I think that the women who make and serve breakfast at the hotel every morning are Polish. Every day they ask, “English breakfast?” even though there are no other choices; it’s either an English breakfast or no breakfast. Perhaps they’ve been told to ask because it makes it seem that there are many other choices to choose from. Today I followed Chenbl’s lead in making a ham/bacon/tomato sandwich with my toast, ameliorating the salty ham with mango jelly; it wasn’t bad. We also nicked a couple of apples on our way out for later consumption.
After breakfast we walked over to the gallery where our exhibit will be held; it’s not far from the hotel, which is why we chose that location. Then we walked around the area a bit, failing to find Charles Dickens’ home, bypassing the British Museum, and stalking various well-lit corners with interesting shapes. So far nobody has had a bad reaction to being photographed. After reading so many articles on BoingBoing by Cory Doctorow, I’d though British people were a lot more paranoid; perhaps I am just meeting the wrong British people. Or perhaps just the right ones.
At Paddington Station we gave in and purchased a couple of Krispy Kreme donuts; it was inevitable. Oddly enough, there is a canal on the hill above the station. I don’t know how that works; you’d think water would generally run underneath stations, but there it is, like some dream city in Inception.
The journey out to Bath took almost two hours, and the scenery was much the same as on the way to Oxford, including the varying weather. We’d learned that you can charge batteries on the train, which is vital as my little camera sucks batteries dry surprisingly quickly.
Bath is a pleasant town during the day, though of course filled with tourists. We walked past either a crime scene or some friends having fun on the sidewalk, and then visited a completely empty Presbyterian church before making our way to the center of the old town, where a large “abbey” dominates the scene. Little flying bugs, in both green and black varieties, were EVERYWHERE, which was quite annoying, but the gentle music in the squares was pleasant. I suspect they only allow gentle music there, by law.
We joined a free walking tour held by an elderly, extremely British woman who knew quite a lot about the place and walked very quickly. She told us many interesting tidbits about the history of bath and didn’t yell at anyone for taking photos of things they oughtn’t take photos of. Two small girls who babbled nonsense throughout the tour didn’t phase her either. Along the tour I kept getting into camera battles with other members, and the result was that all of our photos have someone’s head in them. I’m not sure who won.
After the tour, we had a lunch/dinner of half-price hamburgers, and then wandered the old cobblestone streets a bit more. At one point a man with a DSLR was walking towards us with a gleam in his eye; he lifted his camera and snapped our photo on the street just as I had one eyebrow raised, Spock-like. This is how I come across, I thought; I suppose I deserve as much. Dawdling by the stone bridge looking at the waterfowl, we missed the last tour boat on the river, which is a shame; it looked lovely especially in that weather. Instead, we walked down the riverside, observing the masses of insects buzzing around the old trees (Bath could use a larger sparrow population, and/or more bats), and then back around into town, which was now deserted. All of the tourists had left at some point around 7pm, and the town assumed an empty, slightly disturbing cast. Young, hoodish men gathered in alleyways, and I began to understand why the elderly tour guide rushed quickly away afterwards, presumably for the safety of home, as all the shops closed at 5.
As we searched for a place to buy bottled water, we passed a group of young men in an alley, who called out, “Look, a couple of Chinese bastards!” I’m not sure about the “bastards” part, it could have been something else, but I’ll wager it wasn’t meant to flatter.
“Walk faster,” Chenbl told me; we headed out of town and back to the train station, where we sat in the waiting room that overlooks the main street heading into town, flanked by two ancient stone hotels. I passed the time waiting for our train by walking from one end of the platform to the other, admiring the green grass of the hills, the handsome stone houses, and a balloon. The sun was setting behind the church spires as we pulled out of the station, on our way back to London.
About an hour and a half later, we were on the tube, which is surprisingly short, due to old tunnels I suppose. The tops of the cars are rounded, including the doors and windows. I took a photo of the woman sitting across from us. She had just confirmed that we were on the right train to Kings Cross.
“Did you just take a picture of me?” she asked. Not demanding, just incredulous.
“Yes!” I said.
“Because all the colors work,” I said, pointing out how her red hair, her red bag and blue dress matched the Underground logo, the seat and the bars around the seat. She seemed satisfied.
Tomorrow, hopefully, we’re going to Hogwarts.