BATH, UK: I paid a visit to the little City of Bath for the weekend recently; a town by American standards I suppose. For being somewhat small and remote place (think back to a time before National Rail), this little town made a huge reputation for itself. A day meandering the streets and walkways is all you need to understand what makes this unique spot in England so remarkable and special.
Known to many young girls from as far back as the 18th and 19th centuries, Jane Austen is one resident who makes Bath a destination place, setting at least three of her novels in Bath – Pride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. Today there are Jane Austen festivals and other tourism gimmicks set around the author’s life to entice a steady flow of her modern fan base. But Jane was not the only distinguished resident and a walk along the Royal Crescent will showcase not only the beautiful Georgian architecture, but a few blue plaques of the notable residents who once lived here.
If you want a peek inside one of the lovely townhouses on the Royal Crescent, perhaps pretend that you are a visitor of the 1700s and stopping in to see an old acquaintance, you can meander into No. 1 Royal Crescent. This museum is fairly typical in the content on display for a period home but you always find some oddity – like this mousetrap! I think we should bring these back in fashion in New York, where the rodent population very likely outnumbers the human population.
In the center of town passersby will no doubt come across the sight that gave Bath its name – the Roman Baths. Built around 2,000 years ago, and centered around the hot springs naturally occurring, the Romans incorporated their mythology with the surroundings by building a temple for the goddess Sulis Minerva.
There is a lot of history to explore in this tiny complex. Given the attribution of healing powers to the hot springs, this site has been in use right up to fairly modern times. One can visit the Pump Room after exploring the Bath and try the hot spa water at the fountain.
As it was a chilly weekend when I visited Bath, I made a point of stopping into the Fashion Museum. It’s permanent collection seemingly centered on the Georgian and Regency period, there were other modern pieces on display and the museum does a good job of keeping up with the times. Being American, where we are distanced from much of the elaborate European clothing of the 1700 and 1800s, I found myself drawn in particular to a court dress with its enormous undergarments. I can’t help to think about the functionality of this attire. I appreciate the beauty and artistry of the clothing but find it curious how fashion evolved to that, class distinction comes to mind, but there must but other reasons.
There are a number of other historical sights to visit. I took a few pictures whilst wandering around on foot, but there is a lot more to see. And if you are a Jane Austen fan, this is a really good blog about her novels, the period in which she wrote, and her life.