Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Exploring British Countryside...

Since I've started spending quite a lot of time in London because of work, I decided to venture a little bit further outside of "The Big Smoke" and explore the British countryside. Here's an illustrated account of how it happened...

Bath, Sommerset  (21.Jan 2017)

I cannot imagine a better way to get to know Bath than the one we took: by joining the 2-hour Free Walking Tour (guided absolutely voluntarily by 'Mayor of Bath Honorary Guides', it starts in the Abbey Church Yard on Sun - Fri @ 10.30 & 14.00 and Sat at 10.30.) & is 2 hours of high-caliber intellectual and historic entertainment that one cannot help, but enjoy.
Here're some things I've learned during the tour:
  • 3 Rules of Palladian architecture: Proportion, Balance & Harmony in Bath. Well, check it out for yourself... Pulteney Bridge, The Royal Crescent... I kinda understand why the whole city has been proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage Site...
  • Georgian & Victorian periods were all about walks in Parks (hence the abundance thereof: Royal Victoria Park, Alexandra Park, Park of the Royal Crescent...): "You put finest silks, finest tights, finest wigs - and that's just men! :-)"
  • Back in the day, if you were poor & didn't have money to be properly buried, the parish to which you would belonged, would make the arrangements for you. Therefore, it was very important to establish the boundaries of these parishes, so these were engraved onto the building structures situated in those parishes. For example, on the picture below you see letters S M P = St. Michael's Parish; and S P P P = St. Peter's & St. Paul's Parish. I wonder, though, who'd take care of those who died in that corner apartment of the house in the picture? :-)
  • It seems that the Stuart & Georgian periods were pretty stinky times in the history of England: as our guide told us "Queen Anne (1665–1714) bathed once a year 'whether she need it or not' ". Because even the royals couldn't afford to be bathing much, rich people used make up to whiten faces (as opposed to the working folk who couldn't afford it and would become brown working in the fields) and then draw blue lines on the whitened chest to stress their "blue blood" origin.
  • Acorns on top of the Circus refer back to the myth of how Bath was founded, where the son (Bladud) of the king, who was sick with leprosy & was, therefore, exiled from within the city walls as a swine herder, accidentally discovered the healing powers of the local mud when his pigs (poor things who have previously contracted leprosy from him), wallowed around in the mud & were miraculously cured. Naturally, he happily returned to the city & became king after his father's death; consequently, he moved the "headquarters" to Bath (which is where the "bubbling mud" was).
  • The frieze of the King's Circus contains multiple alternating triglyphs & 525 pictorial emblems representing all kind of symbols (from masonic to nautical...). Apparently, each emblem is unique, but I suspect that no one had the time to actually check, so we'll just take their word for it :-)
  • It was also interesting to learn about a possible origin of a top dog/underdog expression: as it turns out, it comes from saw-pits where wooden planks were sawn by hand. In this process, two men did the job using a two-handed saw. The senior man took the top handle, standing on the wood above metal pegs that were holding the wood (these pegs were called "dogs"), and the junior man took the a much the more uncomfortable position underneath, in the saw-pit below (voila!).
Alo,  we were advised to - when in Bath - try (at least) 4 things:
Sally Lunn's Buns - have dinner with a "Bath Bun" at the famous Sally Lynn's House. Sally was a Hugenotte refugee, who arrived to Bath in 1680 & since then became known for inventing a special kind of soft-dough brioche that consequently became part of the Bath tradition of having Public Breakfasts & Afternoon Teas. Fun to try, but don't expect anything otherworldly: it's just a tasty bread :-)
Bath Water (at the Pumphouse or the Roman Baths)
"Bath Oliver" - a dietary cracker (albeit often eaten with cheese), which was invented by a British physician Dr. William Oliver - hence the name.
[vegetarians, skip this one] Bath chaps - usually made of the meat of a pig's cheek salt cured or pickled in brine, smoked, then boiled, and coated with golden-tan colored breadcrumbs & formed into a cone-like shape.

Upon finishing the tour & not being a vegetarian, I enjoyed a delicious pork & apple scotch egg (egg stuffed with pork sausage meat with apple onion & sage) inside the Bath's Indoor Guildhall Market (oldest shopping venue in the city) ON (quite literally) the famous 18th century's pillar "The Nail" (which gave origin to the phrase "Pay on the Nail" as this is where transaction of business and prompt payment in bargaining happened).
After this typically British historic/culinary feast, we went to THE must-see attraction of Bath: The Roman Baths. Calculate to spend at least 3 hours there - the FREE audio guide is excellent & will keep you entertained along the way throughout this wonder of Roman engineering skills.
One of the weirdest exhibits in the Roman Baths are the The "Roman Curse Tables". Curiously enough, it seems to have been a tradition in the Roman times - in case something was stolen from you - to write a message to the goddess Sulis Minerva personally, asking her to punish the wrongdoers. Sometimes people even paid professional scribblers, so that they'd put the complains "in the words that the goddess would understand". Complaints ranged from stolen caps, cloaks & Bath tunics, gloves, 6 silver coins & often contained elaborate lists of suspects (in order to help the goddess to identify the actual wrongdoer). All curses refer to small & not very valuable objects. Curiously enough, it's the "little people" who spent money to curse the thieves, not the rich ones...

Bristol (22.Jan 2017)

Spent the day strolling up & down the Wapping Wharf Harbourside in Bristol, visiting the SS Great Britain, tasting a bunch of whiskeys from tiny little bottles & eating amazing vegetarian pies from Lovett Pies. The Squash pie with plum chutney & truffled mushroom with Swiss chard pies were so good, I'm considering coming back to Bristol just for them!!!)
The shipyard & the SS Great Britain are very entertaining & it's definitely worth spending at least one or two hours. When she was launched in 1843, it was the biggest ship in the world. During her construction she was known as the Mammoth 🐘 ). This 170 year old ship has voyaged 32 times around the world via Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope, and covered almost one million ocean miles. It has called at more than 15 ports around the world, and been to some of the ocean's most turbulent seas.
Starting it's career with one of the most powerful engines in the world (1'000 horse powers), it seems to unfair to compare it to any engine of today (just for reference, A Rolls-Royce engine is 70'000 horse powers).
Dropping by a pretty church or St Mary Radcliffe on the way to the Temple Meads Train Station, finished the day in Bath having an Old-Fashioned & a Drunken Monkey 🐒 (Monkey Shoulder, Ancho Reyes, Lemon, Goldberg Ginger Ale with chocolate & grapefruit bitters, atomized with citric water) at THE HIDEOUT bar which slogan is very close to my life's motto: "ask questions, try new things & make friends" 😊 Coincidence?