Monday, October 23, 2017

Doings in Bath

Bath. How many years have I longed to visit Bath? And by Bath, I mean the one in Somerset, in England. Not the one in New Brunswick, which is lovely, of course. Nor the one in Ontario, which is lovely too, of course. No, I mean the one in Jane Austen's novel Persuasion. Ever since I read Persuasion, and then saw the 1995 movie with Ciarán Hinds and Amanda Root, much of which was set in Bath, I've longed to go there. And unlike many things long wished for and finally achieved... Bath did not disappoint. Not in the least. 

From our accommodation at Three Abbey Green, seen below, with that huge sycamore tree right outside our window, and the abbey just across the square and around a corner, to the town itself, the people, and the food.... everything was lovely.

historic stone building beside a huge sycamore tree
Our B&B in Bath. Three Abby Green.

The first morning, we took advantage of the free walking tour offered by volunteer guides and saw many iconic sights, familiar to me from films like Persuasion. The Circus below, for instance, three terraces of beautiful Georgian houses curving around a central garden. 

Georgian terraced houses built around a circular garden
The Circus
And Pulteney Bridge, below, which crosses the River Avon, and is lined with shops. Built this way, our guide told us, so that well-heeled, and socially conscious, Bath residents of the eighteenth century could cross the river on a bridge that didn't look much like a bridge. And thus move out of Bath proper into the less fashionable part of town, the suburbs, so to speak, without actually being conscious that they were doing so. Or at least not admitting that they were conscious of doing so.  

historic stone bridge across the River Avon
Pulteney Bridge
Walking tours are a wonderful way to get to know a city. Hubby and I have taken them many times. We loved our tour of Savannah, Georgia, where the guide was legally blind but knew his city inside and out, imparting equal portions of history and gossip. And we were deeply affected by our tour of Derry, Northern Ireland, where the guide who had grown up in Derry in the seventies pulled no punches about the city's troubled past.  

On our second day in Bath, we visited the Roman Baths which were fascinating. You can see Bath Abbey in the background of my shot below. It seems funny to a Canadian to think of the Abbey, built in 1499, as a comparatively "modern" building. But next to the Roman Baths which date from 70 A.D., I guess it is.


pool at a Roman Bath, with Bath Abbey in the background
Roman Baths with  Bath Abbey in the background
One afternoon, Elizabeth and I split up to pursue our separate interests. First I ogled the creations at the Fashion Museum in the Assembly Rooms. Don't I look pleased to be doing so?

woman smiling and leaning against a stone building
Happy to be indulging my passion for fashion
I wish I could have taken a peek into the Assembly Rooms themselves, but there was a conference taking place and they were closed. Still, I enjoyed the history of fashion exhibit. And when taking pictures through the glass cases became a bit of an exercise in futility, I stopped snapping, and just looked and admired. The temporary exhibit on the history of lace making was the best part for me. I particularly loved these modern ensembles, below, created by Grace Weller in 2014. Weller, then a student of fashion design at Bath Spa University, won a prestigious award for her lace collection and now works in  the studios of Alberta Ferretti in Italy. That's pretty cool, isn't it? Maybe we'll be hearing about Grace's own label one day. 

three mannequins in red and blue lace gowns
Grace Weller's 2014 lace creations
And then I moved on from one passion to another. I visited the Jane Austen Centre, and took tea for one in the Regency Tea Room there. As you can see I wasn't the only solitary tea-taker, sipper / reader in the room. You know, I think I enjoyed my tea here even more than the far grander version at the Hotel Café Royal in London. Did you catch sight of Colin Firth as the quintessential Mr. Darcy photobombing my shot?

tea cup, plate, and two-tiered sandwich plate
Tea for one at the Regency Tea Room
Finally, on the steps of the center as I left, I had a lovely chat with Mr. Bennet from Pride and Prejudice, decked out in full Regency costume. I took this shot for my mum. We have a little family joke involving Mr. Bennet, and my Hubby. Mr. Bennet sends his regards, Mum.

man in Regency costume, and woman smiling
Mistah Bennet, and me.
We had one more day in Bath, and we chose to take a bus day-tour, thanks to a suggestion from a reader many posts ago. On the recommendation of our hosts at Three Abbey Green, we spent the day with the very personable, and knowledgeable Jules of Around and About Bath. We saw Stonehenge, visited small villages and old churches, had lunch in a beautiful old pub, and tea and cakes at a garden-cum-tea shop.

stone circles at Stonehenge
Stonehenge, complete with moody skies

woman in raincoat, holding down hair with Stonehenge in the background
Windblown, but, who cares?

road across farm fields,with blue sky in the distance
Across the Salisbury Plain

stone steps leading up to small stone church
The ancient church of St. James in Tytherington

stone-flagged floor, and wooden beams of old inn
Talbot Inn pub, in Mells, where the fish and chips are divine
But the pièce de résistance for me was the graveyard at St Andrew's Church in Mells where one of my favourite WWI poets, Siegfried Sassoon, is buried. I don't know if you know about, or remember, Hubby's and my almost fruitless search for Wilfred Owen's grave when we were in France in 2015. Or how thrilled I was to finally find it, tucked into a community cemetery in Ors, with about twenty other British war graves. And now it seemed almost like kismet, like fate, to be visiting Siegfried Sassoon's grave. Sassoon who was a mentor to Wilfred Owen when Owen was a young soldier recovering from shell shock, and trying to find his true poetic voice. Owen went on to write his finest poetry with Sassoon's support, and then, recovered enough to return to battle, he rejoined his platoon in France, and lost his life in the last weeks of the war. That story never fails to move me. 

gravestone with old church behind
Siegfried Sassoon's grave at St Andrew's Church, Mells
Seriously, what an amazing final day in Bath, or around and about Bath, we had. Beautiful countryside, historic monuments, old buildings, amazing fish and chips... and poetry. Sigh. Brought a tear to my eye. Literally, it did. 

flowers planted to spell out a quote from Jane Austen
Parade Gardens, Bath
If you're ever in Bath, I'd highly recommend Three Abbey Green, for its lovely rooms and wonderful breakfasts. And Jules' tours at Around and About Bath, for the sheer fun, the conversation, and the interesting sights and information. And for fabulous food, you have to check out The Acorn vegetarian restaurant, which was just around the corner from our accommodation. We ate there twice in four nights. Such a cozy restaurant, with yummy food, and really friendly service. 

Okay, that's  my two cents worth about Bath. We were soon to head off to Stratford, and after that parts north. To meet up with friends, and see lots more sights. And hopefully even catch a glimpse of some Mitford memorabilia.

I was sad to leave Bath behind. Long anticipated, my visit did not disappoint. But maybe Jane Austen said it best, "Oh, who can ever be tired of Bath?"

Not me, my friends. 






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41 comments:

  1. Lovely to read some more about your trip Sue, especially as I woke up particularly early this morning! Great to " wander around" Bath with my morning coffee ... so happy for you that it lived up to, maybe even exceeded your expectations. I could never be tired of Bath ... I think it will always remain my favourite city for many reasons.
    Thanks also, for sharing such a great selection of photos.
    Rosie

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    1. Thanks, Rosie. I loved it too. Next time, though I'd stop and do a little shopping, I think:)

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  2. I too have "done" Bath with my morning coffee and it was wonderful. I've only been there once to shop for a mother of the groom outfit some 10 years ago. As I was shopping I didn't cross the bridge and saw boutique dress shops and little else. So thanks for taking me with you on an interesting tour of this beautiful city, Sue, it was a special experience - Austen-ish! Hugs, x

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  3. I'm glad Bath was all you hoped it would be , it looked lovely & not madly busy either - I must get there sometime . You sound to have struck lucky with Jules too . There's something very moving about standing quietly next to the grave of someone you consider really special . It wouldn't have been the same in a large noisy group . I loved the crow sat on Stonehenge , which really added to the scene , & wondered if it was the Eastbourne seagull following you around :) I know , not funny for you - being stalked by a large bird .
    Wendy in York

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    1. Jules was a find, indeed. I think he was quite surprised by my reaction to his inclusion of Siegfried Sassoon's grave. We had a lovely discussion about WWI poetry.

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  4. So pleased that Bath fulfilled your dreams. I love it, too. And was there last December with three good friends which can only improve anything. It goes head-to-head with York for Most Lovely British City as far as I am concerned. We passed the Austen Centre and the collection of enactors a few times on our trips into town and I wondered what it was like in there. Well, now I know. Must say, you got the best of our weather as rain is now the salient feature. That, and the bulbs who have decided it is February.

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    1. York is lovely, too. I was there briefly with my husband in 2005. Must go back, though. Wendy has promised me a shopping trip to the Margaret Howell store if I do:)

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  5. Rather off topic, your wind blown hair is adorable - I wonder if there is an alternative "look" there? So fun. Thank you for sharing your trip, I'm enjoying the vicarious travel. It would be nice if the rainy weather was catching, its terribly dry here on the US east coast!

    ceci

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    1. Ha. Thanks, Ceci. But you can only imagine what it might have looked like without the sunglasses to tame it a bit.

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  6. You've convinced me. Next time I get to the UK, Bath and Stonehenge (which I saw when I was 11 but seems like once isn't enough). So glad you enjoyed yourself - so needed and deserved.

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    1. Thanks, Lisa. Stonehenge was interesting if a bit crowded with selfie-stick wielders. But the rest of the day tour was much better. And Bath...well...Bath was lovely.

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  7. It's SO long since I made a short visit to Bath (as in 35 years!!), and your post makes me want to get back. I'd be sure to do as you did and enjoy an afternoon of tea-with-a-book. . . Agree with ceci about the windblown hairdo -- very fetching.

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    1. Ha. Thanks, Frances. Fetching... maybe... but without the sunglasses a veritable fright wig!

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  8. I've never been to Bath and this was a beautiful tour,connecting places I've read about with your story.I could almost feel the athmosphere
    And,following your Instagram,it was real pleasure to meet two lovely ladies-Rosie and Wendy!
    Perfect! It must have been soooo nice to share a lot of stories!
    Dottoressa

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    1. Hi Dottoressa...I hope Sue doesn't mind me commenting here :) I have a vision that maybe one day we'll all get together x

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    2. Of course, I don't mind, Rosie. And that get together would be so much fun, wouldn't it?

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    3. Me too please
      Wendy

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    4. Of course,Wendy :-)
      I'm looking forward
      D.

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    5. Of course Wendy! As Sue said, it would be such good fun!
      Rosie

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  9. Last month we added a couple of days in Bath at the end of a two-week stay in Wales. It was a bit of an afterthought, but I really loved Bath. We also stayed at Three Abbey Green, which was great. I made a point of re-reading Persuasion while we were there, looking up each street name mentioned in the book on Google maps so I could walk there.

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    1. What a coincidence! Hope you enjoyed Three Abby Green. They served the best French toast I have ever eaten. Re: Persuasion. My Mum and I have plans to re-watch the movie next time I visit, and compare with my photographs.

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  10. Welcome home. Enjoyed seeing Bath through your eyes. Was there briefly many years ago but you've made me feel I'd like to return and see more. So glad it lived up to your expectations and look forward to reading more. I'm curious, what were you reading with your tea? Iris

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    1. Thanks, Iris. Actually, I was reading the booklet given out at the Jane Austen Centre about Austen's life and her time in Bath.

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  11. Sue, do you read Peter Lovesey's Detective Peter Diamond series? They are set in Bath and feature a lot of the iconic locations. I actually prefer the audio version of them - Lovesey has a wonderful sense of humor and the narrator of most of them, Simon Prebble, really nails it in his readings. (N.B. There was a TV series based on the character of Peter Diamond that was so oddly unrelated to anything in the books that I'm baffled as to why they even used the character name. For anyone who recalls the show but hasn't read the books, the books, and more importantly the main character, are nothing like - I think they are terrific. --Catbird Farm

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    1. I've never heard of Peter Lovesey's series, but I will look for it. In fact I may try to find it on Audible.com for my i-pod. I'm always looking for new books to listen to while walking, pedaling ... or cleaning:)

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    2. I've read & enjoyed all his books too Catbird Farm
      Wendy in York

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    3. Sue, I recommend going in order if you are going to listen to them - something happens in Diamond's life earlier on that is relevant to the later books. Although not every single one is available on audio but most are. Enjoy! --Catbird Farm

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  12. I'm so enjoying your trip! Thank you for sharing it with us.

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  13. Was looking forward to the next instalment - and much enjoyed it. Even a vegetarian restaurant!

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    1. Thanks, Diana. No one was more surprised at how delicious vegetarian food can be than me:)

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  14. Oh, what a wonderful part of the world! I so look forward to going there again. Was last there in (cough!) 1967. Stonehenge hasn't changed a whit. ;)

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    1. It is a wonderful part of the world. Although I'm sure when you last visited Stonehenge (as a babe in arms, no doubt:)) there were many fewer selfie sticks!

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  15. What an amazing trip! Stonehenge must be incredible. But I must admit, thinking of Bath and seeing how lovely it is, and of course you look adorable standing next to Mr. Bennet, one can't help but feel very Jane Austen and want to explore. Then read. Then explore some more. You have made me want to visit England even more than ever. Love these posts!

    xo

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    1. I do not look adorable in that shot. Too many chins. But I couldn't not include it! Bath was lovely especially for this Jane Austen fan. And the surrounding villages were too. Stonehenge... well, I guess you need to see it once. And I have. Ha. It was way too crowded for my comfort level.

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  16. Glad you are enjoying England. It's been awhile since I have been to Bath, so time for me to go back again, it's such a lovely city. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

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  17. What a wonderful destination, I can see why it would be the subject of history and fiction, the architecture, vistas are so beautiful. The photos of the baths really sing to me. I think I have ready every book and every letter written from Jane Austen..
    anyway, I so enjoyed this post! You look chic and relaxed, and very pretty,
    ❤️🌸❤️ Elle
    https://theellediaries.com/blog/

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  18. Just, finally, catching up here! Oh I did love Bath too. We went a few years ago, and mainly to the American Museum where there was an exhibition of Kaffe Fassett's work. The entire day was wonderful (yes it was only a day trip) and I would stay where you did if/when I go again.

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  19. Oh, Bath has been on my list for so long!! It really speaks to me. Love your photos.
    #TheWeeklyPostcard

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All comments, ideas, commiserations, questions, complaints... are most welcome.