Friday, July 14, 2017

Playing the Tourist: Bath

So I recommend Bath with the full knowledge that Jane Austen herself is pissed at me for doing so. But it's an irony of life that the place that she most hated, living there for a few bleak unproductive years, is the place now most associated with her. Not just because her two posthumously published novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, are predominately set there, but because Bath itself is virtually unchanged since her time and houses the Jane Austen Centre which hosts the yearly Jane Austen Festival, which is in September if you're interested in attending. So if you're following in the footsteps of Jane and her novels, you must invariably go to Bath. Sorry Jane. But for the Janeite it's such a thrill, to be able to walk past Jane's house at Number 4 Sydney Place, to go to the pump room where you can still take the waters! Though they do sound gross and are warm. To marvel at the Roman Baths, and yes, that's basically where the water is from. To promenade along the Royal Crescent. To literally BE in her world. It's the closest you can get to a time machine.

But most importantly, it's where the Jane Austen Centre is located. Oh, how I LONG to make the pilgrimage there. And for me it IS a pilgrimage. Though I fear the gift shop might bankrupt me, it's bad enough I can order some things online! And I just noticed they have a bicentenary mug... I think that's a must buy. While the centre does have many wonderful artifacts and recently unveiled the most accurate depiction of Jane to date with a new waxwork that looks eerily like the author Mary Robinette Kowal, it's the immersive elements that make it so unique. All the guides are dressed in historically accurate clothing and portray characters from Austen's books. Yet to get the true experience I've always found that wearing the clothes of a time period really transports you, and yes, you can do that here! In fact it's their most popular exhibit! They have a selection of Regency dresses, coats, bonnets, top hats, shawls, fans, reticules, and parasols all for you to try on and get your picture taken in! After that experience you're probably in need of refreshment, and they have a tea room on site where you can relax while a painting of Colin Firth's Mr. Darcy presides over the room. One can hope that Jane would at least approve of that.


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