Monday, September 15, 2008

A day in Bath

I could never tire of visiting Bath. It was one of our favourite destinations for short breaks when the children were growing up and I still like to visit at least once a year. I love the architecture, the Roman and Georgian history, the Jane Austen connections, the shops and restaurants. Last year, after several unsuccessful attempts, I managed to get to the American Museum on a day that it was open!

As I was only there on a day trip last week, I decided to avoid the Jane Austen Centre, the Roman Baths, the Pump Room and the Abbey. If I name all the other places I avoided, no-one will read on, so perhaps I'll give Jane a mention to hold your interest! Coming soon, (19th to 28th September) is the annual Jane Austen Festival.
If only I could have postponed my visit, I should have been in heaven.If, like me, you cannot make it during the festival and have to make your own way around the city, I recommend that you get a copy of this excellent guide. It gives all the appropriate quotations from Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, describes the city as it was in Jane Austen's time there and has some very interesting anecdotes about her family.
I bought my copy of Bath as Jane Austen knew it in the Tourist Information Office, which must be one of the most impressive tourist offices in the UK.
We sat in the Abbey Churchyard, poring over our pamphlets from the information centre, drinking freshly brewed coffee and listening to a very talented violinist outside the Pump Room.
The dry, sunny day was such a rare occurence this summer, that we decided not to waste a minute of it indoors. We would take a ride on an open-top tourist bus. In fact we took two tours. The bus ticket is valid for two days, giving access to the city bus tour and the 'Skyline' tour, taking you up into the hills as far as Claverton Down and the American Museum. It also gives you admission to museums at reduced rates.

The guides on both buses were very entertaini
ng and pointed out lots of things we had missed on our previous visits. It was really interesting to see the buildings from the top deck of the bus; many of the ground floor rooms of Georgian houses have been converted into shops but the upper floor frontages remain unchanged.

Great Pulteney Street probably looks as it did in Georgian times, except for the vehicles.
All the lovely buildings in Bath were prime targets for the Window Tax in the eighteenth century. There is quite a lot of evidence of how people avoided paying the tax by replacing the glass with bricks or stone.

One of the features of Bath that I like is the inscriptions chiselled into the walls, whether it is the name of the street or the original purpose of the building, such as this former hospital for rheumatic conditions.
I took a lot of photos of carved street names because they are fast disappearing and being replaced by painted signs.

A day in the city would not be complete without a look at some shops. This one is Jolly's, which claims to be the oldest department store in Europe, although Jenners of Edinburgh makes a similar claim. The main entrance is on Milsom Street but I like the back of the shop with its unspoiled facade

and this interesting wall inscribed with extracts from Magna Carta.
Nearby is Paxton and Whitfield, purveyors of fine cheesesince 1797.

And no trip to Bath is complete (for my family, at least) without calling in at the Sausage Shop.
I spotted this bead shop in a narrow street by the Abbey. It is a treasure trove for those who work with beads so I took this picture for Michele, the Hedgelands Glass Lass.
I am still working on the many photographs I took and hope to have a special pig collection to display tomorrow.


  1. Lovely, lovely, lovely post and pics. I am sooo envious! I used to visit Bath several times a year when I lived in London but haven't been for years and years. Must definitely move it to the top of my TBV list.

  2. J, my son's house is only a 20 minute drive from Bath so perhaps the next time he is planning a holiday the CasM group could move in and visit Bath every day.

  3. Like Juliet, I haven't visited Bath for far too long and your post has made me want to rectify this ASAP, especially as it really isn't that far from here.

    Bath is definitely right up there with my favourite cities - Venice and Edinburgh - so thank you for the reminders of how lovely it is. Like the sound of the open-top bus too.

  4. M, thank you so much for taking the picture of the bead shop and for telling me about it yesterday. I will try to visit Bath soon to have a little nosey myself and to visit the best Fudge shop and Chocolate shop ever as well (if I can find them again!). Also loved the pigs and the other snippets of information about Bath : )

  5. If you find the fudge and chocolate shops, Michele, do please tell!


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