*Day Three: 30 December, 2003*
We awoke on Tuesday and prepared for our day-trip to Bath. We left early, and upon arrival set about searching for some kind of massage parlor or health spa to disengage our senses and relax. As is our custom, we got off the train with little to no knowledge of the town and set about searching for some kind of information centre with maps, restaurant and business listings. We located a small city information shop in the train station with maps of the town and listings of various attractions, and asked a few questions of the friendly city employees. We were informed that all tour buses were grounded for the off-season, so we walked into town via Manvers and Pierrepoint Streets. It rained lightly as we walked.
We stopped en-route to photograph the park to our right, and walked through the damp, gray stone streets to Bath Abbey. I attempted to take a number of prolonged-exposure photographs to capture the inner light of the abbey, but most turned out blurry or inconsequential.
There is an airy grandeur to the amount of exterior light allowed in the High Gothic style, and the photos did not do it justice; it is truly a structure of inspiring luminosity. After wandering about in reverence, we left the Abbey and found the city’s main information centre next door. We entered to ask about recommended lunch spots and health spas that offered massage.
A boisterous woman looking to be in her early sixties greeted us with a smile and cheerful, honest hello. I want to say her name was Mary, but the memory is without edges. Of the four women on staff, she seemed the only one in her native element, speaking with a confident English accent. The others were either French, German, Austrian, or otherwise and constantly deferred to her for complex questions. Following greetings, we asked her where we might find a local business that offered massage without a pre-arranged appointment, and she set about scouring the numerous business listings and phone books for answers. The books, it seemed, were in no manner of organization; she had to hunt each down in the many stacks, only to discover that the one she was looking for was elsewhere. As she discovered each prized volume, she began to compile a list. Points on maps were circled and priorities and prices estimated. Number one on the list, she pointed us in the direction of the local Green Room Health Spa, circled an area on a very small map and asked if we had any other questions of her. Hungry, we answered yes.
For lunch, she recommended Demuths, a vegan restaurant with reasonably priced vegetarian soups and dishes, hot and tasty on such a cold, wet day. We thanked her and set off in search of the famed _Demuths_.
We found Demuths just around the corner from the information centre, occupying a slender niche between a bakery and a clothing shop. It was a small, thin, vibrantly painted restaurant with a single hostess/waitress covering both the ground floor and basement (which had been converted into the kitchen, additional seating, and storage area). There were a number of people eating lunch, which helped us decide that the food must be edible. We asked for a table for two.
We were led to the lower level of the restaurant and sat at a tiny table between the kitchen door a wall. The wall was uneven and every bit old, assembled with medium to large stones and cement and various centuries of patchwork. Most of the wall had been cheerfully painted in bright yellow and purple, and the nooks left by removed stones decorated with various bits and bobs. A large, round stone (painted white) jutted out nearest our table, nearly three feet high. Nearest the floor and in the corners the wall had been smoothed over with some sort of hard plaster and painted a glossy white, undoubtedly the most recent addition from a long line of tenants.
The patchwork qualities of the wall gave way to musings aloud about the possible history of the place; how many people had lived/worked/died here since its foundation? How many hands had worked to reinforce the wall over the centuries? The plaque out front proclaimed the origins of the building to be hundreds of years in the past, and although it gave a precise date I cannot recall it. Suffice it to say: the place was old. Given time, however, these thoughts diluted and the base demands of hunger forced them from being. We turned our attention to the menus.
True to its reputation, Demuths served nothing but vegan vegetarian dishes. All soups and dishes were made according to the principles of that code of ethics, and proudly reinforced in every open area of the menu. We had come in search of soup. Hot, filling, tasty soup to counteract the effects of the damp cold, in fact. We found none to our liking. Hungry and determined, we each (with great deliberation) found something and ordered.
It is a tribute to the culinary artists at Demuths when I say the dishes _looked_ fabulous. They were carefully arranged with attention to distribution of color and aesthetic balance of the various portions, which steamed pleasantly. It is however unfortunate that adding the term “vegan” to a dish seemed to ensure its near complete lack of taste. We ate our respective dishes of colorful tasteless hot vegetable paste in silence. At least when we were done our hunger was temporarily sated.
Done with lunch, we set off to see the city’s namesake Roman Baths. When we arrived, we decided against it. I won’t belabor the point: there were too many people, and they wanted to charge 8 pounds each for entry. So, we toured the perimeter and went in search of the Green Room.
To our great disappointment, it seemed the post-Christmas shopping blitz had followed us Eastward; the city was packed with frenzied shoppers, caught up in the multitude of sales. Most streets were packed with people, which made the health-spa-finding process difficult.
Part Two shall contain such thrilling details as: Tina’s massage at the Green Room; the miracles of telephones and paper organizers; a warm radiator; wandering about Bath in the dark; Bath Circus; shady alleyways, steep hills; the Royal Crescent; the train ride back to London; a baguette Dinner @ the Train station; and sleep.