Saturday, April 7, 2012

It is a truth universally acknowledged…

Being voiceless this Easter with laryngitis, I’ve had plenty of time to wander down Memory Lane.

In particular I’ve been remembering the wonderful Easter weekend I spent in Bath four years ago. Easter was early that year, around the 24 March, and in the UK brief glimpses of spring vied with the remains of winter. One of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen was a flurry of snow falling amongst cherry blossoms in Bath’s Georgian gardens.

I’ve found the email I sent off to friends that weekend, my way of making sure my loved ones were with me on my travels.

It is a truth universally acknowledged…

...that a woman who is an ardent admirer of Jane Austen, Roman history and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, must sojourn in Bath. 

For when a town boasts attractions that includes Roman baths and famous residents such as Jane Austen and Buffy cast member Anthony Stewart Head, who can be in doubt that a weekend of delight is sure to follow? 

I'm the first to admit that reading maps easily is not a talent that I've managed to develop, my usual manner of reading directions is to turn the map around a few times, head left and then double back on my tracks to find the right path. But reading about Bath for 20 years in Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer novels has given me an intimate familiarity of the town's topography. 

I stayed in a guest house in Greater Pultney St, the most fashionable part of town in Regency days, and linking two streets that have featured in many of my favourite novels, Laura Place and Sydney Place. 

Walking along, I didn't feel at all alone as I replayed familiar scenes between well-loved characters, even (thanks to the Jane Austen Walking Tour I downloaded onto my iPod) finding the Gravel Walk where Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot find themselves at the end of Persuasion, having sorted out past misunderstandings:

...soon words enough had passed between them to decide their direction towards the comparatively quiet an retired gravel-walk, where the power of conversation would make the present hour a blessing indeed...

Standing in Camden Crescent (close to where the divine Ms Austen once lived) a bus went past me for Fairfield Park and in my head all I could hear was Mrs Bennet's jubilant cry of "Netherfield Park has been let at last!" from Pride and Prejudice, so I had an idea of what inspired some of the fictional locations too. Even the snow that fell while I was walking around added to the experience, although I did seek refuge at one stage in an Austrian cafe where I had an incredibly rich hot chocolate called hansi, very very rich and sweet. 

And who could be in Bath without trying a Sally Lunn Bath Bun? Now there was a woman who knew a good PR slogan! Sally might have kicked the bucket some time around the 16th century but her name lives on. 

Add to that, hours wandering around the Roman Baths, although I stayed well clear of the actual hot spring, since it really looks like the blue-green algae is about to bloom. And even here I was able to recognise an old friend, the Goddess Minerva whom the baths are dedicated to. Being the goddess of Wisdom, Minnie has certainly despaired over the years that I'd ever heed her advice, but there's still hope I'll listen to her one day…

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