Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)

Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)
Oh, to be in England...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Girl in Bath

I have been to Bath, the gorgeous city in England, twice in my lifetime. The first time was with my husband before we had kids.  I had begged him to take me to England as I was pregnant with my first child and wanted to do something exciting before I got tied down with a baby.  Good plan.  Unfortunately, we were a bit naive in the trip planning department and only booked 8 days in London through a travel agent.
Fortunately, the agent booked us into a hotel on Curzon Street in Mayfair, London.  Oh, had I only known at that time the literary history of that address.  I now know that Curzon Street is where the social climber Becky Sharpe from Thackery’s novel Vanity Fair went to live after her marriage to the dashing Rawdon Crawley. That tony address where they could not afford the rent, but where Becky wanted to live and be seen giving all of her fabulous parties.  It was also the address of Lord Henry Wotton of The Picture of Dorion Gray and the address of Jeeves' club The Junior Ganymede Club for gentleman’s gentleman (valets).  After my husband (the Squire) and I stumbled into a cab after the red-eye flight from Toronto and were taken to our lovely (and amazingly affordable) hotel on fairly swanky Curzon Street, we had no real idea where we were.  After a well needed nap, we stumbled out on the street again, looking for a place to have supper.  Thinking we should walk around first, we walked for about ten minutes through a beautiful  park (Green Park) and then looked up to find (holy crap!), Buckingham Palace.  Good travel agent.
Anyhow, we ended up on the next day doing what most travelers do in a strange city, and that was to book a few bus tours.  OK, that is what clueless travelers in 1991 did in a strange city.  These are the kind of crazy tours where they take you to as many places possible in one day.  One of these took us from London to Oxford, Stratford and Warwick Castle all in one day, and on another day we did Bath, Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral. Whew!  At that point in my life, Bath was only a beautiful city with graceful Georgian architecture and a well preserved Roman bath.  But even then, I felt ripped off with the mere 2 hours before we were piled back on the bus.
My second visit to Bath was much more satisfactory.  This was in 2005 with my husband and 2 boys (then 13 and 10).  We had all chosen something special to do on this trip (planned entirely by me this time) and my choice was to have 2 days in Bath. This was after I had spent the previous decade reading 19th century literature and watching many adaptations of said novels on screen.  So Bath was a different and more familiar place to me.  It was where Anne Elliot finally hooked up with Captain Wentworth.  It was where Catherine Morland got her first taste of the delights and disappointments of society.  And it was where Jane Austen spent many unhappy years not writing, but storing up many studies of various characters for future reference.
So, of course, I dragged my family around the Royal Crescent, through Royal Victoria Park, around the Roman Baths (well worth seeing a second time) and into the Abbey. We walked back to our hotel via Pulteney bridge, after tasting the disgusting sulfurous water at the Pump Room.  Basically, I wore the poor things out.  So after dropping the 3 of them back at the hotel for a late afternoon rest, I went back out alone, determined to squeeze the most enjoyment out of my time in Bath.  I trotted off to the Jane Austen Centre at 40 Gay St. to immerse myself in all things Austen.  I started to really regret not having my sister with me, when I saw a poor young dude dressed like Mr. Darcy outside the museum, meant to pull the lady tourists in.  She and I would have laughed our posteriors off at that, but I only managed a smirk before I ducked into the building.  (Apparently there is now a mannequin dressed as Miss Austen out front.)

After soaking up as much as I could there, I headed off to the Assembly Rooms.  Not much time left, as the sun was getting low in the sky, but I had to see them.  I had to picture the crush of beautifully dressed dancers described in Northanger Abbey.  I had to imagine the parading of characters around the ballroom and the tea room.  Then down in the basement I went for a look around the Museum of Costume.  At this point, I was half in heaven (as they had real Georgian gowns as well as costumes from various Austen films on display) and half in hell (as I was inwardly screaming for my sister to be at my side).  In any case, after pressing my nose to the glass to study the antique gowns and then getting as close as I could to Jennifer Ehle’s red dress from Pride and Prejudice without drooling on it:

(yes, the one in which she teases, “A man without fault?”), I made my way slowly back to the hotel for dinner in a pub with the guys.  I think it was the Thursday night curry special at the local pub, which was delish, and I was full of the wonders of Bath for a few years more, at least.
Moral of the story?  I have now realized that if and when I return to the wondrous curved city, I will have my sister with me.  And no men.  My men are very relieved to hear this, as apparently I am a one woman bus tour!

1 comment:

  1. great to read that as I"m planning to visit Bath this year (alone with no husband or kids I want to do this "me time trip") I keep your page for later references :)




Related Posts with Thumbnails