“The first view of Bath in fine weather does not answer my expectations; I think I see more distinctly in the rain. The sun was got behind everything, and the appearance of the place from the top of Kingsdown was all vapour, shadow, smoke, and confusion.” – Jane Austen
My biggest literary heroine, Jane Austen, spent five years of her life (1801-1806) in Bath, Somerset. Both Persuasion and Northanger Abbey are set here and offer some zippy one-liners about the town. In Northanger Abbey, Austen writes as Isabella Thorpe, “Do you know I get so immoderately sick of Bath, your brother and I were agreeing this morning that, though it is vastly well to be here for a few weeks, we would not live here for millions.” Well, Ms. Austen, I respectfully disagree. We love Bath! Bath has something to offer everyone: the literary buff loves seeing the Jane Austen Centre and delights in discovering the location of Charles Dickens’ Pickwick Papers and Roald Dahl’s short story, “The Landlady”; the architecture ogler feasts upon the likes of Bath Abbey, the Royal Crescent, the Circus, Pulteney Bridge, and other Georgian and Palladian wonders; the consumer in each of us giggles at the plethora of chain shops and local boutiques; the foodie enjoys sampling the wares of Jamie Oliver and gorging on a famous Sally Lunn bun; and the history geek eagerly rubs their hands together in anticipation before delving into the Roman Baths (the Romans called Bath Aquae Sulis and the remaining bath is widely considered the best preserved Roman baths in the world), reveling in the lore behind the Battle of Mons Badonicus, and discovering the multitude of reasons why UNESCO named Bath as a World Heritage Site in 1987.
Sergio visited Bath with his family as a teenager and revelled in exploring the Roman Baths and the Royal Crescent. In 2010, we were lucky enough to bring Isabella and Lucas here and were even luckier that we left the baths *without* a 13-month-old Lucas taking the waters firsthand. Sergio did, however, manage to drive up a pedestrian-only zone on that trip much to his embarrassment and my delight at finally having dinner-party fodder.
Sergio with Lucas, 13 months, and Bella, not quite 3 years, back in 2010
We went once again to Bath for the first time since living here last Sunday, October 21st. Did we return to the Baths? Nah. Did we explore the famous Bath Abbey? No, but we did interact with a street performer in its courtyard!
No, we chose to skip the usual tourist delights and instead spend the afternoon simply walking around and sampling the city’s culture. We poked into a few shops, stood in awe in front of the Circus and the Royal Crescent, and listened to two guitarists perform a variety of hits.
The kids, who naturally were starving (insert eye-roll here), begged for a sausage roll and although we had packed a picnic lunch we consumed only an hour earlier, we obliged. We purchased the rolls for a mere 80p apiece (approximately $1.20 for you Yanks!) and apparently the price was fitting as Isabella declared them to be rubbish. Quite loudly, mind you!
Our other piece of “adventure” was the ongoing saga of the recently potty trained boychild. I swear, once Isabella was potty trained, she was an expert. She had it down, could hold it for a respectable time, and never had accidents. Lukie, on the other hand, announces one minute that he needs to “go peepee” and then thirty seconds later informs you that the “pee pee is coooooooming!” This was one of those times. We were in a bookstore when the inevitable request for a toilet came up. I asked the shopkeeper if they had a toilet he could use and was informed he could use the public toilets (said very haughtily), located there (grand gesture toward the door). Argggh! I tried to follow the signposts toward the public toilets with poor Lucas desperately trying to maintain his grip on my hand and we made it a few blocks before the frantic “the peepee is coming!” bit happened. I saw a small alley and quickly ushered Lucas behind a parked car to do his business. All I gotta say is, England wasn’t made for the toddler, the person with irritable bowel syndrome, pregnant women, or just generally those who think it’s polite to allow young children to use the store’s toilet. Rant over. 🙂
We loved taking in the sights from the more relaxed viewpoint of the resident. There’s a certain pleasure in knowing one can return at will, with little added cost, to a place like Bath. I’ve even become quite good at navigating The Beast, aka our car, into absurdly small parking spaces and cave-like carparks. I fear not the Malvers Car Park! No, Jane, I’m not sure I could spend a million weeks here, but I’d happily take six or eight.
Isabella snapped this fun shot of Sergio and I (and kind of Aurelia!) in front of the Royal Crescent.
Mama and her sweeties
The biggest goofs in Bath. 🙂