Friday morning brought sunny skies; just the kind of weather that shows off Bath's uniform yet stunning architecture. After breakfast at my hotel, I started walking toward the city centre, popping into shops as they caught my eye. I did that till about 10 o'clock, which is when most cultural things start to open in the UK.
My first stop of the day was the Victoria Art Gallery, a small art museum just over the Pulteney Bridge. I really love small specialty museums, especially when it comes to art collections. A huge art museum can just be so overwhelming! Not this one, though. The exhibition space on the ground floor was dedicated to Matthew Smith's landscapes; they were calling him "the English Matisse," and perhaps you can tell why when you see the rich colours that grace his paintings. I enjoyed learning about this painter I'd never heard of before. The upstairs gallery is dedicated to the permanent collections, and the oil paintings room was arranged particularly well. If one circulates the room clockwise, the gallery is set up to show the styles and development of English painting beginning in the 18th century. Again, I learned quite a lot without once feeling overwhelmed by the artwork.
After the art museum I made my way over to the Jane Austen Centre, where I took in the introductory talk (which I could probably give myself, at this point) and the Bath-related exhibition. It hadn't changed from when I was here with friends last year, but I still enjoyed it. Then I went up to the Regency Tea Rooms for lunch. I had my favourite warm cheese scone with tomato basil soup, complete with a pot of Jane Austen blend tea. Can I say how glad I am to finally like tea on this trip to the UK?
I walked around town some more after lunch, shopping and seeing some of the more famous buildings, like the Circus. I'll see more on Saturday, when the weather is meant to be particularly nice.
The rest of my afternoon was, admittedly, indulgence. I went to the Thermae Bath Spa, a day spa that takes advantage of the natural spring waters for which Bath is so well known. I treated myself to the two-hour package, and I spent my time alternating between the open-air rooftop pool, the Minerva bath complete with lazy river and massage jets, and the steam rooms. The view of the city and surround hills was really spectacular from the rooftop pool, but I was surprised at how much I really enjoyed the steam rooms. That floor offered hot and cold showers, foot baths, and four different steam rooms, each infused with an essential oil. I found the lavender steam room quite relaxing, but my favourite was the peppermint one. You know that refreshing feeling you get from drinking peppermint tea? It was just like that, but all over. So nice!
I wanted to keep my relaxation after the spa, so the rest of my evening was rather low key. After getting some pizza from a cute little place with an outdoor patio, I headed to Marks & Spencer to buy some fruit. I spent the rest of my evening, until it got too dark, reading (Persuasion, of course; what else do I ever read in Bath?) in Sydney Gardens, just down the street from my hotel. I love all the manicured parks and gardens here. But I'm pretty sure I've mentioned that before.