Thursday, 2 August 2012


Bath - The Crescent
Bath - One does not love a place the less for having suffered in it

On my tour of England from north to south last year (HERE) I couldn’t complete my Jane Austen pilgrimage, since my friends and I were following more than one trail (Richard III, movie locations, literature, abbeys and cathedrals) and each of us had put her own special goals on our common schedule. This is why we decided we would complete my Austen tour this year  visiting the South – West region of the Island and  starting from Somerset (we landed in Bristol),  more precisely  from Bath.

Me at the Roman Baths
The most common opinion on the years Jane Austen spent in Bath wants them unhappy and unproductive.
Jane arrived in Bath with Cassandra and her parents in 1800, after her father had unexpectedly announced his desire to retire from the ministry. Young Jane must have been really depressed if not shocked, though Bath was not and is not an unpleasant place .
Those (1800- 1809) are the years of The Watsons, which she left unfinished, of Harris Bigg-Wither’s proposal (her only marriage proposal for what we know), which she rejected, but those are tragically and especially the years when her father died and left Jane, her mother and her sister doomed to live on the financial contributions of the Austen men.

Bath - The Pump Rooms
All those are the reasons  why I couldn’t imagine Jane being very happy there, while visiting Bath last week, on July 19. I loved the place, which is enchanting,  but my Austen-related thoughts were  not positive.

Then, a quote from Persuasion  came to my mind “One does not love a place the less for having suffered in it, unless it has been all suffering, nothing but suffering”. At the same time I started thinking about Catherine Morland  and Ann Elliot and about their happiness in Bath. That helped to switch my mood from melancholic to calm.

Between Jane and Martin the Senior Meeter/Greeter

Jane's wanted her creatures happy, her lovely heroines  in Northanger Abbey and Persuasion  were happy right there in Bath.
Seen through their eyes,  the town  became a much more exciting place: The Pump Rooms, The Assembly Rooms, The Crescent or The Circus got all a special charm.

My first goal was The Jane Austen Centre, of course. My friends were really kind to accompany me, though either they had already been there or were not actually interested.  I wasof course really happy to start my tour from there (see picture on the right) . And yes, you've got it!  I couldn’t resist buying some souvenirs in the lovely shop downstairs. I had already bought gifts online from them but being and buying there live was really exciting. What stopped me from buying more cuteness was the baggage weight limit on the flight back home.

After that , we visited the Roman Baths and the Pump Rooms, the cathedral and the shopping area nearby, then we walked towards the Assembly Rooms (didn’t visit the place nor the Fashion Exhibition, though), then crossed The Circus and headed to The Crescent. All those places are fortunately quite close to one another so that you can easily visit them in one good walk.

I want to go back to Bath to see what I haven’t yet (the Assembly Rooms and the several places in the town where Jane Austen lived) and I’d love to do it in September - if not this year  sooner or later - so that I can take part in The Jane Austen Festival they hold annually. That would be wonderful!

Lyme Regis – Do the seagulls ever sleep?

Lyme Regis at sunset - Photo by Mamma_T
The following day we left Bath and Somerset and drove through Wiltshire, directed to Dorset. After visiting Old Sarum in the morning and Corfe Castle in the afternoon we arrived at Lyme Regis just in time for dinner.
We left our baggage at the incredibly atmospheric B&B by the sea we had booked and went to a nice pub to have a very English dinner. 
Walking along the beach soon after eating was definitely pleasant. It was a Friday night, there were several people but not a crowd. 

A corner at our B&B in Lyme Regis
Accompanied by the constant presence and persistent, weird, high-pitched screech of hundreds of seagulls, but caressed by a cool wind and the red sunbeams of a mesmerizing sunset, we walked as far as The Cobb and just had a look at the infamous “Granny’s teeth” from where Louisa Musgrove fell so theatrically in the pages of Persuasion. 
Did we want to go up? “Better to try tomorrow in the daylight”, we thought. Then, “What about waiting for a Captain Wentworth’s apparition”?

Louisa's Fall in Persuasion movie versions - from Austenitis

We postponed our Persuasion – style adventure to the next day and went back to our lovely B&B where thousands of books and a little portrait of Jane Austen near the bed where waiting for us! I was stunned by that place: cute, comfortable, crowded with incredible books, coloured, cosy: The Book Lovers’Bed & Breakfast made our stay in Lyme Regis simply unique.

First thing the next day we went to Ottery St. Mary - a small village nearby where Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born - then to Charmouth, Jane Austen’s favourite walk when she was in Lyme, and Mary Anning’s favourite place to search for fossils and dinosaurs! Skeletons of dinosaurs. Have you read “Remarkable Creatures”?

After a nice walk looking for ammonites, which we didn’t find and which our guide book said it was highly reproachable to dig and collect,  we went back to Lyme Regis late in the afternoon to experience the thriving adventure of climbing or descending the Granny’s Teeth

Lyme Regis - Granny's Teeth (picture by Mamma_T)

We thought the place would be as quiet as the night before, only with much more light. Instead,the place was overcrowded with merry people watching a sports show with loud music and a radio DJ-style presenter. The crowd on The Cobb, the beach and all around the harbour was cheering, shouting, applauding the acrobatic stunts of young people skating and skiing on the water. Did we really want to achieve our enterprise (a comical fall down?)  in front of all those people?

My friends did it. It was not comical but funny enough  and  luckily no one fell down. As for me, I couldn’t do it. I felt dizzy and paralyzed after climbing the first three  steps from the ground. I had to stop and the only achievement for me was  a picture on those steps, carefully taking my back attached to the wall. Not very brave, I know. I simply am not and I can’t act what I am not. Maybe Captain Wentworth’s presence would have made me more daring. Just maybe. But he wasn’t there nor nearby. 

Do you think Jane Austen tried those steps? Why did she choose to make Louisa fall down from up there? She might have witnessed someone fall while staying in the little village by the sea in Dorset.

Lyme Regis is lovely and romantic, not when it is  overcrowded, though . Better to avoid going there at the weekend, if possible.

I loved my room with a view on the sea, the walks along the beach  at the sunset, the views and the hospitality .  Just one little complain:  if only they could send the seagulls to sleep  between... let’s say midnight and seven a.m.   Maybe a visitor could sleep at least 7 quiet hours. Could you gently ask the seagulls, please? 

Maria Grazia


Carol Hedges said...

I love Bath, and Jane Austen, so loved this post. Thank you; the pictures were delighful.

Maria Grazia said...

@Carol Hedges
Thanks to you, Carol, for dropping by reading and commenting!

fra said...

Aloveley account of your journeys Maria. Both Bath and Lyme are wonderful places.Yes the seaguls in Lyme can be vexing,and its ashame you couldnt see the glorious Assembly Rooms.If you can,try to come back in Sept. for the festival.Lvely photos,too.!! Also did you get to visit Brighton.?

Anonymous said...

I confirm I don't like Bath, but Lyme Regis was lovely - despite the saturday evening crowd and the event - and I found some wonderful ammos, even if it was highly reproachable ;-)
The pictures are delightful indeed :P
xx K/V

frank underwood said...

Sorry, i should have left my name,Frank Underwood,Oxford Jane Austen Group,and Austentation,via Facebook and Twitter. !!!

Julia said...

We did jump from the Cobb several times because we wanted to have a nice photo for our travel reports. Granted, we choose a very low step to do this, but it was really fun :-)
(I think the people around us had also a lot of fun to watch us too *ggg*)

It´s so nice to walk in the footsteps of Jane Austen. Hope to travel again next year :-)

Greetings, Julia

Maria Grazia said...

@Frank Underwood
No, I've never been in Brighton, Frank. And, yes, as I wrote, I'd love to be in Bath in September sooner or later. Though that's the most improbable time in the year for a teacher like me. The new school year will start on 13 Sept. and holidays will be definitely over then!
But I won't stop dreaming about it!

Thanks again for being so kind to accompany me in Bath, though you had already been there and I know you hadn't liked it the first time.
Lyme was lovely, very romantic. Well, I know that was not why YOU liked it! :P

Brave girl! I couldn't go past the third step and jumping is totally forbidden to my poor middle-aged back :-/
But my enterprising same-aged friend L. succeeded in going up and down the steps with a certain non-chalance.
Hence, I have a bad (very bad) relationship with cliffs, height, staircases, ladders, and so on.

Thanks to ayou ll for visiting and contributing your comments!

Laura Hile said...

I have loved seeing your photos on Facebook. Thank you so much for sharing so much about your holiday.

I hope you are able to return in September and return with more tales of your adventures!

Maria Grazia said...

@Laura Hile
As I said before, I'd love to be in Bath for the Festival but what can I tell my headmistress? We have no holidays in September, but a lot of work planning for the new school year :-/
I'll go on dreaming about it!
Thanks Laura!

Laura Hile said...

"I'm having illness issues---mental illness---and I can only be treated at a special facility in Bath. During September."

Eh, maybe this wouldn't be the right approach for a teacher...

Maria Grazia said...

@Laura Hile

I'd have to find a doctor who will diagnose and confirm my mental illness. Not so difficult, when I'm under stress I really act like a mad person. But since I'm on holiday, I may even sound sane!

However, that's quite risky. I'd try that approach only to a goal: to be dismissed forever! ;-)

Alexa Adams said...

How wonderful! I do think that Captain Wentworth, had he been there, would not have let you fall. Your picture certainly puts Louisa Musgrove's daring in sharper perspective than any other I have seen. I hate heights and am sure I too would have kept my feet firmly on the ground. What a fabulous trip. I hope to have my turn someday.

Maria Grazia said...

@Alexa Adams
Thanks for your sympathy! I wish your turn may come very soon :-)

Vava, A country dreaming mum said...

At last I have the time to read and comment. Your holidy sounds great, I know that the company was anyway :-) An Austen tour is my dream, but that won't be for a while so as you say, I will keep on dreaming!

Maria Grazia said...

I had to wait on, but now my sons are grown-up I travel abroad from time to time, more often than before. So, don't stop dreaming, Silvana! :-)