Settling In

It’s 1:03 AM here, Saturday morning, but today has been such a cool day that I had to write about it! This morning we woke up and went grocery shopping, which was quite the experience. I came all prepared with my list and meals planned but that barely helped. Our grocery store, Waitrose, is actually really big. It’s a bit more expensive than American prices, but it seems to be the cheapest we can find around here.  Pretty much the only brands we recognized today were Cheerios, Doritos, and Campbells. I was so happy when I saw a shelf full of Herbal Essence, though! We made it work, and after a solid hour of walking around confused, we came out with all the basics. The grocery store was my own personal form of culture shock. Having to figure out the difference between “detergent liquid” and “detergent power” is one example of our confusion. The only downfall to getting groceries is walking home with them. 7 heavy bags and a few blocks later, mine and Savannah’s hands had lost all circulation. We considered that our morning workout.

In the afternoon, we toured the Roman Baths, what this town is famous for. I found the tour super interesting, unlike the rest of our group. Our tour guide had a great sense of humor (Bernard, an elderly man whom I loved), and I think when the English recognize that we’re American and different, it helps on all levels. If he said a word and we all looked confused, he’d make a joke and explain it a different way. I learned so much! This town is full of history, and everyone who lives here seems to know so much. The Romans were so innovative, and the actual bath ritual was so intriguing to learn about. Citizens in higher society would spend up to 3 or 4 hours daily bathing. It was sort of a socializing thing. When the bath house/spa was uncovered, the entire town was built around. The tour showed so many real artifacts that have been discovered over the years, and that was really cool too. Knowing that you were standing in a room where something was found made everything more real. None of the tour was dramatized (like the Tower of London), just straight up history.

 

After the tour, a few of us took a walk around town. That’s what I love about England-everyone walks everywhere! All we have to do is walk out the door and we can immediately find something to do. We decided to not plan where we were going, just to explore! We ended up by one of the most famous sites in Bath, Pulteney Bridge. If you’ve ever googled Bath, that’s probably the picture that comes up. As we sat next to all the boats, we took pictures and chatted with the locals. A local offered to take us on a boat ride so we could see the weir of the river. He told us lots of history of the river and architecture around it; he knew a lot because he’s lived here his entire life. He drove us past the hot water spring that comes from the baths, where the water is warmer. It was neat to talk to a local because he told us things that tours or research can’t tell us.

 

While exploring town, we also found a prayer labyrinth. Right next to the river is a cement pathway, making a maze leading to a mosaic center imitating the sun god, which we learned was on top of the temple of Sulis Minerva in the Roman Baths. Even though it was fun to figure out the maze, I took it as a moment to be still. We’ve been so constantly busy that there hasn’t been designated time to reconnect with ourselves. Plus, prayer labyrinths are something familiar to me. In an unfamiliar place, it’s so comforting to find something that you understand already. It’s also nice to know where the maze is in case I ever need some alone time!

 

I’m loving this town! Tonight all the girls were starving, so we walked out the door and stopped at the first restaurant we passed, a Chinese place. Then we had an ice cream/movie night and stayed in. Bath is surprisingly a pretty busy town. There are lots of tourists here now, so I’m interested to see what it will be like when things slow down. There are tons of shops, though, and all local places to eat. We’ve gotten familiar with all the major franchises, but have avoided those so we can experience the locals. Now that we’re not living out of suitcases, life just got a whole lot easier. Our apartment is feeling super homey, after moving furniture around and changing decorations a bit. I love that we can now call Bath our home and call this group our family for the next 3 months. Feeling super lucky tonight!

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