Bath – Dreamy Countryside and Historic Architecture
It was a crisp, chilly morning as we walked towards Paddington Station. This was our first outing, outside of London and Mona was pretty excited. Not just because she'd be traveling by high speed train to the City of Bath but also because she'd get the opportunity to enjoy some breathtaking views of the famed, lush green English countryside.
At Paddington, we had our BritRail passes endorsed by a railway official (it's important to have the endorsements made when you travel with such passes). The train was already at the platform and if I remember right, it was a First Great Western. We found our compartment and settled into plush seats, with lots of leg room and huge windows that offered a great view of the outdoors. Trains are rarely crowded, and that's perhaps because there are so many that run on these sectors that there's never a mad rush.
Unlike the Brindavan or the Shatabdi Express, which are for ever crowded with passengers lugging huge pieces of baggage that are precariously perched above your head on the luggage racks. And why are our trains so noisy with wailing kids? I guess it's because some parents think that the train is a playground; the passage perfect for their kids to test their athleticism. Then, there's the dirty floor made dirtier by clumsy coffee vendors pouring the liquid into paper cups and spilling a fair bit onto the floor.
Technology ushered in a revolutionary fleet of high speed trains on the UK rail map. As a result, train journeys are comfortable and extremely relaxing. You leave fresh in the morning and return by the evening with no sign of fatigue whatsoever. The trains aren't wobbly-wobbly as we have in India and therefore, less chances of spilling coffee onto the carpeted floor. It's a pleasure traveling on these trains and with no noisy kids around, it's paradise. Even if there are kids, they're trained to be well-behaved in public places.
Travel in one of the trains in India (I do so often) and tell me I am wrong.
One of the stops enroute was Swindon, where I lived 15 years ago. "Shall we get off and touch base with my home-town?" I asked Mona jocularly. She didn't know what to say and just smiled. She was on a different trip altogether; glued to the window totally fascinated by the rural landscape and being autumn, the countryside was a blaze of colour.
An hour or so after we left Paddington, we arrived at the BATH Spa Station. Alighting, I noticed the tourist office on the platform and we walked in. There was just one person manning the office; an elderly lady who was talking over the phone. The minute we entered, she politely excused herself with the person she was in conversation with and greeted us with a charming smile and 'Good Morning'. We acknowledged her greeting and asked if she could help us with some information. "Of course, Sir, that's what I'm here for," she replied ever so graciously.
I imagined myself in a similar situation in India. To start with, she would have totally ignored our presence and continued her conversation endlessly, which could have ranged from local gossip of why and how her neighbour's daughter eloped with the town barber, to what's cooking for lunch. And if I even tried to interrupt, I'd have received a 'how dare you, can't you see I'm busy' glare for the intrusion. At the end of the conversation, she'd probably have looked at us with a sort of arrogance that probably said, 'Whatever is your problem in life don't let it spoil my day?' That's tourism promotion in India.
Believe me, I've been there before.
This lady was extremely courteous and satisfied all the queries we had. We bought tickets for the 1.30 'Stonehenge Tour' and she even offered us discounts on tickets for the 'hop-on, hop-off' Bath City tour. She took out a map of the area, marked the places of interest and the location of the bus stand where we should board the bus for the city tour. We thanked her immensely for her help.
All this in a matter of half hour; and as we walked out of the station, I had this nice feeling of being in Bath, the lush country, the architecture and most of all, lovely people.
Next: Bath - More than Just a SPA