England: Bath to Exeter

by Britta on 17 December 2009

in European Adventure,The Freelancing Life,Writing

It has been a while since my last post. I realize this now, but of course, it didn’t seem that way until I sat down and counted up the days. How time flies when you don’t have to pay attention to it! So, to those of you who have been wondering: I am indeed still alive. More than alive, even; I’m thriving.

Exeter Cathedral & medieval buildings

Exeter Cathedral & medieval buildings

I’m in Exeter, capital of Devon, in South West England. To be honest, I didn’t actually think there was anything here of note–it’s not even listed in my Lonely Planet Europe book–but there’s more here than I thought. Enough to thoroughly occupy me during the day, and leave me exhausted at night. I’ve been composing this post (in my head) for a couple of days now, but I just kept finding things to do that seemed way more fun than sitting in front of my computer in the hostel’s common room.

I’ve visited the Norman/Gothic cathedral (and I’ve apparently been to enough cathedrals that I recognized the different styles of architecture—one cathedral is not just like the next, thank you very much), I followed the Roman city walls around the city, and wandered around the quayside watching the swans (and the people). Yesterday, a couple of new friends from my hostel and I visited some of the small towns in the Devon countryside, on the edge of Dartmoor National Park. So much to write about, so much more stuff to do.


Freezing at Stonehenge

I had thought I would just travel while I was in England—I was having so much fun, and didn’t have a whole lot of work, so it didn’t seem like it would be too hard. But I got a new project last week (yay!) and then I ended up in a town with no internet access. No wifi at the hostel, my 3G modem wasn’t working, and there were no internet cafes anywhere in town. Frustrating. Thank goodness for Starbucks—I’m beginning to understand how they’re taking over the world! I’m loving traveling from town to town, but I’m rethinking my strategy a little (again) so that maybe I can incorporate a little work into my travel schedule.

Salisbury was the town with no internet access. It wasn’t all frustration, though: I saw the Magna Carta at the Salisbury Cathedral, which also has the highest medieval spire in England. I also made it out to Stonehenge—fascinating, but it’s lost a little something of its mysticism, what with being overrun with tourists and sitting right next to a busy highway. But still, it’s stood for thousands of years, and no one has been able to figure out what it’s for or why it’s there. Ceremonial circle? Calendar? Burial ground? No one knows.

Street Art in Bristol

Street Art in Bristol

Before that, I was in Bristol, which was Britain’s pivotal shipping port during the colonial period, and much of it was built on profits from the slave trade. It was also known for the privateers who used Bristol as a home port, which led Robert Louis Stevenson to set the first half of Treasure Island in Bristol. While the port isn’t as lively as it once was, the city has become a place of broad contrasts and odd juxtapositions. The port is rusty and run down, but it’s dotted with fair trade coffeehouses and organic bistros. The streets are lined with funky independent shops and ethnic takeaway joints, right next to charities and homeless shelters. The street art really stood out: beyond graffiti, more than simple vandalism, I saw everything from small pictures to entire buildings covered with it, and it was art by any definition.

Roman Baths with Bath Abbey in the background

Roman Baths, Bath Abbey in the background

Before Bristol was Bath, site of Britain’s only hot spring. It has been built almost entirely with bathstone, a local type of limestone, in the Georgian style, and was once the home of Jane Austen. Not the place to find street art. I indulged my literary leanings by taking the Jane Austen walking tour and visiting her house, now a museum. I indulged my newfound love of history at the Roman Baths, which really were built and used during Roman times, and allowed a glimpse into the ancient but cultured past. I was impressed with the architecture and the scale of the operation the Romans had going. They rivaled the modern, state-of-the-art spa where I went to simply indulge. I also had a few sips of the mineral water, reputed to heal every ailment. We’ll see.

I went to Bath from Oxford, which is where I wrote my last post, which utterly surprised me when I realized how long ago that was (a virtual lifetime in internet speed). Time really does fly, or rather, chugs along the tracks of the British rail with me, except for the bus I took from Bath to Bristol. It was a local bus, so it took an hour, though the towns are pretty close together, but I felt so free and unconstrained that I couldn’t suppress a ridiculous grin the entire trip. A new town, more things to see, more history and culture and back streets to discover! Even doing laundry and buying toiletries are exciting when they don’t work the way I’m used to. Everything about life on the road is a big challenge and a life lesson. Though I might need to change my work/travel strategy a little, I’m not about to give it up anytime soon!

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Émilie January 12, 2010 at 2:57 pm

I’ve just took the same picture from the Roman baths!!!
Take care!

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