Bath Experiences: A morning at the Jane Austen Centre

I had wanted to have breakfast at the 18th century Hall and Woodhouse pub restaurant so I decided to try out the restaurant on the morning I visited the Jane Austen Centre, as it was nearby at Old King Street. The warm crumpets with a pot of hot tea was delicious.

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Crumpets at Hall and Woodhouse

I had a leisurely breakfast, enjoying my tea and the spacious restaurant, before walking over to the Jane Austen Centre.

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After being given a souvenir guide book, I was directed to the waiting room at the centre. I browsed through the souvenir, which included 34 lesser known Jane Austen facts, as I waited for my guide. Soon enough, Serena, the guide for my tour turned up.

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We walked into a room which had the Austen family portraits on its wall. Serena spoke about Jane Austen’s immediate family – her parents and her siblings. I learnt that Jane Austen’s parents were avid readers and encouraged their children to make use of their library at home. Cassandra Austen, Jane’s mother, had enjoyed writing poetry and there is one of her rhymes included in the exhibition room. The Austen siblings seem to have been close to each other and had interesting and diverse careers. I also learnt that one of Jane’s siblings, the one indicated by a question mark in the portraits on the wall, had been born with disabilities and had been raised separate from the family, together with an uncle. Serena also mentioned that all Austen siblings knew sign language and probably learnt it to communicate with the second brother, George. I wonder why sign language had not made it into Jane Austen’s writing, as many other facets of her life and people she knew did show up in her fictional characters.

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After the overview of the Austen family, Serena led me to the exhibition room. The exhibition is quite a small one but it does have some interesting objects. It starts with a walk down a corridor lined with framed photographs. The first two are copies of Cassandra’s sketches of Jane Austen. Apparently, the Austen family had felt that the sketches were not reflective of Jane but since it is the only one in existence, it has become her official portrait.

Further down the corridor, there is a map of Bath with places where Jane Austen stayed during her time in Bath. The places reflected the family’s deteriorating financial circumstances. While the building of the Jane Austen Centre has nothing to do with Jane Austen, it is at least similar to the building at No 25 Gay Street further down the same road, where Jane, her sister and mother moved to after her father’s death.

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There were some interesting framed snippets such as the Laws of Bath written by Richard Nash Esq, the Master of the Ceremonies of the Pump Room, in 1707. The quite humorous laws end with the line “whereas Politeness, Decency and Good Manners, three ancient Residents at Bath have, of late, left the Place, whoever shall restore them, shall be rewarded with Honour and Respect.”

On one section of the wall were three portraits indicating the men who had a brief romantic connection in Jane Austen’s life. The portrait in the middle is the younger brother of close friends of Jane, who proposed to her when he turned 21. Jane initially accepted his proposal of marriage but after considering it for 12 hours, turned it down the next day.

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At the end of the tour, there was a little table with a plate of cookies that Serena invited me to try. They were called Charlotte Palmer’s Fine Little Cakes and are made fresh daily for the Jane Austen Centre from a period recipe in Laura Boyle’s Cooking with Jane Austen & Friends. The cookbook is available at the Jane Austen Centre gift shop.

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On the adjacent table was a humorous recipe in rhyme, for a plum pudding, thought to have been written by Jane Austen’s mother and found in the recipe book of Martha Lloyd, a close friend of Jane.

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Just before entering the gift shop, there is a little area with desks and writing materials, where I tried my hand at writing with a quill.

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The Jane Austen Centre offers the visitor a lovely, little eclectic exhibition, the charm of which lies in the one hour guided tour, where the guide brings to life insights into Jane’s life. It is an interesting stop on your Jane Austen trail in Bath, before or after you have visited Jane Austen’s home in Chawton village in Hampshire.

The Centre also has a Regency Tea Room, where you could have ‘Tea with Mr. Darcy’ or ‘Lady Catherine’s Proper Cream Tea’ among other options. Of interest is also the Jane Austen festival held in Bath, organized by the Centre every September.

Disclaimer: The Bath Tourism Office kindly gave me a complimentary pass to Bath and regional attractions, for the purpose of this post. This pass allowed me free entry to the Jane Austen Centre. All opinions are my own and I only recommend experiences I have enjoyed.

[I am linking this post to Faraway Files #13]

Suitcases and Sandcastles
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Bath Experiences: Skyline Bus Tour and Green Rocket juice

I had wanted to visit Prior Park , especially to see the beautiful Palladian bridge there, during my stay in Bath. Since the park was one of the stops along City Sightseeing‘s Skyline bus tour, I decided to take it to the park and back. I soon learnt that the park was only open during the weekends in winter and as it was a weekday, it would be closed. However, I decided to simply go on the circular bus tour to see parts of Bath outside of its historic centre. I am glad I did that because I very much enjoyed the Skyline tour.

One of the first buildings to catch my eye on the bus tour was St. Mary’s at Bathwick. According to the church’s website, there has been a church at the site for around a thousand years. The present building though was built in the early 19th century.

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One of the stops along the skyline tour is the Holburne museum, formerly Sydney hotel, located in Sydney pleasure gardens. The museum houses the art collection, of Sir William Holburne, which was bequeathed to the people of Bath by Holburne’s sister in 1882.

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We passed No 4 Sydney Place, where Jane Austen and her family stayed from 1801 – 1804. It has now been converted into 4 self-catering apartments, where visitors to Bath can stay at.

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The view of the city from Bathwick hill was lovely. However, I was seated on the other side of the bus so this was all I could capture on my camera.

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We passed the old Roundhouse, which was the Bathwick toll house. It had been managed by the Bath Turnpike Trust, which was set up in 1707 for maintaining and improving the roads, and continued to collect tolls till 1878.

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The North road was quite scenic, though the audio commentary informed us that this road had been quite unsafe a couple of centuries ago due to the highwaymen along the route.

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Our circular tour took us through Widcombe before returning to Bath city centre. For those who enjoy long walks, the 6 mile Bath Skyline walk in summer might be a lovely option.

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After being dropped back at the starting point on Manvers Street, I decided to stop by Green Rocket cafe, a vegetarian cafe and restaurant, to have a fresh juice. I went for the cafe’s namesake juice, which had a delicious mix of apple, cucumber, broccoli, celery, parsley and spirulina. It was the last ingredient that made me go for the Green Rocket juice simply because I had never heard of spirulina before and learnt that it is a blue-green algae, considered a super food.

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Since the City sightseeing ticket included both of their Bath tours, the Skyline tour and the City tour, I also decided to go on the City tour. This tour started in front of the Abbey.

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Guildhall

After a near circular short loop via High Street and Grand Parade, the bus tour took us around the city, stopping at key stops close to several of Bath’s attractions. The city tour is best taken on the first day of one’s visit to Bath to give a better feel for the city as well as cut down on the walking in between attractions. I, on the other hand, took this at the end of my three day visit when I had walked around the city centre a lot and visited the museums I had wanted to so the city tour wasn’t as enjoyable for me as the Skyline tour had been.

I did have a lovely view of the city and took some beautiful photos of places I had walked past previously.

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Queen Square

I would highly recommend the Skyline tour as I enjoyed both the audio commentary and the scenic route around Bath. The city tour is better taken on one’s first day or two in Bath.

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Disclaimer: The Bath Tourism Office kindly gave me a complimentary pass to Bath and regional attractions, for the purpose of this post. This pass allowed me a free ticket on the City Sightseeing Bath tours. All opinions are my own and I only recommend experiences I have enjoyed.

[I am linking this post to Faraway Files #12 and City Tripping #60]

Suitcases and Sandcastles
MummyTravels

Bath Experiences: Visiting No 1 Royal Crescent

A lovely November morning in Bath, I decided to visit the Royal Crescent. I first stopped at the Bath Bun at the Abbey Green to try out the famous Bath bun, which was created by Dr. Oliver for his patients in 1761.

After having my sugar fix for the day, I made my way over to the Royal Crescent. Admiring the row of terraced houses from the green, I turned to No 1 Royal Crescent, the first of the houses to be built on the row.

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No 1 Royal Crescent has had various occupants starting with a wealthy landowner, Mr. Henry Sandford, who lived at the house from 1776 – 1796. At one point in its history, the house was a seminary for young ladies. The Bath Preservation Trust is currently responsible for conserving the house and it is now a house museum decorated and furnished as it would have been during Sandford’s residence at the house.

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My tour of the house started in the morning parlour on the ground floor. The parlour had been laid out for breakfast. The residents of the house would have had their breakfast in this room, before having the table folded away to receive callers during the day.

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The study was my favourite room in the house. Especially with that telescope, writing desk and large chair, among the many interesting objects in the room. However, if I had visited the house in the 18th century, I would not have been able to see this room because it was the Gentleman’s retreat and according to the museum website “a sanctuary where a cultured Georgian might indulge his interests in science, inventions and the natural world”.

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The room on the other side of the ground floor was the formal dining room, which was usually opened when having guests over for dinner.

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Climbing the stairs to the first floor, I came across another set of two rooms. I walked into the room above the dining room which was called the ‘Withdrawing room’ where the ladies withdrew after dinner to have tea and play some music on the harpsichord.

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Across the floor was the lady’s bedroom, which was decorated in a soothing pastel and floral design.

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On the second floor was the Gentleman’s bedroom which had furniture by George Hepplewhite, one of the leading furniture makers of that time.

The best feature of the Gentleman’s bedroom was the lovely view of the Crescent.

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Using the stairs, I walked back down to the ground floor and further to the basement area. The kitchen passage lined with jars led to the kitchen and scullery.

It was interesting to see the kitchen equipment and utensils that had been in use. Meat and other perishable food was kept cool in the meat safe in the scullery, which was basically a cupboard away from the heat of the open range stove in the kitchen.

Two other rooms in the basement were the servants’ hall and the housekeeper’s room. Though sparsely furnished, the housekeeper had some privacy while she sorted out the bills and household requirements.

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The visit to No 1 Royal Crescent provided a lovely insight to how a wealthy resident in Bath would have lived in the 18th century. The house museum is definitely a must see during one’s visit to Bath.

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Disclaimer: The Bath Tourism Office kindly gave me a complimentary pass to Bath and regional attractions, for the purpose of this post. This pass allowed me free entry to No 1 Royal Crescent. All opinions are my own and I only recommend experiences I have enjoyed.

[I am linking this post to City Tripping #58 and Faraway Files #15]

MummyTravels
Untold Morsels

Bath Experiences: Roman Baths and a Sally Lunn dinner

It goes without saying that every visitor to the city of Bath, a world heritage site, needs to visit the Roman Baths, that gave the city its name. The springs have been an attraction of the city for centuries, with the first shrine on the site said to have been built by the Celts in honour of Goddess Sulis. When the Romans arrived in the town they called Aquae Sulis during the 1st century, they built the temple for Minerva and the Bath complex. Since the Romans, the Baths have gone through a series of redevelopment efforts, the latest being the £ 5.5 million project in 2011 to preserve the Baths for the next 100 years.

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View of Bath Abbey from the Terrace

Visitors to the Roman Baths museum are given an audio guide, which lets one go through the museum at one’s own pace and the choice of selecting what details one wants to hear more about. From the entrance and ticket area, I walked on to the terrace of the Roman Baths, with the 19th century statues of Roman emperors and governors of Britain lining it, and had my first glimpse of the Great Bath.

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The Great Bath

Before descending the stairs to the different museum exhibits, a glance through a window gives a glimpse of the sacred spring. According to a poster at the museum, the hot water in the spring rises at a rate of 1,170,000 litres each day at 46°C. This natural phenomenon was attributed to the Goddess Sulis Minerva during the Roman times and there was a temple next to the spring, dedicated to the Goddess.

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the Sacred Spring

The exhibit area of the museum starts with the ‘Meet the Romans’ section, which had models of how the Baths would have looked during the Roman times. I enjoyed the film projections on how daily life at the Baths would have looked like then.

I next walked to the area with the temple pediment, where one can sit in the small amphitheater style seating area and listen to the audio guide explain the features of the surviving front of the temple in front of you.

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Temple pediment

The floor below leads to different interesting sections of the Roman Baths that have survived. It is amazing that the plumbing and drainage system installed during the Roman period is still largely in place and continues to direct the spring overflow to the original drain and onto River Avon.

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Sacred Spring

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Spring overflow

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Roman Drain

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Plunge Pool

The various artifacts showcasing life during the Roman times is very intriguing, particularly the numerous curse tablets that have been unearthed. The curse tablets had been thrown into the pool by visitors and most curses were against thieves who had stolen the clothes or other personal belongings of the bathers while they were in the pool.

The most atmospheric area of the museum is the Great Bath area, which is enhanced by the costumed characters, based on real people who lived and worked at Aquae Sulis 2000 years ago, strolling around the pool.

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Great Bath

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Emerging from the Roman Baths museum, one comes across the famous Pump room.

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Pump Room

Quite hungry after spending the afternoon enjoying my exploration of the Roman Baths museum, I made my way over to North Parade to Sally Lunn’s historic eating house and museum.

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I decided to try out the mushroom toast trencher, with half a Sally Lunn bun topped with herb mushrooms and their historic mushroom ketchup/gravy. The trencher meal was served on a plate fortunately, instead of the trencher bread serving as a plate as it would have centuries ago.

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After my delicious and filling dinner, I made my way down to the basement where the Sally Lunn’s kitchen museum is.

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According to the museum’s website, this is the original kitchen that Solange Lyon, aka Sally Lunn,  a Huguenot refugee worked in when she came to Bath in 1680. She made her brioche buns in this kitchen and sold them, around the neighbourhood, in a basket.

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The menu of the old eating house is now focused on meals and snacks with the famous Sally Lunn bun and is certainly a place worth visiting and having a meal.

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Disclaimer: The Bath Tourism Office kindly gave me a complimentary pass to Bath and regional attractions, for the purpose of this post. This pass allowed me free entry to the Roman Baths. All opinions are my own and I only recommend experiences I have enjoyed.

[I am linking this post to The Weekly Postcard and Cultured Kids January 2017]

Travel Notes & Beyond
the Pigeon Pair and Me

Bath Experiences: A visit to Bath Christmas Market

It was the day that the Bath Christmas market opened, that I visited Bath city. So, after dropping off my bags, I made my way over to the market meandering along the way to explore Parade Gardens.

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statue of legendary King of Bath at Parade Gardens

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View of Pulteney Bridge from Parade Gardens

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Another view of Pulteney Bridge

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bronze statue of young Mozart, as commissioned in memory of Mark Purnell by his mother

The area around the Bath Abbey and the Roman Baths was bustling with the market goers and there was a very festive atmosphere, as I browsed through some of the 173 stalls at the market this year.

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Hope you enjoyed a lovely Christmas with your family!

[I am linking this post to Weekend Travel Inspiration]

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