London: Day 32// The Roman Baths + Stonehenge

The eventful weekend has come to a close, much to my dismay, and I will be returning to class tomorrow. My program was taking a day trip first to Bath, the ancient Roman city featuring hot springs in which Romans used to worship, bathe, and socialize; and then to Stonehenge, another ancient creation the history of which is mystifying and almost entirely unknown.

Stonehenge and the city of Baths are located just a little ways out of the city of London and because of this we took a coach bus to our destinations. The almost 2-hour bus ride was the perfect opportunity for many of us to get the much-needed sleep, after our very random (and extremely annoying) fire drill the night prior. During the drive our guide gave us a mini history lesson about the Baths, explaining its reputation and importance as a United Nations World Heritage Site. Upon arrival into the city, we drove around the very small town and took in the beautiful architecture and greenery. The city of Baths was much different from many of the other places I’ve visited here in London; it was small, quaint, and the architecture was reminiscent of Roman design. Golden houses lined the streets and gave it a light of its own.

After getting off the bus, our guide gave us the opportunity to walk around and explore for a bit or join him on a quick tour of the city. Many of my friends and I opted to explore on our own during the short time we had before we were scheduled to enter the Baths. During this time, I made it my business to visit one of the local fudge shops strongly recommended by our guide. “The fudge is quite delicious” he had said, I wanted to see if that was true. I ended up in a fudge shop that I was familiar with (and super excited to see again after several weeks). The shop was one I had first seen in Oxford several weeks ago when I first came to London; I had fallen in love with the fudge I tasted and have been heartbroken after having finished the fudge I purchased. Seeing the shop again was like a ray of sunshine on a cloudy day!

The story I have of my visit to the fudge shop of Baths is an interesting one that probably deserves a post all in it’s own but let’s just say I fell in love (again) and had my heart broken (again) and my friends left with fudge and I did not.

Once the break was over, we all met our guide in front of the entrance of the Baths so that we could enter together. I’m not sure what I was expecting to experience in the baths, the history surrounding them wasn’t one of my particular interest. The “Great Bath,” which is open air and visible from both a terrace along the top and down below, the area is far more expansive than just that. We were able to see the hot springs literally bubbling in one part of the house, and we also saw some of the stunning architecture that was salvaged from the Roman eras. To say the baths were beautiful (despite the water being totally green) would be an understatement, my mind was certainly blown when I stepped into the area; I was certainly proved wrong in my assumption that this would be a less than interesting experience. The history was incredible and walking through the baths, with spring water flowing beneath my feet at several points, was mind-blowing and kind of awesome.

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Of course, being so awe-ed by the beauty of this place, we decided to take some pictures by the baths but were abruptly told by security not to sit on the rocks that reside beside the baths, yikes.  We also weren’t allowed to drink the water (that’s usually offered to the public for those daring enough to drink the heavily mineral infused water). A few people still attempted it regardless, including myself, because who goes to the Roman Baths and doesn’t have a taste of the rich mineral water? All I can say about the water is that it’s definitely much different than your Evian bottled water, that’s for sure. Very much an acquired taste.

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We left Bath promptly at 2 p.m., which our tour guide had warned us we would, and warned us that if we didn’t arrive at the coach by that time we’d have to find our own way back. He wasn’t joking; our speedy departure nearly left two people behind. We had another hour long trek to Stonehenge. Once we arrived, we didn’t have long before we headed back to Roehampton — only an hour and a half — which meant we didn’t really get to spend a whole lot of time there, sadly.

Admittedly, I was a little disappointed once I reached the Stonehenge site. Our guide warned us that today would be a very busy day, and indeed it was. There was a huge onslaught of camera and selfie-stick wielding tourists that gathered all around the perimeter of the rocks, taking photos in excitement, some pushing their way to get closer. But the mystical and mysterious reputation of the rocks was diluted. They are, in the end, just rocks — despite how fascinating it was to see a site so revered by historians who can’t piece together its heritage, it was different than I was expecting. We didn’t spend long by the rocks, maybe 45 minutes, because of our tight coach bus schedule. Maybe if I would have gotten a bit more time to take in the rocks (without the large group of other tourists) I could have gotten more of the experience.

The day was absolutely exhausting but well worth the energy exertion. The weather had treated us very well, our guide made a point to say that we’ve been very lucky to have chosen this summer to be in London. Typically, London weather is a bit more dreary and warm, sunny days are rare. I spent the trip enjoying the weather and getting to know many of the others in the program that I hadn’t gotten the chance to speak with last session. Thus, concludes my weekend with the visitation of two historical sites in a single day and the strengthening of friendships – marking this as a weekend to be remembered.

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