by Rick Steves, December 22, 2020
As we have needed to postpone our travels due to the pandemic, I consider a weekly dose of journey dreaming will be good drugs. This is a reminder of the enjoyable that awaits us in Europe on the different finish of this disaster.
Paul runs the Star Inn, essentially the most attribute pub within the historic spa city of Bathtub (two hours west of London). He retains a tin of complimentary snuff tobacco on a ledge for purchasers. I strive some, having fun with the feeling of a monkey dancing in my nostril. Paul says English coal miners have lengthy used snuff as a result of cigarettes had been too harmful within the mines, and so they wanted their tobacco repair. He desires me to take the tin as a present. On my method out, whereas preserving one eye on a drunk man from Wales squeezing by me holding two large pints of the native brew over my head, I put the tin again on the ledge and guarantee Paul that I am going to take pleasure in it the subsequent time I cease by.
Strolling dwelling by way of the English mist, I take into consideration how this very outdated city has develop into one of the crucial touristy locations in Britain. Since historical Roman instances, when the city was known as Aquae Sulis, its scorching mineral water has attracted society’s elite.
A breakthrough got here in 1687, when Queen Mary, preventing infertility, bathed right here. Inside 10 months she gave start first to a son…after which to a brand new age of recognition for Bathtub. The city boomed as a spa resort. Native architect John Wooden was impressed by the Italian architect Palladio to construct a “new Rome.” The city bloomed within the Neoclassical fashion, and streets had been lined not with scrawny sidewalks however with large “parades,” the place ladies in stylishly large attire may unfold their trendy tails. Bathtub grew to become the Hollywood of Britain.
Right this moment, the previous trendsetter of Georgian England has extra “authorities listed” or protected buildings per capita than any city in England. It is a triumph of the Neoclassical fashion of the Georgian period, with buildings as elegant because the society they as soon as housed.
Within the morning at my posh lodge, which fills one in all a row of Georgian townhouses, I chat with the doorman, marveling on the uniform class of the buildings. He takes me apart and says, “The Georgians had been all about facades. Each architecturally and as individuals…it was simply facades.” He then walks me to the again backyard, the place the uniformity of the entrance offers strategy to a higgledy-piggledy mess. “The individuals again then had been simply the identical,” he says, “All fur, however no knickers.”
The complete metropolis, constructed of the creamy heat limestone known as “Bathtub stone,” beams in its cover-girl complexion. With the theme of facades in thoughts as I stroll by way of city, I see classical columns that supported solely Georgian egos and false home windows constructed within the title of steadiness. Two centuries in the past, wealthy ladies wore feathered hats atop three-foot hairdos and the very wealthy stretched their doorways and floor flooring to accommodate this excessive style.
To get behind one other of these elegant facades, I drop by the Georgian home at No. 1 Royal Crescent. It is a museum that offers an intimate peek into the lavish existence of the 18th century. I be taught that high-class ladies shaved their eyebrows and thoroughly pasted on trimmed strips of furry mouse pores and skin of their locations. The kitchen, with all the most recent Georgian gizmos, included a meat spit that was powered — I child you not — by a canine on a treadmill.
One other spotlight is a stroll by way of 4 centuries of clothes developments within the Style Museum. Following the evolution of fashion one decade at a time, from the primary Elizabeth within the sixteenth century to the second Elizabeth in the present day, comes with some enjoyable trivia. I’ve at all times puzzled what the road, “Caught a feather in his cap and known as it macaroni,” from “Yankee Doodle” means. I be taught the reply right here.
For a style of pompous aristocracy, I pop into the Pump Room for tea and scones with reside classical music. I sip the healing Bathtub water from the elegant fountain. It tastes terrible.
If ever a metropolis loved trying within the mirror, Bathtub’s the one. However I am left pondering that it isn’t all narcissism. There is a magnificence on this city that goes deeper than its facades. And if you happen to handle to smell out these offbeat experiences, you could even take pleasure in that sensation of monkeys dancing in your nostril.
This text was tailored from Rick’s new e book, For the Love of Europe.