On Tuesday I went to the glorious city of Bath in Somerset, England, by train.
Bath is famous for its Roman Baths complex, and in Roman times was called Aquae Sulis since the complex was heated by geothermal vents. They were dedicated to the goddess Minerva, who was basically the Roman incarnation of Athene/Athena.
I last visited fourteen years ago and saw the Baths, the Assembly Rooms – a Georgian and Regency venue for balls, matchmaking, gambling and commerce – and the Costume Museum where the BBC donated most of Jennifer Ehle’s wardrobe after Pride and Prejudice 1995.
Bath is the place to be an Austen fan girl.
Arriving, we visited Pulteney Bridge after doing a small river walk, then The Holburne Museum which I promptly called “my house” because it is beautiful, and full of a private collection of elegant and ingenious items: including the arresting circa 1697, mock Oriental lacquered Witcombe Cabinet. I promise you I could stare at this Cabinet for ages as a writer, imagining what fantastical thing might come out of it.
It seemed also the perfect place to keep your ‘wits’ about you.
The Holburne also has a small ballroom, painted the standard Ballroom Blue which is about three shades lighter than Tiffany Blue in my opinion. Since Holburne is on Sydney Place, we went to look at the plaque on No.4, which Austen rented for four years for the benefit of her health: although she never really liked the bustle of Bath, especially in the peak Regency social season of October to June.
From there we went to the Victoria Art Gallery which had an incredible dome, and a zodiac wheel moulded all the way up to the cupola. Next we did a balcony tour of The Assembly Rooms – much recommended – and met a wonderful Canadian couple.
After that we went to the Fashion Museum in the basement of the Assembly Rooms, which was full of beautiful clothing past and present. My glove obsession just ran wild, as did my knack for anthropomorphism with clothes. The mannequins seemed posed in narrative tableaux. It was like a masterclass in expressing character through clothing.
After the glamour and grandeur we headed out to the green fields of Bathwick, where after a very tough Austen heroine worthy hike, we were able to pick out the city’s landmarks from on high. Returning to the charmingly meandering and clean high-street, we went quickly around the Abbey as the clocks chimed and then headed back to the station.
If you love wandering around in on-street retail areas, there’s any number also of independent cafés, bookshops, artisan silver and goldsmiths, small gallery spaces, patisseries and boutiques to explore too.
The much more whimsical side of Bath will be sure to follow…. Keep scribbling.
~ Pola ~