I took my time driving to Bath and arrived in the early afternoon. I decided to have a wander through the town centre straight away, and parked near my guesthouse accommodation. My first port of call, as always, was the tourist information centre where I gathered maps and brochures of places of interest. I also found out about the free walking tours that run everyday and made a note to join one the following morning.
As my main reason for visiting was to continue my Jayne Austen pilgrimage, I decided to waste no time and visit the Jane Austen Centre. I spent half an hour browsing the collection of books and other goodies in an effort to be strategic on what I bought! Frankly I could have gone crazy! I left most of my purchases to the next day, when I planned to revisit, listen to their introductory talk and visit the display they had prepared. By this stage it was getting late and cold, so I decided to check into my guesthouse.
I began the next morning with the walking tour, organised by the City of Bath, and conducted at no charge by â€˜The Mayorâ€™s Corps of Honorary Guides.â€™ My guide was a retired gentleman with a wicked sense of humour; he kept my group entertained for 2 hours with many fascinating stories about the town and its history. He informed us of the history of the Abbey, we walked through the Pump Room, he pointed out the features of Georgian architecture, which I have to say, I really admire, and told many yarns about Beau Nashâ€™s efforts to make Bath a â€˜city of fashionâ€™. As the only Australian in the group, he made the point of pointing out to me the house where Captain Arthur Phillip (captain of the First Fleet and first governor of New South Wales, for those of you who didnâ€™t pay attention in your Australian History lessons) died, apparently falling from the first floor window â€“ I believe he was ill at the time! Of course, there was the obligatory walk past the Circus and the Royal Crescent. Very elegant buildings of course, and the Circus was quite the whoâ€™s who of English society, with all the plaques stating who had lived where! The walking tour also took us past the Assembly Rooms and Great Pultney Street, the grandest street in Bath, and really quite impressive!
After the walking tour, I did the â€˜Roman Bathsâ€™ thing, along with 50 screaming Year 5 students and about 30 rude American teenagersâ€¦ It was interesting, but to be frank, I am less interested in the Roman history of Bath as I am in the Georgian! After lunch I walked up to the Assembly Rooms to visit the Museum of Costume, which I loved. It contained a collection of fashion from the 16th Century to the present, and was fascinating. As interesting for me was a special exhibition of costumes that had been created for the various television and film adaptations of Jane Austenâ€™s novels. My Mum and I had always been interested in how they went about designing and creating the fabrics in particular, so this was really enjoyable! I spent some time wandering through some of the more interesting shops in Bath, and found a little one called Susannah that specialised in vintage textiles. I found the special thing for which I was looking for my Mumâ€™s recent birthday: a patchwork bag made from a vintage Edwardian rose print and French ticking. For the record, she tells me she loves it! As my students here would say, I was well chuffed!
I finished my afternoon with another visit to the Jane Austen Centre. I listened to their introductory talk, given by a very enthusiastic woman (I was pleased to discover that I knew virtually everything she shared about Austenâ€™s life) and then wandered slowly through the museum. I particularly liked seeing Jane Austenâ€™s sampler that she did as a girl. I discovered after that one could buy a cross-stitch kit â€˜inspired byâ€™ the sampler; that is, they took a few bits of it and rearranged it slightly to apparently appeal to modern tastes! I confessed I succumbed, but have yet to begin it! I also purchased a number of books, mostly focussing on the background information about the settings of Austenâ€™s novels, which should be quite useful for my teaching in Australia, as well as being of great personal interest.
By this stage it was the end of another interesting, but very, very cold day and I was grateful to return to my guesthouse.