I’m back. It’s been a month since my last post, and it’s been a busy one. It was filled with lots of work, a wonderful 2-week stretch at home, and some big decisions.
Now, I’m on another trip for 4 weeks. I’m in the UK right now, but there are a couple of other stops before I go home, and I’m looking forward to a little last-chance sightseeing. Because the best news of all is that this should be the last long trip that I have to do for a good long time. In the next 8 weeks, I’m moving to a different role (still in the same company) that I hope will give me much more time at home and help me balance my life to be healthier – mentally, emotionally and physically.
It’s crazy that I am walking away from a role that gives me such great opportunity to travel. My 16-year-old self would be throwing a temper-tantrum. It’s proof, clearly, that either my priorities have changed or I’ve gone senile. I will let you make your own decisions on that matter, though it’s probably best if you keep them to yourself.
For now, enjoy some more pictures and stories of things that I saw and sweet stuff that I ate. This one is from a few weeks ago, before my trip home.
Bath Spa, UK
In Jane Austen’s day the middle-class and wealthy socialites of Britain had one place they wanted to be every winter, Bath Spa. All the typical Georgian ladies’ pursuits were at their peak – tea parties, dances, card games, etc. Two of Austen’s novels are set in Bath: Northanger Abbey (my favorite of hers…which practically introduced the “frenemy”) and Persuasion. They show Bath from two perspectives. There is the rash excitement of a young girl going to her first dances and fussing over her first set of woman’s clothes, and then that of an “older” (27!) woman taxed by the stuffiness of high society and its expectations of who she ought to be. Evidence points to the fact that, after an initial infatuation with the city, Jane came to hate it and longed for the simple pleasures of country living.
Despite Jane’s dislike of the city, she lived there for 5 years with her family both before and after the death of her father. Even now, Bath seems a bit like an Austen novel brought to life. Though it suffered heavy bombing in WWII, it still boasts beautiful Georgian architecture and fantastic Roman ruins. It’s spotlessly clean with bright green lawns, and small enough to walk around easily. Basically, Bath is a perfect day trip – close to major cities, and with just enough museums and sights to fill an entire day but still leave time for a leisurely tea before your train home. I’d recommend it.
(Oh yes, and I forgot my camera on this day-trip, so my pictures are even more fuzzy and distant than usual. Go, old iPhone!)
Some of the most expensive Georgian townhouses, in the “Royal Crescent”:
Detail of townhouses in “The Circus”:
A beautiful Tiffany-blue event room in the Assembly Rooms. “Assembly Rooms” is sort of British for “community center”. These are the same Assembly Rooms where Jane Austen (and her characters) had their dances.
Another ballroom at the Assembly Rooms:
*Walk* the few blocks from the Royal Crescent to the Assembly Rooms? Never! Take a chair, my dear.
Yum. Delicious jam sponge cake and my favorite elderflower drink, at the Assembly Rooms’ tea room.
The basement of the Assembly Rooms holds a very good Fashion Museum, containing styles from the past 200+ years and including many modern displays of street and high fashion from recent decades. Here are examples of the muslin dresses from the early 19th century, just like Catherine fussed over in Northanger Abbey.
These shoes are tiny! My feet would have been laughed out of the cobblers.
Plain dress, beautiful hat. At the Jane Austen centre.
A letter from Jane to her sister Cassandra. The way the writing got smaller and smaller towards the end of the page and was crammed into the margins reminded me so much of cards from my wonderful Sam (Grace).
The Jane Austen Center is a small museum but a good value. It started with a 15-minute talk on Jane’s life by a very well-spoken young guide. However, she did look at me quite curiously after I started tearing up when she read an excerpt from one of her sister Cassandra’s letters to a friend, speaking of Jane after her early death:
“I have lost a treasure, such a sister, such a friend as never can be surpassed,- She was the sun of my life, the gilder of every pleasure, the soother of every sorrow, I had not a thought concealed from her, & it is if I had lost a part of myself.”
How could I not be a little sentimental? I only cried a smidge.
After that it was over to the beautiful Bath Abbey:
The abbey contains a beautiful fan-vault ceiling, like the one I first saw in the tomb of Elizabeth I in Westminster Abbey. I’m in love with it – can I have this in my house?
It also has a huge and very brightly coloured stained glass window.
My cathedral-luck continued and I arrived to hear the organist rehearsing. There were fantastic acoustics and the music of the pipe organ absolutely filled the space. All the tourists sat down to listen, because we kept bumping into each other in our distraction.
Next to the Abbey is the most famous Bath site, the Roman Bath from which it gains its name.
Statue at the Bath, with the Abbey in the background:
Overlooking the main outdoor bath:
And looking up from beside the water:
The overflow of the Sacred Spring. Sadly, I didn’t properly read my map, so I missed seeing the main spring as it was in a separate area off one side of the gift shop.
Pediment and carving of the Gorgon, which once sat atop the entrance of the Roman temple that was beside the Bath:
The gravestone of a Roman soldier: