A Taste of the Bath Circus and Royal Crescent

What is your favorite kind of architecture?

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In Bath UK, two of the common attractions (besides the baths, themselves), are the Bath Circus and the Royal Crescent. Now, I’m a real sucker for patterns and symmetry, so I was excited to see them.

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When seeing pictures online, however, I was confused as to the difference between the two. They both looked the same!

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For others wondering the same: The Circus is a circle of townhomes surrounding a large roundabout and small lawn. The design was inspired by Stonehenge, and the circle has a similar diameter. It is considered one of the architectural masterpieces of Bath.

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The Crescent is a series of townhomes in a much larger arch overlooking a wide lawn. The curving facade was actually built before the buildings behind it, providing a uniform look to the complex. The mismatched buildings behind it can be seen from other streets, but the front sure is impressive!

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Both the Circus and the Crescent facade were built by the same architect – thus the uniformity – but they are two distinct places! We enjoyed visiting both.


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A Taste of Sham Castle

Have you ever visited a folly? Where was it?

When looking for alternate things to do in Bath, UK (besides the famed Roman baths swarming with tourists), we came across this unusual find: Sham Castle. It is precisely what it says: a complete fake. While the facade looks like a proper castle from the front, there’s nothing behind it. It’s missing a moat, a drawbridge, three other walls, and an interior.

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It was built in 1762 purely for aesthetics, and it now serves only as a fun picnic spot.

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Follies have been built all around the world for various reasons, and there are actually two more that overlook Bath: Brown’s Folly and Beckford’s Tower, both towers built in the 19th century. Many are built simply to provide jobs. Some are even purposely constructed to look like ruins, when an original never existed.

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Britain even has a Folly Fellowship dedicated to preserving these ornamental buildings.

Sham Castle provided a great excuse to take some pictures.. even if there were no ruins to explore beyond the front gate!

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A Taste of the Roman Baths

Have you ever visited a public bath or natural hot spring?

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Most people visiting Bath, UK do so to see its namesake attraction: the Roman Baths. Though entry is steep (about £20 per person, depending on season), it’s not something we could have reasonably skipped. Fortunately, it comes with an audio guide packed with a wealth of information about every facet of the space, including the history, the customs, and the architecture.

Due to the drive from Bristol (and restrictions on how early we could pick up the car), we weren’t able to arrive much before midday, when the place was already quite populated. We usually prefer to avoid crowds whenever we can, but we were out of luck on this one.

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This site marks one of the farthest reaches of the Roman Empire, and people from all over would flock here to benefit from the healing waters of Aquae Sulis. Dedicated to the goddess, Sulis Minerva, ancient visitors would also beseech the deity to exact revenge on thieves by writing notes on thin sheets of lead and tossing them into the spring.

The tour was more involved than I had remembered from my last visit for a school trip. We saw the various rooms, from dedicated men’s and women’s, hot and cold, soaking, sweating, and swimming. The ingenuity behind the heating system (hot air under floors raised by stone pillars) and the plumbing really highlights the impressive skills of the Romans.

We couldn’t touch the water, due to it being untreated, lead-lined, and full of algae, but we did sample the fresh mineral water from the Pump Room. Being warm and a touch salty, it wasn’t exactly “refreshing;” I’d personally rather bathe in it… which we later did at the Thermae Spa (hey, we couldn’t visit Bath without getting in a little pampering!).

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27 Photos That Will Make You Want to Visit Ireland and Northern Ireland

Some of the first things that come to mind when you think of Ireland are music and a pint of Guinness. However, there is so much more that will blow your socks off when you visit the island. From the traditional Irish pub to The Giant’s Causeway and more. Ireland is a place that we know we will revisit again, as there was no way we could see everything. For now, enjoy these 27 photos that will make you want to visit Ireland and Northern Ireland.

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A Taste of the Clifton Bridge

What “stupid tourist” moment have you had recently?

One of the highlights of Bristol is its Clifton Observatory and its similarly named suspension bridge.

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We first scaled the hill on this particularly spectacular day to take in the views of the bridge and the gorge below. Many residents were picnicking atop the rise, and we just enjoyed the sun in the otherwise cloudy UK for a bit.

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But seeing the bridge wasn’t enough; we couldn’t resist actually crossing it, too – am I the only one?

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But first we took a slide down the polished rocky incline. Admittedly, this was more at my insistence, having seen several other people partake in the fun. We couldn’t just let others enjoy it all!  Would you slide, too?

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Crossing the Clifton Suspension Bridge gave us more beautiful views to gawk at, and we even witnessed a few hot air balloons in the distance.

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It wasn’t a very exciting activity, but it didn’t need to be. After all the craziness of London, it was a relief to take a more relaxed afternoon. And it was free, which is always a plus!

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Oh, and there was a really tasty burger joint on the way, where we got to be stupid tourists by requesting ranch to go with our fries. The poor girl had no idea what we were asking for, had to call her manager over – despite our “never mind” insistence – and ended up just bringing us one of each of their sauces.

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A Taste of Stonehenge

What is the oldest thing you have seen in person?

We couldn’t come to the UK without seeing the famous site of Stonehenge. It’s thought to be over 5000 years old and was once used as a burial site. It also marks the winter and summer solstices and could have had spiritual significance.. however, no one really knows for sure why it was built.

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Over the years, access has become more restricted. Tourists used to be able to actually climb on the stones, and a long time ago, chisels were even provided for extracting a keepsake. Now, the 800k annual visitors are kept to a designated path, not even permitted to walk amongst the stones except with a special permit at restricted times.

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When making our own plans to visit, we wanted to get the best photos we could. We really wanted to be there for golden hour, either right after sunrise or just before dusk. Though it would undoubtedly be more crowded, we opted for sunset as it was still within the operating hours of the site (and we couldn’t pick up a rental car in time to drive out without incurring an extra day of rental fees).

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We also looked into the sunrise and sunset permits, but they sell out months in advance.. and they were prohibitively expensive. As it was, we couldn’t quite stomach the €19-per-person entry fee. Fortunately, you CAN visit Stonehenge for free.

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We just parked at the visitor center and walked through to the path to the stones. Tickets aren’t required until you get closer, and then you can walk to the north of the main entrance onto a public path that goes next to the stones. We were a little farther than those who paid, but we had a decent enough view.

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As we were leaving, someone else on the path asked if we were there for the harvest moon. We weren’t even aware there was one that evening! We stuck around a few extra minutes and were rewarded with the beautiful orange orb ascending in the east. We only wish we had thought to position ourselves west of the stones earlier!


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A Taste of the Salisbury Cathedral

What’s a cool day-trip you’ve taken?

Most people bound for Stonehenge depart from London and stop off in the cute town of Salisbury. We came from Bristol, but since we had aspirations of catching sunset at the stones, we had plenty of time to kill in Salisbury.

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The highlight of the town was the beautiful Anglican Salisbury Cathedral. Known for its tall, hallow spire and sweeping close, it was spectacular to admire as we circled the inner courtyard. I love the symmetry and all the patterns in the architecture – anyone else?

The cathedral is also home to the best-surviving original copy of the Magna Carta. No photos of it are permitted, and they keep it safely tucked away within a tent inside one of the most dazzling rooms of the church. We were mesmerized by the stained glass windows and ribbed columns.

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With this dose of history, we were ready to dive even more into the past to see the famous Stonehenge… but that’s a tale for our next post 🙂


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A Taste of the Bristol Cat Cafe

Have you ever been to a cat cafe? Which is your favorite?

One of the first things we did upon entering the vibrant city of Bristol was hit up their cat cafe, You and Meow. We’re obviously a little obsessed with cats, as we dote on ours back at home and let those abroad dictate where we travel next. (Not to mention, we have a dedicated Instagram account for crocheted duplicates of our kitties at home who travel the world with us!)

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We’ve been to cat cafes in Japan, where the idea originated, and we frequented our own in our home city before we left. We simply love the concept, as it’s a great way to restock on some feline healing during our travels. Since then, we’ve had no problem getting our daily purrs from the many strays in Croatia, Kotor, and Istanbul, but we’d be hard-pressed to pass up the opportunity for a cat cafe all the same.

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We timed our visit perfectly (purrfectly?), as we had the wonderful opportunity to feed the kitties their afternoon snack, instantly becoming their best friends. And the entire establishment is pleasantly cat-themed, from pictures of each resident feline (and their specialty) to cat-stamped toilet seats.

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We, of course, had to sip on a cat-decorated catpuccino while exercising a kitty with a fishing toy on a cat wheel. Hilarity ensued!

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A Taste of Taunton

What’s a fun little town you’ve discovered during your travels?

Taunton is a tiny town in the UK that isn’t usually on any traveler’s radar. However, it has its own British charm (and no, it doesn’t have anything to do with the planet Hoth).

We found several cute churches, a wonderful little old town, and even a large park with a unique grove of interlocking branches. We wandered the winding streets, across a river, and along a wall of street art. We didn’t need a lot of time to see the town, but it was a welcome quiet break from the hustle and bustle of big London.

Honestly, the only thing that brought us to the area was securing our very first cat-sit. It was only for a couple of nights, but it was an excellent introduction to what would become our favorite type of lodging during our travels. Jack and Mr. Purrkins (yep :3) were welcome companions, and our host was an absolute hoot. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and we love finding more cats to love all around the world!


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A Taste of the British Museum

What awesome free things have you discovered in your travels?

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When I saw images of the mesmerizing ceiling of the British Museum, I knew I had to visit if for no other reason. I was thrilled to learn that admission is completely free! (perfect for the budget traveler!)

 

Aside from breathtaking architecture, the exhibits therein can suck hours from your day (in a good way!). We wandered the vast halls of exhibits, marveling at Japanese armor, African artifacts, and Egyptian mummies. We even stepped through time as we took a physical tour through the history of clocks and watches (and I attempted to thoroughly analyze the workings of each – side effect of being an engineer!).

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Unfortunately, we didn’t realize it closed so early. After only about half an hour of entering, we were quickly ushered out. We were disappointed we couldn’t see more (and we might have moved a bit faster had we known time was so short). But as long as it remains free to enter, we’ll certainly return the next time we’re in town!

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