A Travellerspoint blog

Day 11 - Sunday in Bath

Bath Abbey service, Jane Austen Museum, The Royal Crescent, and Cotswold Way.

sunny 15 °C
View Cotswold Way, England on Laura Walking's travel map.

Well, in spite of the girls in the next room who talked and laughed very late… I had a pretty good sleep. I looked at my watch when I woke up and it said 8 something. But I wanted to check the weather, so opened my phone, and it said 7 something! Fortunately my gadgets had changed the time (Fall back), for me. It was too early to get up, so I thought I would sleep a bit more… except the next door girls were up… which would make that impossible! I opened the curtains a bit to see what was going on outside, and witnessed the gloomy rainy scene. I got back into my snug bed, and lay there for a while, pondering life.

All I had to do this morning was get up and get ready to go down to the service at 11:30 am at Bath Abbey. Several times while getting ready, it would pour rain, and then let up. Pour with rain again, and stop. At least three times it did this, right up until I was putting on my shoes to leave - in my rain coat! - and then finally the sun came out! So I walked down to the Abbey through a lot of puddles, with the sun in my face! Bizarre weather here! I purposely took a different route, on different streets, because I wanted to locate the Jane Austen Centre for later. I saw it, and talked briefly with a fellow, dressed up as Mr. Knightley (from Austen’s book, Emma), who was greeting people on the street. I told him I would be back later!

I continued on my way down, and found the Abbey again easily. I went to one of the large wooden doors and a woman greeted me warmly, but said, “We’re about to have a church service at 11:30.” I believe she thought I was a tourist, there to look around inside the church… and I quickly said, “Yes, that’s what I’m here for!” She immediately welcomed me in and gave me some information about the service, etc. It was about 11:05, so there was a little while to wait. There was already a group of parishioners, maybe 40 or 45, standing to one side visiting and chatting with one another. I believe there may have been coffee involved. I was happy to take a seat and get settled for the service.

This service, on All Saints’ Day, was a Sung Eucharist service. There was a visiting choir, which apparently was a real treat. It was a really lovely, meaningful service. I’ve often wanted to attend services in some of the little towns I pass through on various trips, but I’m usually walking on a Sunday, and not been able to go. I was really glad to be there today. The service was just over an hour. There was a lot of fantastic music, and choral singing. Just beautiful. A short sermon, and some thoughtful prayers spoken. Also Communion.
Before the service, when the organist started playing; just practicing, just warming up… I was very moved and felt myself tearing up. It was such an enormous sound, and so vibratory (is that a word?!), that I could feel my insides vibrate with the sound. There is something about a pipe organ in these huge churches. The sound just fills every corner, every nook and cranny. Let me tell you it was wonderful!
Afterward, the woman sitting behind me asked me if I was visiting and so on… and we chatted a little. She was very nice and told me about the organist - Peter King, I think she said. She said that he used to be the organist there, but now fills in when the regular organist is away. She said her favourite part is when the organist has a moment of “improvising” on the theme of the gospel. I noticed those few moments too, just a sort of freestyle, but appropriate. After chatting with her and her husband for a few minutes, I was on my way.

By the way, I stand corrected about the Pulteney Bridge! Apparently there are four such bridges like it, remaining in the UK.

Many shops and restaurants seem to be closed on Sundays, or close early. On my way back up the hill to the Jane Austen Centre (The Jane Austen Museum is in a different town she lived in - in Hampshire I think), I happened to notice a phone store, with accessories. I though I would just ask if they knew where I could get a memory card for my camera. He said, yes right here! So I bought one, with a little larger memory. I am really pleased that I found one, because tomorrow I am off, heading south from here on a train, to catch a ferry to the Isle of Wight! And I will likely want to take some video of what I am seeing there! More about that journey later.

Pleased with my purchase, and that I had remembered to look for one(!), I headed up to the Jane Austen Centre. It is located in one of the “Brownstone” type, tall and narrow buildings that line the streets of Bath and London and New York, and many other cities around the world. Montreal and Toronto too! The tour started with a short video in a small room with benches. There were facts about the Austen family, and a few short clips from some of the Hollywood movies that have been made. Then in a moment, the double doors to the next room swung open and a woman (looking very much like Elizabeth Bennett, from Pride and Prejudice!) bursts into the room and greets us all, introduces herself as Elizabeth, and escorts us into another room where she talks in depth about the Austen Family and how Jane became a writer and so on. There are pictures of the family on the wall which she refers to and maps and so on. It was about a 15 or 20 minute session, but very lively and animated! Then she took us down a floor to the portrait hall where there were six pictures, purportedly of Jane, and there is a story that goes with each one of those as well! (How on earth she could memorize such a long and detailed “spiel” if you like, I’ll never know! I suppose she has said it a thousand times over the course of several months.) I saw “Mr Darcy” wandering around, and “Mr Wickham” as well, but they were not our guides.

After the “live” presentation, there was another video, quite a funny one where two characters in period dress, were wandering around Bath, (the man in the film was the Mr Knightley character who greeted me at the door!), showing us each of Jane Austen and her family’s addresses in Bath, and there were several of them. They were supposed to be of Jane’s time, but it would cut to a shot of the street, and there would be current cars parked all over the place. It was not supposed to be terribly accurate, in terms of the scenery in the background, but it was certainly humourous and informative. After the second video, there were some interactive stations, there was a “dress up in period costume” station, which youngsters might really like, (although with Covid around, I’m not sure it would be really popular yet), there was a hand-writing station, where you could write with a quill pen and ink - with instructions and hand sanitizer all over the place, and there was a “perfume smelling” station, discussing some of the bathing and hygiene issues of that time. Fun fact: Jane’s portrait currently adorns the back of £10 pound note. On the anniversary of her death, (I believe it was), there were five (5) special £5 pound notes printed with a secret silhouette of Jane on them. Four of them have been found, one of which was graciously donated to this exhibit at the Centre. You can look through a magnifying glass to see the almost invisible image. The fifth one of these bills, which is somewhere out in circulation, is probably worth more than a million pounds for that lucky person! It has yet to be discovered.

Yesterday, I was incorrect about which of her novels she penned in and around Bath… so please don’t quote me on that! Jane only lived in Bath for five years, but it was a place she had visited often, and had a real love and affection for the area. She set two of her novels in Bath, although wrote others while here.

As I purchased my ticket, I made a reservation upstairs in the Regency Tea Room for afterward, as I knew I would be needing some lunch soon; it was 1:45 pm. After the presentation part of the tour, and the self-guided exhibits were done, I climbed the stairs to the third floor, to the Tea Room. It was a popular place! My little table was by the window, and at 2:30, the sun was streaming in. I ordered the “Miss Dashwood Afternoon Tea” from the menu, which included tea with small sandwiches, and two scones with jam. There were other similar items, the “Mr Darcy” platter, for instance, included cakes and cookies as well! It was fun, and the tea break was much needed and appreciated.

After leaving there I walked up, past my guesthouse to No 1 Royal Crescent, which has been restored to its former Georgian glory. For a fee, you can go in and look around at the sumptuous furnishings upstairs, and how the servants lived and worked downstairs. I didn’t go in. I did take pictures (while dodging a very large group of Asian tourists!) of the enormous and magnificent Royal Crescent building. This building is believed to have been the very first crescent built anywhere in the world. We’re talking 1775. The year Jane Austen was born. Jane’s Aunt, Jane Cooper, and husband Reverend Edward Cooper lived at Number 12 in 1771; they must have been some of the first tenants. Now, of course, it contains condos or apartments, although still remains a prestigious address.

Because of the time change, it was practically getting dark as I returned from the Royal Crescent. The proprietors of this guest house were around when I came in, and I asked them about possible dinner places. The Circus, a highly recommended restaurant almost right next door, is unfortunately closed on Sundays. There was a pub a little ways away… but once it gets dark, in a city, even a small one, I don’t usually go out again! I don’t want to get lost at night. I guess it just depends on how hungry I am!

Now, after sitting and writing this for an hour or two… I’m not really keen on going out again. And… I need to figure out what I’m doing tomorrow! I need to get myself and my pack, down to the train station to catch a train down to Southampton or somewhere near there, to catch a ferry across to the Isle of Wight. I believe there are ferries every hour, so that shouldn’t be a problem, but the train connections might be! So I will go now and figure it out! Thank goodness for good WiFi here!

Posted by Laura Walking 00:08 Archived in England

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