“Faraway places with their strange-sounding names” have been calling to me since I was a young child, mesmerized by magic carpet stories that flew me regularly in and out of exciting experiences. How fortunate to be able to play out some of these adventures in real life, and with an equally dedicated Travel Companion (TC), my husband who shares the journeying.”– DFK
Settled comfortably on the train out of Penzance, heading the approximately four hours to Bath, we anticipated our next adventures. My TC and I loved the sound and the feel of trains. For me, this interim journey when I had time to think back over the pleasurable travels of recent days and then forward, to anticipate what would come next, seemed like the palate-clearing effect of sorbet when fortunate enough to attend a fancy, multi-course feast.
What we didn’t anticipate was that the summer train from Land’s End heading eventually for London, which started empty, would fill appreciably at each station stop, so we open-seat-ers would get bumped, and bumped again — a sort of train journey rendition of musical chairs.
Almost fun, at first. But as we progressed and the aisles and all spare space became filled with people sitting on suitcases and the floor, I got squished into a two-in-a-seat position with another female traveler, and Dee ended up standing toward the WC at the back of the car.
We both worried about how we’d retrieve our bags, stashed in a luggage bin at the other end, to get off in time at our stop. When the moment came, people were amazingly helpful, shouting directions and actually passing our wheelies and bags of other disembarking passengers — hand to hand down the crowded aisles.
Whew! But here we were, stepping into the fabled Bath, a UNESCO town of the lovely, Somerset region, complete with the famous hot mineral baths, probably one of the best-preserved historic places dating to Roman era times in England. It was late afternoon, and sunny.
We took in the feel and look of the town with its spa and the spectacular medieval Abbey Church, sunken gardens, and Pulteney river bridge as we enjoyed a pleasant walk of about a quarter mile along wide walkways, following directions to our pre-arranged B&B lodging. We took note of restaurants along the way to which to return after check-in.
Our B&B was situated in a solidly built home of several storeys, surrounded by a well-tended garden that shone in the moonlight. I couldn’t resist taking night shots of bright garden blooms and a water feature that reflected stars. Before we turned out our lights, I read up on the town, readying for the next day: how Bath reflects two great eras in history, from Roman times to 18th century Georgian times; how it was the first neoclassical city developed with spaces formed by crescents, terraces and squares planned in harmony with the green landscape of surrounding hills; and how it was named Aquae Sulis in the Roman times, and dedicated to the goddess Minerva.
That explained the pleasure we derived from our introductory stroll in an urban area that brought together things manmade balanced with those of nature. And Minerva? Why, she was the patroness of my high school Latin classroom whom my teacher, Helen Borrego, had ensconced on a stand to watch over us in the back corner. We learned to revere the goddess of wisdom, as did Mrs. B. I remembered praying fervently to her before tests after I learned that her name derived from a word meaning “to remember.”
Refreshed after a wonderful sleep and good breakfast, we walked jauntily arm-and-arm to the Roman ruins the next morning. As expected, they turned out to be an amazing tribute to the engineering skills of those invaders who came into Britain bearing the flag marked SPQR (senatus populus que Romanus), “senate and people of Rome,” spreading the stamp and skill of Caesar’s legions abroad.
Down on the second level of the Pump House where lay the innards of the steaming baths and the aqueducts that fed the spa that bloomed in Georgian days, was a fascinating museum that took us back in time with its ancient statuary — Minerva, included — the underground archaeology that lays bare two millennia of settlement of this destination city.
By late morning, we walked on through the town to the square where we boarded a bus to Glastonbury for the afternoon’s explorations. During the comfortable and affordable coach ride of about an hour, we enjoyed talking about what each had found interesting that morning.
The museum had certainly broadened our understanding and appreciation of Roman social and religious society that had been reactivated as we visited Hadrian’s Wall in Northumber- land, reentering England from Scotland earlier on this grand British Isles set of travels.
But now, we were setting foot in Glastonbury, changing gears in time (warping?), thought to be the Camelot of fabled times in Britain — home to King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, and his Queen Guinevere. Though all of that mythology hangs in the mists of time, expressed by several authors’ pens during past centuries, and into the present via Broadway and Hollywood, the love triangle of Guinevere and Lancelot, and Arthur, remain to this day in modern minds.
It was noon. What better way to start than by having lunch at the neat and natty Abbey Tea Rooms? Dee opted for soup of the day and hearty bread, and I fell with abandon, devouring scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam (O-my-goddess!) with my real, English tea.
We barely made the small local bus that would hi us out to the Glastonbury Tor for our afternoon’s hike ascending this landmark of Somerset, a geologic and historic high point.
Laughing, my TC and I agreed that some aerobic exercise would be good for us, plus we were aware that like the others being dropped off with us out in the pristine countryside for this purpose with us, we “pilgrims” were intent on experiencing the promised views from the tip-top of this remnant of pre-paleolithic rock … (More on Glastonbury, and Salisbury and Stonehenge, preceding, with family, in the April 2017 second Sunday’s “FarAway Places.”)
Poet and author Dawn Fraser Kawahara, a rooted Kauai transplant has, since her birth in British India, called India, Burma, Australia as well as California, Illinois, Ohio and Colorado “home” at various times. Kawahara for many years led and instructed travel groups to Hawaii and Pacific nations.
She pens “The Green Flash” column published every other week in The Garden Island. Further information about the writer and her work may be found through www.kauaiweddingsandbooks.com