I decided to start the day with a walking tour. I think it’s the best way to orient yourself in a strange city, though from what I saw yesterday, Bath appears to be remarkably compact.
I went with a free tour run by the Mayor’s department. While I was waiting there was a soprano singing outside the abbey. Bath has a lot of buskers, which gives a lot of life and jauntiness to the place. Except when a soprano sings something tragically operatic, of course.
Beau Nash’s house!!! Seriously, you have to read this link to find out what his mistress did after he died. OMG.
This is on the side of the house. Apologies for the greenery along the bottom. I had to take this quickly, as I didn’t want to lose my spot at the front of the walking tour. I get agitated if I fall amongst the dawdlers at the back.
Look! A guerilla garden. I was so pleased to see this that I only gave a cursory look at where we were. I love this idea – that people take over neglected bits and bobs of land and actually use them, instead of just letting them fill up with litter and weeds.
Then our guide asked us if anyone was a fan of Jane Austen.
The Gravel Walk… remember the love scene in ‘Persuasion’? THIS is where it’s set. Wewalked along it, feet crunching the gravel just as Anne and Captain Wentworth’s feet must have done in Jane’s head as she was writing it. And has hers obviously did in real life.
*sigh* Persuasion. Yet another book I have to reread… I finished ‘Desirée’ two days ago and now I’m halfway through the sequel to ‘Wolf Hall’.. ‘Bring out the Bodies.’ Travelling on the train is good for being able to plough through a book.
The Royal Crescent. This was classed as high-end rural living when it was being built, as farm animals used to graze on this green.
The ha-ha (the fence) would have made it look from the houses as though the field stretched on indefinitely. But the ha-ha stopped the animals from getting up near the houses and soiling the grass near where the rich people would walk.
Lovely, isn’t it?
Here’s another street – The Circus. See what’s on top of all the houses?
Acorns! Have a look at the link… Not sure how pigs would catch leprosy… the mind boggles… but anyway.
The Circus has a beautiful circle of grass and trees in its centre. In the olden days it would have been pebbles and a cistern where the Georgian houses would have fetched their water from, as there was no running water in the Georgian houses.
We were walking past the Assembly Rooms (more on them later, Bek!) and we stopped near this. Being at the front of the line, I whipped in to have a look. This is a memorial to Captain Arthur Phillip. Yes… THAT Arthur Phillip.
This is the house where he lived, where the flagpole is and where the red car is parked. There are suggestions that he threw himself off the balcony though others disagree.
On the way back into town, I noticed a familiar street name. It’s still a major shopping street, just as in Austen’s day.
Here’s a lovely ceiling inside a bank on Milsom Street, all Wedgewood blue and white. I was going to take a better picture after the walk if I found my way back, but I didn’t.
Find my way back, I mean.
We were walking down one of the old streets in the town towards the Pulteney bridge when the guide mentioned that we were reasonable near Jane Austen’s ACTUAL house where she lived with her parents. Hmmm…
Here’s the famous Pulteney Street Bridge. Like in Florence, the builder made it appear like part of the road.
Here’s the view of the river under the bridge.
See those windows? I was going to have lunch up there. But first I had something to see. I decided to leave the walk as we were nearly finished anyway, said goodbye to the guide, got my directions for Jane Austen’s ACTUAL house and headed off at a brisk trot. The sky was getting grey and I wanted to make the most of what good weather I had left.
I headed off to the end of the long street, then turn left. Half way along, it occurred to me that these are streets that she would have walked along every day. I mean, I knew it before, but it forcibly occurred to me.
Getting closer. Now where’s number 4?
It’s a guest house. You can actually stay here. OMG. Put it on the list of Things To Do When I’m Next In England.
Here’s the servant’s entrance.
Here’s the doorknob. The History!!!!! (Assuming it’s the same doorknob.)
Nice window box work on a house on the way back into town..
Just before the rain hit, I raced into a café on the end of Pulteney Bridge and I landed a table in the smallest, narrowest café I’ve ever seen. Fortunate Frogdancer strikes again! I made friends with a lovely Welsh woman and her daughter sitting at the table next to that window. She said that the movie of ‘Les Mis’ was shot here, where Russell Crowe jumps off the bridge. She pointed out in great glee and said, “I can see the exact spot!”
This is how narrow it is. Just enough to sit 4 or 5 people across.
Honestly, wthout a doubt the best Devonshire Tea I’ve ever had in my life. The scones were warm, the cream was so clotted it was almost like icecream and the wasp stayed away after a while and bothered someone else.
While I ate it rained like cats and dogs. As soon as I paid and stepped out on the pavement it clared up and the sun shone. I started walking back to the Assembly Rooms, stopping off at the Guildhall market to buy an amber pendant along the way. (Very Jurassic Park and The Many Coloured Land.)Look at how the sky cleared up! Here’s the entrance to the Assembly Rooms.
Bek, remember Hero Wantage in ‘Friday’s Child’ going here? Lady Serena in ‘Bath Tangle’? Jane Austen of course wrote about the rooms in ‘Northanger Abbey’and ‘Persuasion’. She attended functions here. I stepped through the doors and imagined…
Here’s the hallway they would have entered.
There are elegant Georgian fireplaces and mirrors.
The ballroom. Quite a large room but not as large as I’d imagined. No wonder Hero and Sherry bumped into each other here!! You could imagine that even with all of the gentlefolk of Bath crammed into here there’d be no avoiding people.
I could almost see the lines of people dancing in the middle of the room and hear the music playing fromthe band upstairs, with the dowagers and other people lining the walls and watching and gossiping. It must have been quite a sight.
Here is the room where they’d go for light refreshments in between dancing and flirting.
And this is the octagon room, where the gentlemen would go to gamble. I have to say, this room is HUGE. People aren’t kidding when they say that the Georgians were keen on their gambling.
This room had an incredible high ceiling. It must have been a bit nippy in winter, but by then the Season would be over and people would be back in London.
I went back via the Royal Crescent and the Circus because they were so beautiful I wanted another look. I debated about going in to the Georgian House in the Crescent but after talking with one of the guides decided that I’ve aleady covered this ground in Edinburgh with Pam. Saved myself an hour and 9GBP.
I walked down through the park and out the gates at the other end.
After Versailles the gilding seems positively restrained.
Though I quite like the gold balls the lions are playing with.
I went down to the Jane Austen museum in Gay street after this. This is not in any house she ever lived in and, to be honest, was not much chop. I think that the cottage in Chawton is the REAL museum you should go to if you’re a Jane Austen fan, as this one seemed to me to be pretty soulless after being in her actual home in Chawton and seeing all of her belongings and surroundings there. But this was pretty much what I expected, as she lived in Bath for only 4 or 5 years, whereas Chawton was her home.
And if I’d seen any more invitations on screen or in writing to “go upstairs to the Regency tearooms. You MUST try some real Regency biscuits” I would have done something drastic. I mean, fair’s fair. Let us know that the tearooms are there and suggest that it might be a nice way to round off your visit, but by the time I was reminded of them every five minutes, including by the actor who played Wickham on the film intended to educate us about Jane and her life in Bath, it began to seem like harrassment.
I bought a book of her letters, as most of the things I saw at this place that were new to me were extracts from the letters. But I left feeling like I was glad I’d seen it so I could compare it to the Chawton one, but I wouldn’t go back again. Interestingly, the Bath museum had the Austen family tree up on the wall. No mention made of the oldest son who they think was deaf and dumb and was put away in a village with a nice family to look after him. I learned about that in Chawton.
However, onward and upward!
I went back to the hotel room to drop off my shopping… did I mention that the Assembly rooms had a very good gift shop, plus Bath has lots of very nice boutiques… I now own a Mr Darcy necklace and a marcasite brooch in the shape of a kangaroo… and I flipped open my computer and did some research. I wanted to know if there was anyone interesting buried in the cathedral, so I could race around and see them.
This guy is buried there. This plaque was above my loo in my room at the Harington Hotel. Beau Nash also has a plaque on the wall dedicated to him and Arthur Phillip had a memorial thingy there. Armed with this knowledge, I set off in search of History.
Bath Abbey. It’s right in the centre of town, next to the Roman Baths. You can’t miss it.
When I was on the Walk in the morning, the guide showed us this thing that the Bishop who renovated and completed the cathedral put on it to stamp his mark. He was a bishop (see the bishop’s hat?), called Oliver King. (The olive tree with the crown around it?) Most people back then couldn’t read, so this is the way people communicated in ‘print’. Cool, isn’t it?
It’s pretty inside. Before I walked in I talked to some guys on the front desk and they drew on a map of the cathedral exactly where my people were that I wanted to visit. I was set.
I particularly liked these lamps.
I went looking for Beau Nash first. This is what I found:
I gazed at each one of the visible plaques on the walls of this part of the cathedral. He wasn’t there. I just bet some genius put up that noticeboard directly over the plaque of one of the two famous people in the whole place. I was gobsmacked.
But I still had my map. I knew that Arthur Phillip and John Harington were close together. Bound for glory, I headed over to the other side of the church.
Arthur Phillip. Couldn’t miss him. Gave him a nod, sent a little prayer hoping that he hadn’t jumped out the window and that it was all a misunderstanding and then I went looking for my toilet man.
I found this:
He must be secreted behind these delightful examples of children’s art. Somewhere.
Undeterred… well, slightly deterred, I looked at other plaques and found some heartbreaking ones:
I’ve got a close up of her name for one of my friends:
I wonder if she’s a relative, Tex? Funny how friends’ names can leap out at you.
Read this one, remembering that what looks like f is actually s. This guy had a lot of wives and a lot of children. I don’t know that I’d be lining up to marry him; he seems like bad luck to women.
Look at this one. That poor woman! Imagine going through all of this. No wonder she calls herself “afflicted”.
After this visit I grabbed something cheap and cheerful for dinner, then went on a comedy walk at 8PM. We met at the Huntsman pub.
Silly English people. Not a picture of a spider in sight!
I feel like I’ve whinged a bit about Bath but I really loved it. This is almost as picturesque as Florence and I’d happily come back again just to wander around the town. It’s THAT pretty. I also found out that the town of Lacock is nearby. This is where they filmed the Meryton parts of the BBC series of Pride and Prejudice, so its now down on the list of things on my phone of Things To See When I’m Next Back In England. Stonehenge is nearby too, though I’ve been to some standing stones on my tour through England so I’m ok with saving this till later.
Travelling back to Leicester tomorrow for my last few days of
freedom from responsibility and drudgery my holiday. Looking forward to seeing Scott, Mark, Oliver, Ruby and Rose again.
And now this blog is up to date!!