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.