I self-identify as a city girl. Long ago I abandoned my childhood plan of living in a creaky old house in the windswept countryside with a horse and some dogs. I went off to school in the “big” city of Boston then added two more cities to my collection.
However, once and a while, urbanity grates on me. I’ll sweat with the other sardines in a crowded Tube, I’ll choke on a smog of cigarette smoke in the West End, and oh my god how did I spend that much money in one week?! The English countryside has a magical allure, and Londoners are not immune to its pull. In fact, they seem to nurture an exasperation with city life and a continuous, desperate longing for a “weekend in the country.” So on Saturday, some friends and I boarded a bus to Bath with other BU students.
Roughly two hours later, I sleepily looked out the window as we pulled into Bath. The town is the site of ancient Roman baths formed from hot springs in 43 AD. The waters were thought to have healing properties. It’s also a favorite haunt of the privileged in Jane Austen novels and Victorian England. Our first move was to check out the bath complex. Statues overlooked an open pool of water bordered by columns known as The Great Bath. The milky green water seethed slightly and was hot to the touch. (We obviously chose to disobey the sign warning us not to stick our hands in.) We walked through the old stone building to check out now-empty, rocky basins and archaeological remains of statues, coins, and figurines. Eager to enjoy the rare sunshine, we breezed through to the end of the museum.
That day was the UK’s warmest yet this year. The sun is such a welcome, unique pleasure in this country. I don’t take it for granted as I did in Madrid. A pretty park bursting with flowers beckoned, so we picked up provisions at an indoor market. I couldn’t resist buying a few cheap novels at a bookstall. Everything was delightfully inexpensive in comparison to London. A samosa and my first Cornish pasty (I’d wanted to try one ever since reading of them in Harry Potter) made the perfect picnic. It was heaven to lie on the grass with my pale limbs outstretched, feel the sun warming my face, and breathe in the pure, fresh air. We spent the next hour walking through the town and peeking through the windows of colorful shops that exuded small town charm. Stumbling upon a little chocolate festival, we happily munched on samples of lavender-infused dark chocolate. For the bus ride to Avebury we bought creamy milkshakes, a key part of any road trip for me.
The village of Avebury sits beside a Neolithic henge monument composed of the largest stone circle in Europe, dating back to roughly 2600 BC. Our guide told us that it’s still used as a religious site by contemporary pagans. Prehistoric and ritualistic purposes aside, the circles make for a nice stroll. A sunlit expanse of verdant fields stretched out before me, dotted with trees and the odd farmhouse. I felt compelled to abandon my plan of living in the city forever. Eventually we boarded the bus home to London.
Perhaps one day, when I’m fabulously wealthy like all writers are (ha), I’ll have a lovely flat in Notting Hill and a summer house somewhere in the country. Maybe I’ll throw in a couple of horses too.