“I would rather own a little and see the world,
than own the world and see a little of it.”
October 8th. From London to Bath.
We woke up early on Sunday, packed all our stuff, and left for Liverpool Street Station to make our Two Together travel card (see tip below). The application process didn’t take long but we had to rush through the station, trying to catch a train from Liverpool Street to Paddington, where a 10 am train would take us to Bath. When we got to Paddington, there was still enough time to get lunch from the little supermarket inside the station so I went and got a bag of washed spinach, a pack of ham sandwiches for Hugh, a few nectarines, and some fresh pastries. We sat on one of the benches and waited for our train…
Paddington station is grand and beautiful with its Victorian-styled spans and cathedral-like transepts. The roof is so high up and full of glasses that let the light pour inside, giving the place (and the people) so much room to breathe. The pattern of steel arches and detailed pillars are so mesmerizing that left me in awe, sitting still and quietly observing every bit of their beauty… After some undetermined time, we were on our first train ride in the UK from London to Bath.
There is something about train travel that captures my heart — a sense of nostalgia, like I’m moving through a movie in slow motion, watching life unfolds. It feels as if I was on the edge of the world peeking in… The train arrived punctually and left passengers just enough time to gather their belongings and rush to the opened door, searching for an empty seat to settle down. We got the tickets on the morning of our travel so our seats weren’t booked in advance, which meant we had to hurry and get a seat before the whole train got packed. Sometimes it wasn’t so hard to get a place if the train started somewhere close to our station. Being midway was probably the worst, with every seat already filled or in our case, it was almost impossible to find two empty seats next to each other.
Bath is a town sit in the rolling countryside of southwest England, known for its natural hot springs, Romain-built baths, and 18th-century Georgian architecture. As the train got closer to the city, I could see the terrace of houses piling up on top of each other and the vast hills beyond them all. It looked magical…
We arrived at Bath Spa, Bath’s main train station, sometime around noon. The sun was shining brightly when we walk outside — a few clouds here and there but the weather couldn’t be better. Right in front of Bath Spa was a model of Doctor Who’s blue Police Box so I snapped a photo and sent it to my best friend Rio (who is probably one of the show’s biggest fans). Our Airbnb was about 15′ drive from the city center, and since we had no time to waste, we decided to drop our bags at a coffee shop that stored luggage and started exploring.
Our first day anywhere is almost always for general exploration. Even after all the research and readings that we do before traveling, we usually like to make a circle around everything to get a sense of what is worth visiting; if there are places that we can fit in day one, we will do so and save the rest for another day. In Bath, we wandered the small alleys and checked out all the main streets, which were now full of modern clothing shops blended with ancient buildings. The past and the present all fused together. There were a few corners that were so quiet and peaceful, it made my heart ache.
At last, we figured out we could cover Bath Abbey, Pulteney Bridge, plus dinner at Sally Lunn’s by dusk. Tomorrow, there’d be enough time to see the Roman Baths, the Circus, and the Royal Crescent.
Bath Abbey was marvelous. It was rebuilt in the 12th and 16th centuries and still stood tall today. I’ll be honest that I’m not familiar with cathedrals and churches so much, and my appreciation could only go so far as to admire the beauty of the architecture and the history. The most beautiful part of Bath Abbey to me was its fan vaulting by Robert and William Vertue (who both worked on the Tower of London). A fan vault is basically a form of the vault that was used mainly in the Gothic style. The ribs of it are all of the same curves and spaced equidistantly in a way that resembles a huge fan. The entire high ceiling was built with such amazing details. I got the photos over with and just stood there for some time, looking up at the fan vault until my neck began to beg for a break. Bath Abbey has so many windows, 50 or so of them, and they let the lights in, giving the space inside the church a tranquil yet mysterious atmosphere.
We spent the rest of the afternoon in Pulteney Bridge area, strolling along the River Avon and taking breaks under golden leaves trees in a park by the water. The Pulteney Bridge was interesting — it had shops built on the bridge on both sides. You could grab a cup of coffee and sit by the window, looking out to a part of the city. The architecture reminded me of Paris, only with more bricks…
After a while, we walked back to the city center to get the famous bun at Sally Lunn’s but the museum (where you can buy the buns for takeout) was closed and the lady that worked there suggested us to come back the day after. Amidst the search for dinner, I pulled out my trusted friend Yelp for restaurant suggestions and we ended up eating at The Raven, a traditional English pub that was, according to reviews, also famous for local pies. We ordered a Deer Stalker Pie (always go for the strangely named dish), chunky chips (what English people call French fries) with sage and onion gravy and two local ales. Everything was delicious and as soon as we finished cleaning out our plates, I wish the food would magically refill itself… Of course, it didn’t and we just sat there, waiting for it to be digested while sipping on our ales. We were in a dim corner surrounded by English accents and talked about how strange it felt to be here. It felt so familiar yet so new like we were caught in the middle of two worlds collapsing.
When we headed out, the entire town had gone to sleep, leaving the streets empty and quiet. It must have been only 9 pm and we felt utterly unacceptable to go home at this hour, insisting on staying a little bit longer. At last, we decided to get another ale in a bar nearby where it was also practically deserted and sat there for a while until we gave up and called an Uber.
A helpful tip for those who travel with a partner is to apply for Two Together card, especially if you plan to travel by train quite a lot. All you need is two passport photos and £30 and you can use your international address when applying. With this card, you can purchase train tickets for 1/3 off and it’s good for an entire year. We ended up saving a ton of money and we got to keep the card as a souvenir, so it’s a real steal.