During our madcap tour of Great Britain last April, there was a time I found myself running — sweating profusely, sprinting — through the streets of Bath, England, en route to The Jane Austen Centre on Gay Street.
Traveling with an awesome tour group, we’d already meandered through Wales and Stonehenge the day we found ourselves in the city. With only an hour to see the town before getting back on the coach en route to London, Bath had to be viewed while dodging fellow tourists and cutting corners down cobblestoned streets en route to the Centre paying homage to literary great Jane Austen.
I had to get there.
It wasn’t easy, though. Temperatures in England were unseasonably warm then — you’re welcome; a little present from your American visitors — and the clothes I’d packed were way too hot. Just trying to navigate to the Centre from our drop-off point had me panting, frantic that we weren’t going to make it. People were everywhere: in line for the Roman Baths; dodging into restaurants and fast-food spots; meandering the streets; sunning themselves on benches. Of all the places we visited during our two-week stint around the U.K., Bath was easily the most populated . . . and the most tourist-friendly.
Which is to say, it was crowded as all get-out.
With Dad’s pre-planned route through the city, though, we made it to Gay Street. I knew we were approaching The Jane Austen Centre when I noticed a man dressed in historical garb greeting passersby. In all my excitement, I totally ignored the poor guy and rushed to take a photo with “Jane” herself. A life-sized statue of Miss Austen is perched in front of the Centre entrance.
Jane lived in Bath from 1801 to 1806 and is considered to be the town’s “best known and best loved” resident, according to the Centre website. Though our dear Miss Austen wasn’t overly fond of Bath herself, my favorite of her novels — Persuasion — takes place there. Northanger Abbey is set in the city, too.
The Centre is located at 40 Gay Street, though Austen once called No. 25 home. If we’d had the time, I would have loved to see the museum or take a walking tour of all the sites bearing some importance to Austen’s writings. The city is brimming with fascinating locales.
But alas, I had time for only one thing: visiting the gift shop. And that didn’t disappoint. All sorts of Darcy-themed trinkets were on display, as well as Austen’s complete works and numerous books on her life. I was so busy grabbing bookmarks and postcards that I didn’t absorb any of the ambiance, though. Still sweating and trying not to knock anything over with my big camera, I set myself back a few dozen pounds but came out with some cute things.
Since we had to hurry right back to grab our lift to London, I didn’t get to soak up Bath the way I would have wanted. There was obviously so much to see and do, and I was dying (DYING!, and we were so close!) to get to the Royal Crescent. But I’ll just filter that experience into an excuse to go back to that gorgeous Georgian city someday.
As if I need a reason.
9 thoughts on “When in Bath — run like the dickens”
I so understand this…can almost see it in my mind. I had a similar instance just this past Saturday, when we had exactly 30 minutes to see the Franklin Institute but the only thing on my mind was the automaton that inspired “The Invention of Hugo Cabret”. I was sweating, running, and dragging my kids through the maze of rooms to find it. I would sweat and run to find Jane too. Love these pictures!
I must go here some day.
Bath is great, loved to walk around the Regency and Georgian houses. Did you get to go to the famous Crescent?
I visited the JA Centre and have to confess I though the gift shop and the tea room was the best part of it, but my expectations were pretty high. I saw myself surrounded by other Janeites, but in a show of hands I was the only one in the introduction group who had read all her novels or visited other Austen places like Chawton.
I actually missed the Jane Austen Centre on my first trip to Bath, as it was closed! (and freezing outside) The second trip (with a second time in the Thermae Spa – lovely! – I was able to visit the Pump Room, taste that unique water, but the Assembly Rooms were closed for a private event! That just means ANOTHER trip….one day!
Somehow I’ve been to Bath twice and missed the Austen center both times! If I ever get back there I will absolutely go. It’s a beautiful city though!
I have always wanted to go to the Jane Austen Center. I must get there soon. I’m sure I would buy out their Mr. Darcy stuff. ha. Even though you weren’t able to do the full tour, it seems like a great opportunity. It’s definitely on my “places to travel next” list. Thanks for sharing your experience and photos with us!
My Austen Centre experience was similar to yours, but only similar in the sense that I didn’t actually go into the museum. Sadly, mine wasn’t a time issue, I stayed in Bath for a week because I loved it so much. But my 21 year old self thought that my money was better spent on beer than museum entry fees. Sigh.
I had the pleasure of living in Bath for six months during college. It is the most beautiful town with the most wonderful history. It took 10 years for me to return, but when I did it was like I’d never left. Seeing your pictures makes my heart leap for I miss my dear little town.
I can totally understand why you had to make it there. If I ever get to Bath it’ll be on my list too. The photos are just gorgeous.
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