After another lovely breaky it was off to the pump room. We managed to walk straight into a table at the front, just as the band was setting up. Although there were no tables in Regency times, the room feels very like it was with piano, cello and violin playing hits of the Regency as we sat with our coffee and cake. Actually they were playing gypsy music but with the sunlight glinting off the trays and the smartly uniformed waiters and waitresses, it was all quite atmospheric. As we sat and enjoyed, the queue grew as more and more tourists appeared. Rather them, I say!
After our genteel coffee we made our way up Gay Street to the Jane Austen Centre. Although the house is (apparently) very like Jane’s actual residence at number 25, it hasn’t been decked out all Austen-ish. Rather it is a long series of boards and images about Bath, Jane and her times. The ‘tour’ starts with an introductory talk at the top of the house which was a very good start and then you descend the stairs to the bottom and walk along the narrow corridors. There was a very good video, presented by Amanda Root (Anne Elliot in the latest Persuasion) but the rest was a bit sad. I reckon it would have been better had it been a little more like the Tenement Museum in New York. Still, it didn’t stop Mirinda buying some Austen-ilia in the small gift shop.
Having heard about Jane’s descent of the social ladder to a hovel in Trim Street, we went in search of the slums. Down near the Theatre, about 200 metres from the Gay Street place, in a straight line but downhill is Trim Street. Not sure how this could be slumland. Further down, definitely. Trim Street is opposite Beau Nash’s ‘splendid house’ so at some stage it was trendy spot.
Being near the abbey we decided to take the open topped bus tour. It was freezing! It was also very interesting. Particularly the bits the tour guide got wrong! But such a lovely way to see Bath. Highly recommended when there’s no petit train around.
In order to thaw out it was then off to Caffee Nero where I managed to spill some woman’s tea when she tried to sneak by my outstretched arm. Suitably warmed (not by her tea) we decided a stroll by the river was in order.
In the park we found this lovely statue of Mozart. Mozart in Bath, you ask? Well, not quite. According to the bus guide (so it MAY be true) this was paid for by a mother in memory of her son who died. He loved Mozart and the violin so, realising no-one would want a statue of her son, she commissioned one of Mozart instead. Cool, eh?
The park was nice (you have to pay in summer!), the walk was a bit sad. I assume it manages to improve the further you get from the city. Well, further than we walked, anyway. We walked back on the other side and visited Sydney Gardens. Jane would wander about here. I don’t think she would now. Lots of wide bitumen path, not much grass. Took a photo of Mirinda in front of the Austen house at 4 Sydney Place, just to annoy the inhabitants. Then a stroll through Henrietta Park back to the hotel.
I left Mirinda with a cup of tea and went in search of St Swithin’s, where Jane’s parents married and her father is buried. On the way I found the rather sad remains of the original Bathwick Church and it’s Victorian replacement with its rather imposing sign.
St Swithin’s is a rather ugly church from the outside. It’s been destroyed and rebuilt a number of times. It was also locked up tight – even the churchyard – so all I could see was the outside from the steep park across the road.
A shame really, because apparently there’s some nice tombs in there. Madame dArblay is buried there though most people would know her as Fanny Burney, the English novelist. I didn’t realise that she didn’t receive ANY formal education but read a lot and talked with famous, educated people.
Disheartened, I walked back into town, stopping off at the Victoria Art Gallery.
The were some lovely paintings but the highlight was an amazingly haunting set of sculptures by Ana Maria Pacheco. One of them, The Banquet, is incredibly moving and chilling. Her huge figures dominate the viewer while oppressing each other. Truly wonderful stuff. I recommend her work to anyone interested in art that truly moves.
Back out on the street I shivered to the hotel for a lovely hot shower.
At 6:30 we trekked back up the hill to beyond the Assembly Rooms until we found the Olive Tree, a restaurant hidden beneath the Queensbury Hotel – it has hopes of attaining a Michelin star. Lovely, comfortable chairs and not too crowded, though it was quickly full. The food was very good but…Mirinda said her entree was a bit dull and (gasp) she needed salt on her main! Also they served ‘extras’ like potatoes (Lyonnaise or boring) or veg or salad. The meal should be complete and require no extra seasoning. They have an extensive wine list which is rather oddly arranged – it even has an index! I make it sound awful but it was actually very good and I’d recommend it.
A slow walk back down the hill (apparently it snowed while we ate), through streets gradually filling with Saturday night revels and mini skirts. We were back in the room at about 9:30. I watched the snooker then football and Mirinda read until falling asleep. Home tomorrow.