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Tea&Bath September 4, 2012

Posted by asmedberg3 in Travel Log.
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Bath, United Kingdom

Growing up in Northern Virginia, I was not raised with an emphasis on cotillion and “coming-out” parties like many of my southern friends were. The closest I had gotten to anything “high-society” was bat-mitzvahs and my high school prom. That in mind, you can imagine my confusion when my friends told me we were going to take a day-trip to Bath to have High Tea in Jane Austin’s original home for fun.

Well, I now love High Tea—especially in England. On Saturday we jumped onto a train departing from Oxford, feeling like professional travellers after realizing if you buy a group ticket it cuts your price down from 27 pounds per ticket to 8 pounds per ticket. By mid-morning we were in Bath, looking like typical college travellers with our miniature travel maps and sporty backpacks. We bee-lined for the Jane Austin house/museum/High Tearoom, instantly whipping out our umbrellas to provide some sort of barrier to the constant English rain. On a side note, I would recommend to any future travellers to keep an umbrella with you at all times. Don’t let a beautiful day lull you into a false sense of security—it will rain every time you forget your umbrella, no matter what the weather may seem like when you leave.

Bath was beautiful; the city was nestled into rolling green hills. Cobblestone roads were lined with small cafes, retail stores, and of course, the Baths! Every few blocks a green square with old marble statues broke up the traffic pattern and reminded you to look above the surrounding buildings, out to the natural horizon line behind them.

Jane Austin’s Tea House looked like something out of colonial Williamsburg (sorry if the Virginia reference is missed by some). The staff wore bonnets and long A-line dresses and light blue paint covered the walls. We sat at a table for four in the corner of the room, grinning at the chance to play “tea-party” as 19-year-olds…. Or at least, I was. The waitress brought out our tea, each of our flavors in its own kettle, and a tray of brown and white sugar cubes. Next she turned the corner with tiered trays of finger-sandwiches and berry scones.  The tray towered in the middle of the table, reminding me of a scene from my American Girl Doll books from my elementary school years. I snatched a sandwich and took a small bite; for some reason the smaller scale of food compelled me to nibble at it instead of dropping the entire triangle in my mouth. It tasted delicate, soft, and light– and I loved it. The scones were better than anything I had ever tasted (Southern or Northern, Chickfila or Paula Dean), and the entire tables was covered in crumbs and an empty tray in approximately 10 minutes.

Afterwards we decided to visit the famous baths. The spa was a split-floor, 4 story building where everyone shuffled around in white slippers and bath robes. We spent 2 hours exploring the sophisticated water park: swimming in the rooftop heated pool, seeing how long we could stand each scented steam-room before overheating, and letting the cool “tropical waterfall” deluge engulf us.

After a relaxing day, we felt unwilling to leave the quaint city of Bath to travel back to Oxford. But we hopped back on the train to Oxford and returned by midnight, settling back in and prepping for another week of engineering classes. And just like that, I was back into the not-so-normal routine that was my life this summer. Only now I felt more sophisticated after spending a day drinking tea and sitting in scented spa chambers.

And so I gained an appreciation for something I had never done before. I can’t wait until the next time I get to eat unusually small sandwiches, pour myself tea, and let time pass slowly like I so rarely get to. This trip is an ongoing opportunity to expose yourself to new experiences; a chance to love High Tea when you figured you would never even experience it. I am starting to recognize that the more you do, the more you realize that you still have so much more to do. Thank goodness I still have a few more weeks at Oxford to explore.

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