After we left the Chatfields’, we rode south on a series of idyllic country lanes back toward Bristol and Bath beyond that. Despite some navigational hiccups (the app we’re using has an uncanny* awareness of unofficial routes such as bridlepaths, but doesn’t always know which are navigable by bike), we made it onto the spectacular Bristol and Bath Railway Path, which afforded us smooth, easy riding all the way into Bath.
Our host in Bath was my friend Tanmoy, whom I’d actually only met in person a few times before. Tanmoy founded a choir that I joined in San Francisco last fall, and at the same time as I was joining, he was leaving for a post-doctorate position in the astronomy department at the University of Bath. Although our paths only seldom crossed, he was kind enough to invite us to stay on his pull-out couch, and we took him up on this offer for two great days.
Bath is a remarkable small city in Somerset with a population just under 100,000 and a housing stock notably dominated by Georgian architecture (the city was particularly fashionable in the first half of the 18th century). This means that we had the chance to take in grand, unified facades along Great Pulteney Street, ornate mansions on the Royal Crescent, and the then-innovative round layout of the Circus. (Not the kind with elephants – both this planning concept and the popular entertainment take their name from the Latin for “circle.”)
Just like the Circus, Bath itself has a directly explainable name dating back to ancient Rome: the Roman Baths founded on the site around 60 CE. Sara and I ponied up the steep entry fee and were very glad we did: the site is a striking palimpsest of Roman, Anglo-Saxon, and 18th to 20th century British interpretations and embellishments of the faithful thermal springs (the only hot springs in Great Britain!).
It’s always valuable to have a local guide, and Tanmoy did very right by us in that regard. The evening we arrived, we joined him and some university friends at Pint of Science, a fun pub night/science lecture series. Over the next day and a half we also had the chance to get some essential British experiences under our belt: afternoon tea right near the Bath Abbey, superb fish and chips, and the first of what was to be many full English breakfasts (see below). Thanks, Tanmoy, for your great hospitality!
* It’s not quite fair or accurate to say that the app’s knowledge of informal paths is “uncanny.” What is happening behind the scenes is that the app in question uses data from OpenStreetMap to calculate routes. Anyone can contribute to OSM, which is why it often outperforms Google Maps for hiking and other outdoorsy directions, but there’s no centralized body to enforce that contributors fill in all the important fields such as suitability for cycling. If this sounds interesting, consider getting involved!