Monday, 3 November 2008
Lost in Austen
I think that it was on the second or third morning of our stay in Bath that Big Sister reminded me of an email I'd received from Michele months ago asking if I might one day come to visit her in Bath. Well, by the strange power of blogging, here I was, my second visit in three months to this beautiful city, lying in Michele's bed gazing out through the window at the most fantastic bedroom view I had ever seen! Michele, I hasten to add, was not by my side, nor in any other room for that matter - The Ragged Roses had come to stay chez the Custards whilst the Custards had gone on holiday.
The strangeness of this situation lessened with every hour and by the end of our stay it felt like the most normal thing to be doing. As normal as waking up and seeing one of these floating past your bedroom window ... by the third morning I was use to this amazing sight too. I can honestly say that we have never stayed anywhere before where we have felt so much "at home", the warmth, kindness and generosity of this lovely family seems to have imbued the walls of their beautiful home and welcomed us in and completely enchanted us.
For various reasons us Ragged Roses had arrived in Bath in relay. Big Sister and I turned up a whole 24 hours later than M and Little Sister and I was incredibly twitchy about wanting to make up time on my first afternoon. Within a few minutes I had turned into a bonafide Mrs Bennet and was busy clucking and fussing and herding us all down to the Roman Baths. I have visited here before but had somehow forgotten the beauty and majesty of these buildings. My earlier visit had been many years ago in the height of the summer season, this time was a very different experience. Late afternoon on the first winter's afternoon of the year, the number of visitors were dwindling and the light was fading.
The Baths suddenly took on an air of mystery and it was so easy to imagine the intrigues and assignations that had gone on here centuries before. If only we'd had a fan or two to hold and hide behind - it was all too easy to imagine the ladies lowering themselves into the waters and spending the season floating around the Pump and Assembly rooms.
It may well have been the end of October but the mornings were as bright and beautiful as any we had seen this summer. The sunlight hitting the golden Bath stone of the magnificent buildings and urging us to get out walking as soon as we could. So each day we set off early climbing us hills, admiring the breathtaking views, choosing our Georgian dream houses
(this one is mine - we ended up with one each and several in reserve for visitors!).
We promenaded along the Crescents, admiring the architecture and sheer endless beauty of the buildings.
England in October, surely not -
more like the South of France, or Italy ...
We walked down into the base of the bowl that is Bath and had the best walk along the canal.
Peaceful, undisturbed, the sun streaming through the trees, Regency splendour appearing over bridges,
canal boats moored on the banks and our minds free of the day to day hurly burly we'd left behind in Sussex.
We rummaged through treasure troves of vintage clothes (Big Sister heaven), and marvelled at the scale of beauty here. It was like visiting the most ornate wedding cake you could imagine, tier upon tier of carefully crafted beauty.
Beauty in expected
and beauty in the unexpected detail.
Isn't it strange that most days I can't remember why I've gone upstairs, left my keys, parked the car and yet, here I was remembering street names from Northanger Abbey, a book I'd read over twenty years ago at school! I took the girls to the Jane Austen Centre and we spent an afternoon retracing Jane Austen's stay in Bath. It wasn't her favourite place to stay but it offered her so much material for her novels and allowed Big Sister to have more than one Lizzie Bennet moment.
Across the valley from Mrs C stands the most beautiful house . Big Sister would spend every chance she had gazing out the window and saying out loud "Netherfield Park is let at last", hoping for a sight of Mr Darcy or Mr Bingley! And Mr Darcy we found indeed... not a proud, aloof Mr Darcy
but a fun loving guy who was as handsome as we had been led to believe and who managed to steal our hearts - a real pussycat in fact!
Thank you Michele for so many wonderful memories. I have thought hard about my favourite bits of our week, the walks, the views etc and yet the image I am always left with, is the four of us sitting around your kitchen table smiling, eating biscuits and enjoying ourselves so very much.