England 2014: Day 1 – Travel & Arrival in Bath

Well, hello there.

If there was anything that would get me to (finally!) post here once more, it is – unsurprisingly – the epic, long-awaited trip I’ve just returned from. Based upon the time I’m writing this post (it’s currently 5:25am as I start this), you can tell my jet lag hasn’t quite shaken off; I figured it’s as good a time as any to get this series of posts started. Herein, I will detail my travels, experiences, tips & tricks, and pros & cons of certain products I availed of during my trip, which will hopefully inspire you to travel and give you some insight next time you’re in the same regions!

day1-flight
Flying over England minutes before we landed at Gatwick Airport. (iPhone 5)

Now join me, gentle viewer, and follow along in the next several days as I detail my epic journey.

day1-aWe left YVR without incident shortly after noon on Saturday, July 26th. Myself and my traveling companion, the sestra were energized post-brunch, and we were ready and raring to go. We flew with Air Transat, our first time with the airline, and I must say, our experience on the whole was positive.

I chose to book Option Plus service, which kept us in Economy Class, but gave us some pretty sweet perks – seat selection upon booking, priority check-in, screening, boarding, and release of luggage on the carousel, substantially larger luggage allowance (a plus on the way home when you have swag to bring back to the fam!), a free blanket/neck pillow/eye mask/earplug set that you get to keep… the list goes on. In our experience, the Option Plus service was well worth the small premium we paid for it. Without spending the hundreds of dollars more for Club Class (AT’s business/first class), we were treated to the incentives that matter the most (unless having a way huger seat and all that jazz matters to you).

The seat pitch was decent (average compared to my other economy class experiences) and I was able to stretch out quite well. With our Option Plus booking, I chose (smartly) to book two seats together in the back of the plane (the last few rows only have two seats instead of three in a row), which meant we didn’t have to worry about a third traveler during the flight. The meals we had (I was remiss in taking a photo!) were delicious – I had Chipotle Chicken on a bed of rice with veg.

My only gripe about the flight over was the lighting in the cabin. Typically, meal service gets going not long after take off. Well, in this case, there was drink service that took forever, garbage clearing service, then meal service already… 3+ hours into the flight? After which, the cabin lights weren’t immediately dimmed, if at all! The cabin lights kept changing colour (blue, orange, purple) seemingly at random, which didn’t help matters either. Given that my flight was due to arrive at 6:55am, I was hoping to sleep for most of it so as to transition better, but I got under four hours of disjointed sleep instead. Not cool, AT. Not cool.

Arriving at Gatwick Airport was smooth and quick, also likely due to the fact that we were there so early! Our luggage came without incident, and quite quickly, we were on our way to the rail station to head to Bath, our base camp for the following three nights. I chose Bath at Rick Steves’ advice, using it as a “soft landing pad” and transition before diving headfirst into the tizzy of London. Doing so also brought us in closer proximity to several locations we visited such as Glastonbury and Salisbury, which meant less transit time on the trains (as opposed to traveling there from London) and more time exploring.

day1-bWe traveled to Bath Spa Rail Station from Gatwick with one switch at Reading, and quickly came to see how efficient and convenient the British rail system is. The whole thing is a well-oiled machine, from schedules (trains come so frequently!) to the people on the platform and on the trains themselves. Also, we quickly got to know some pretty sweet, unique station names, such as Dorking Deepdene (DOOR-king DEEP-deen). From there it wasn’t long at all until we reached Bath… but first, a brief digression:

In terms of rail tickets, we opted to purchase the BritRail London Plus Pass and chose the one that’s valid for 7 non-consecutive days out of 15. I can’t begin to tell you how convenient this was. Without having to worry about seat reservations or chasing a precise train/time, the BritRail pass afforded us so much freedom throughout our entire trip. If we wanted to stay someplace longer, we didn’t have to rush and take a precise train back. If we wanted to go to multiple stops in a day, the pass is valid for as many trips in one day as you want (as long as you stay within the zone of your pass). Though one could argue that we may have barely broken even with the pass versus buying individual tickets for every journey, we saved a lot of hassle and eliminated a lot of worry by utilizing the pass’ flexibility, which to me is just as – if not even more – worth it.

We stayed at the Hilton Bath Citylocated right next to Pulteney Bridge, and essentially halfway between the northern sights of Bath (The Circus, The Crescent, Museums), and the attractions southward (shopping, theatre, rail station), which made it a very convenient sleeping location! You may ask why I stayed at a hotel and not a whole host of B&Bs, and I’ll tell you this straightaway, honest, and frank: I love creature comforts, I love air conditioning when it’s muggy and 27˚C out, and I love feeling a bit fancypants on vacation. The two hotels we stayed at during this trip definitely covered those bases!

We arrived in Bath shortly before noon. Bath is – and you likely already know this – a completely walkable small city. Its cobbled streets are definitely not designed for high volumes of car traffic, and you would be a bit mad to rent a car here. We walked from the station to our hotel in just about ten minutes (mainly because the cobbles were equally as unkind to luggage wheels), and soon, we were off exploring.

Take a gander at our explorations on Day 1:

day1-c
Bath Abbey (iPhone 5)
day1-d
The Circus (iPhone 5 + Olloclip Fisheye)
day1-e
Downton Abbey Costume Display at The Fashion Museum
(iPhone 5 + Olloclip Fisheye)
day1-g
The Assembly Rooms (Nikon S9700)
The Royal Crescent (Nikon S9700)
The Royal Crescent (Nikon S9700)
The Royal Crescent, with a glimpse of the ha-ha that arguably kept sheep and the plebeians roaming Victoria Park away. (Nikon S9700)
The Royal Crescent, with a glimpse of the ha-ha that arguably kept sheep and the plebeians roaming Victoria Park away. (Nikon S9700)
On an old door. (Nikon S9700)
On an old door. (Nikon S9700)
Clouds & Chimneys. (Nikon S9700)
Clouds & Chimneys. (Nikon S9700)

From here, we walked back towards The Circus, then to our hotel. Conveniently, a Waitrose is located right next to it; that supplied the majority of our sustenance during the Bath leg of our trip! Local produce and fresh-made sandwiches and salads were a convenient grab-and-go alternative to pricey restaurants or dark pubs.

Since we hit the ground running, our exhaustion (and lack of sleep on the flight) finally caught up to us at dinnertime. With the XX Commonwealth Games playing on the telly in the background, both the sestra and I soon dozed off, bringing Day 1 of what would be an epic adventure ahead – and this blog entry – to a close.

I’ll be back very soon with more posts detailing the days of our trip, with special posts dedicated to food (of course). In the meantime, hello, thanks for popping back in, and I hope you stick around. 🙂

xo

J


Follow Along on my England 2014 Journey!

DAY 1: Travel & Settling In Bath (You’re on this page right now!)
DAY 2: Cheddar, Glastonbury, & Wells with Mad Max Tours
DAY 3: Salisbury, Bath, & Razorcat Tours

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