Thursday, October 11, 2012

London to Bath


    It's a short eight blocks to the subway station, but by the time we make it to the platform, my shoulders are killing me. My backpack, jutting out three feet perpendicular to my spine, is trying to bend me to its will. It is succeeding. 
   Between a smartly dressed older woman and and a younger man is the one available subway seat. I approach and the woman clutches her diamonds. Even though my backpack takes up 98 percent of the seat, leaving a measly 2 percent for my buttocks, I'm relieved. Mounted to the seat, my backpack serves as a stanchion. I can't see the fancy woman seated next to me as my body is cantilevered out into the aisle, but I sense tension. She bristles and I realize she thinks me a dirty-smelly-hippy backpacking across europe.
      I am both pleased and annoyed. It is times like these when I wish I were multilingual. I would engage Dan, who is sitting a few seats down and across the aisle, in a foreign tongue, interjecting bits of English to make the lady more uptight.
     Italian - L'ultimo hotel ha avuto gli bed bugs?
                  Did the last hotel have bed bugs?

     French - J'espère que mon backpack à dos n'est pas infestée.
                   I hope my backpack is not infested.

     Spanish - El médico me dijo que esta rash puede ser contagioso.
                    The doctor said this rash may be infectious.

     Bath is architecturally stunning. The ruins of the Roman thermal baths are better than expected. Hot mineral waters, estimated to have fallen as rain in the nearby mountains 10,000 years ago, percolate up from the ground to fill the pools. The water is a milky jade, dense with the cast off dead skin of the ancient Romans. I imagine layers upon layers of exfoliated epithelium are encrusted with the minerals on the sides of the bath, an archeological goldmine.

     More evidence of Roman occupation was found at the bottom of the hot springs — curses written on flat little pieces of lead were folded up and thrown into the baths. The small notes implored the deities to wreak havoc on those who had wronged them, as if poisoning the waters with lead wouldn't be enough.
     In my pocket I have a wadded up silver wrapper from a Wrigley's Double Mint gum, not lead but it would do. On it, I scrawl a curse to train lady. I am not Roman, so I channel my English roots for a more fitting curse—

         If it's not too much trouble, could you make her tea tepid..
I neatly fold my masterful curse, The Dead Skin Sea Scroll, and prepare to toss it in to the bubbling spring. But sadly, my Seattle roots won't allow me to litter, so the woman goes unpunished.
   We leave the ruins in search of dinner. The streets in Bath all look alike. Fortunately, I don't have to pay attention as I've brought my navigator, Dan. His brow wrinkles and he scowls at the street signs. 
   "Are we lost?" I ask.
   "Are you sure?" 
   "Yep,"he says, " I got it
     I look up, and written on the corner window across the street is a sure sign that we are lost, lost and about to be arrested for trespassing 

—Hair and Beauty zone.
 Earlier today Dan spent an exorbitant amount of money on two maps at ye old antique map shop. That's not the exact name but you get the gist. For quite a bit less he could have bought and up-to-date map and we wouldn't be in this predicament. As always, Dan gets his bearing and leads us, as always, to a French Bistro.

     London and Bath are great, but fearing a bad case of the rickets, we plan our departure. Rickets — it sounds like an STD, something you might catch whilst performing unnatural acts on wicker furniture. It's not. It's a softening of the bones. No, not 'the bone' you perv', the bones with an s. It's cause — vitamin -D deprivation from the inability to have a pint in a sunny beer garden. So, we hop on a train and head for the beaches at Lands End -St Ives.

Highlights thus far - definitely the people and the food. The locals at the Pulteney Arms  pub were some of the most welcoming, engaging, entertaining, clever people I've ever met. Thanks Bath Locals

Low point - The moldy dungeon like bathroom 

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