Cheltenham is a good place in England to spend a couple of nights despite its reputation for snobbery. We did not find it so. In fact, an employee in its train station practically walked Ruth & me all the way so we would not miss our modest motel. Cheltenham is a city of more than 100,000 in the Cotswolds with good and easy rail service to London and bus service to many desirable destinations. From Cheltenham we went to and returned the same day from Broadway, Winchcombe, Sudeley Castle, Gloucester Cathedral, and Chipping Campden. Like Bath, which is 50 miles south of Cheltenham, this city is known for its affluence, Georgian architecture, and cosmopolitan spirit.
Cheltenham is still like what most of England used to be. It’s not a place for Brexit supporters and those who favor multi-cultural atmospheres. There seem to be many schools here where students wear traditional uniforms, manners are taught, and outsiders are discreetly talked about behind their backs when criticism is deemed necessary. Some would say it’s a white-privilege kind of city that’s known for its many festivals which invite people here to experience its old-fashioned charms. It is, in fact, named “The Festival City” and its calendar noted wine, chili, and horse race festivals. There was a festival almost every month. Literature about Cheltenham raves about its cultural life, its wide tree-lined streets, its walkability. Like Bath, it’s known for its springs and spas that once specialized in treating and curing tropical ailments. I was not surprised to learn that poet Alfred Lord Tennyson lived here and that it’s home to the world’s oldest literature festival.
Cheltenham’s Georgian architecture is outstanding and obvious. It was the most popular style in England in the late 17th and most of the 18th century. Based on the designs of Italian architect Andrea Palladio, Georgian buildings meant symmetry and proportion with frequent columns, fan lights over doors, many windows with pediments often over them, and elegant interiors. Many times larger Georgian buildings gently curve. They are orderly to excess. We walked by Neptune’s Fountain many times on our way to The Promenade where busses to elsewhere could be boarded. A fountain reportedly modeled on Rome’s too touristy Trevi, Neptune seems to be Cheltenham’s major Italian icon.