Roman Baths. Lots of signs not to touch the water……got the feeling it would melt your skin off…..
On a one-day excursion from London to Bath on a frigid winters day you don’t get to see much, but what I did I truly enjoyed. I ran off the bus, got my token to enter the Roman Bath museum and was transported to ancient Roman times. I am such a sucker for a good audio guide and I was not disappointed. I have been to the town of Bath 3 or 4 times since childhood, but they have done a superb job of renovating and making the visitor’s center interactive, I saw the “Baths” with fresh eyes. I spent most of my allotted time “soaking” up the idealized version of the baths. I still get a chill walking on the stones thinking that ancient Romans walked here (even though I know that there is a better chance that one of Jane Austen’s characters walked on the current pavers).
After wandering around the town for a few minutes (did I mention how cold it was) I decided to have a proper cream tea. I ducked into a local teashop with rough hewn floors, creaky steps, low ceiling and a distinct smell of decay. I enjoyed a pot of tea with a scone and real Devon cream. Yummy!! This was my true Jane Austen moment.
I liked this ladies hair……
So for my 2 hours in the town of Bath I entered two fantasy worlds. After tea, I jumped on the bus, in which we did a quick tour of some beautiful Georgian Terrace houses and drove back to London with the sun at our back. No time for cocktails, but did I mention it was warm in the bus……
I was recently reminded about the great cocktails we enjoyed on our trip to London. I have always worked on the assumption that I might not be able to afford to stay in the best hotels in European cities, but I can always afford the luxury of a good cocktail in their bar. Not only do I enjoy a well-made drink, but I also get unlimited people watching.
Gin and Tonic at Claridges
Claridges is an iconic 19th century landmark hotel in the Mayfair district of London. It started as a boutique hotel and quickly became popular with royal visits by Queen Victory and Prince Albert. During WWII it became a refuge for exiled heads of state. The Kings of Greece, Norway and Yugoslavia all stayed at the hotel during their exile. During the 50’s it was considered Hollywood’s home from home with the likes of Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, and Audrey Hepburn all being frequent guests. I feel this is a good crowd to be associated with so I enjoyed my gin and tonic very much and even splurged on some sushi.
Signature drink at the Rivoli Bar in the Ritz Carlton
We wandered down from Piccadilly Circus and discovered the Rivoli Bar in the Ritz. For this outing the drink did not take center stage. What did was the connection with the staff. They took a liking to our little cast of characters and gave us a tour of the main floor of the hotel. Like Claridges, the Ritz is a favorite for the current royal family and we toured the private dining rooms that the Queen uses upon her visits. Dripping with elegance and sophistication. The Palm Court is the main attraction for the Ritz with elaborate afternoon teas in the elevated central dining room. A great place to see and be seen. The bar is tucked in a corner, and the drink was less than memorable, but I enjoyed the glimpse into royal life.
Outside of the expensive cocktails, we visited many pubs and sampled many different beers. There is nothing better than a warm beer and a bag of crisps! I’m still a Guinness fan, and I really must get myself to Ireland for a grand tour of the local brews.
This is where kings and queens walk……. This is where traitors are killed….. This is where you get the best fish and chips……. These are the words that kept coming to mind as I wandered around some of London’s most famous landmarks. London in February is not for the faint of heart. The weather was frigid with a light sleeting snow falling, but as a big city it is totally navigable with a good map and a Oyster subway card.
As a history buff I marvel at the depth of history in this place. In one afternoon you can go from a 4600 year old stone ring (Stonehenge) to a roman bath (Town of Bath) to the halls that Henry the VIII walked (Hampton Court) and end up riding the London Eye (Ferris wheel off the Thames River).
The clash of cultures in London is evident everywhere you look. Immigrants from the previous empire states has always been the backdrop of the city, but recently I have noticed even more continental Europeans in the shops and restaurants. The international flavor of the city just gets better and better.
The cost of visiting London also gets more and more expensive. A taxi ride from Heathrow to Central London will put you back £90. In central London it is getting even more difficult to find a cheap meal, but I still find pubs the best deal – plus the beer is always a plus. I’m sure you can do London on a budget, but I save it for a special splurge and treat myself to some of the luxuries the city offers.