the Battle of Hastings (1066) construction started on this already saxon-improved hilltop. I personally enjoy this history, as the Hibbard family name (maternal grandmother) and Hebberd family name (mother-in-law's) were Royal Guardsmen of Ol' Bill. (Also Hibbard can be traced to Princess Diana, 5th cousin-thrice removed or something). This location apparently stayed within the King's ownership yet was eventually dismantled. The Henry's I-III built a new tower and hall and an inside toilet. We would call it an indoor pit-toilet and some poor child had be lowered into the pit to clean it out when Royalty was in London. They like their toilet history around these parts.
Anyways, by the time of Henry VIII the castle was in gross deterioration, he sold it to Thomas Compton around 1514, who dismantled the stones for construction in Salisbury. Interestingly, Salisbury was actually founded during the earlier Henry's due to disgruntled clergy fights and politics of the area. Old Sarum is now only an outline of flint foundation and ironically Salisbury's medieval cathedral still stands as does a large town. (The church won that battle).
As far as Portsmouth goes, this is a groddy seaport town but we did find the Quay shopping area. This was clean and very US in design, we took in a movie (Xmen: Apocalypse) and 'the American' at Pizza Express (pepperoni). We tired for fish'n'chips but they had all turned into discos and bars after 9:30pm. Our Travelodge (motel, only slightly cleaner than York) was my third choice in booking for the night, the limitation made obvious by all the Hen parties (bachelorette) going-on but we were within walking to the ferry port. As it is, we will dock into Caen and have to take a bus to a train to Bayeux and walk several blocks to the hotel or as the Portsmouth cabbie justified for me €80 divided by 4 people isn't so bad for a direct trip.
As we leave the birthplace of Charles Dickens, rounding out a full history of England, Aynsleigh points out how dreary and smudged all the stone buildings look. I point out that at very minimum, these buildings are 200-400 years old, I wonder what my home will be like in another 300 years... Makings for good post-apocalyptic writing I suppose.
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