For this trip, I decided to take the train, which was an adventure in itself! I caught one train into London and then travelled the tube to catch the train from Paddington Station to Bristol, so I could go to “Bath Spa.”
The best part of taking the train is not only that you don’t have to drive, but also that if you go out the front doors of the station you are right there near the town centre. Of course, I took the wrong way out and exited from the back and had to walk around, but even with the detour, it did not take long to find the Roman Baths, the Abbey, and where I needed to go to meet up with friends.
I planned my trip during the Jane Austen Festival, but opted to go later than the famous promenade and only had a few days that I could spend before I needed to return home. I do feel like I got a lot in, but I do look forward to returning and exploring other parts of the city at a more leisurely pace.
I travelled to Bath on Tuesday, making it in time to attend a talk on transportation in Regency England given by Hazel Mills, went to lunch with friends, and was then left to my own devices for the rest of the day. I do feel I made good use of my time by walking through the Holburne Museum and walking through Sydney Gardens.
The Holburne was once the Sydney Hotel and sits at the end of Great Pulteney Street with Sydney Park directly behind. In Jane Austen’s time, the rear of the hotel held public breakfasts every morning as well as three Galas a year–on the King and Prince Regent’s birthdays as well as one to coincide with the Summer Horse Race Meeting at Bath. Jane Austen’s letters even refer to both the public breakfasts and that she attended a gala or two. Unfortunately, the balcony where the orchestra would play is no longer there, but the rear is glassed in with a tea room and more exhibit space.
Since Jane Austen lived at 4 Sydney Place, she often walked in Sydney Gardens and it was nice to take a tour of the park as well as walk the canal as she probably did often. The park is not large, but it is pretty with a temple/folly or two and the iron gates which lead you down to the canal as ornamentation.
I walked down to Pulteney Bridge and the Weir before calling it a day on Tuesday.
One Royal Crescent was the first place I stopped on Wednesday morning. After a somewhat long walk uphill, I took my time touring and enjoying each room. The guides were lovely to speak with and were very knowledgeable about the house and the 18th century time period it depicts, even explaining about the presence of a pineapple on the table. People would rent them for an evening because a pineapple was a symbol of status–only the very rich could afford to rent one for the evening. One that graced your table one night, might grace another family’s table the next evening. Crazy!
After Royal Crescent, I walked down to The Circus, then to the Assembly Rooms which are reconstructed versions of the one from Persuasion (The Bath Assembly rooms were damaged by a fire in 1821 and had to be rebuilt), and then to Gay Street to the Jane Austen Centre. After, I walked down to the Pump Room where I ate dinner and tasted the waters (blech!!!). Then, since I had plans for the evening (I’m hoping we’ll write that up for a post at Jane Austen Variations and post it in the next few weeks. For any Jane Austen fans, it’s exciting news!), I walked down to Queen’s Square and back to where I was staying down by Great Pulteney Street
Thursday morning, I attended an art exhibit at the Victoria Art Gallery. Cassandra Grafton and I wandered through and enjoyed all of the art, but especially the exhibit they featured on Jane Austen’s Bath. Paintings of people, places, and of the city that figured into so much of Jane’s work were displayed and it was fascinating. They even had two of Jane Austen’s letters to her sister, Cassandra on display that Cassandra and I had a giggle over as we read them. Jane really did have quite a sense of humour and it is often seen in her letters to her sister.
Unfortunately, all good things come to an end, and I had to return to real life at some point. I had a great time and catching up with JAFF friends was definitely part of the reason I came! I even managed to fit in a meet-up for tea just before I boarded the train. I arrived home later than I had originally planned, but it was worth it!
Thanks to Jane Odiwe, Cassandra Grafton, Hazel Mills, Joana Starnes, Mira Magdo, Sophie Andrews, and Mary Buzzuto! It was so much fun to see you all in person rather than online!