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October 8, 2009

Friday Trip to Bath – Part II

102_1283thAfter our delightful tour of Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton, we boarded our coach for the short drive to Winchester, where Jane is buried in the cathedral. The sky still looked fairly ominous, but no rain fell as we pulled into town. At left you see the imposing town hall with its central clock tower and Gothic architecture. The cathedral is directly behind this building, and just a short walk up the street, the bustling shops of Winchester await. Because we were already behind schedule, we asked everyone to grab a quick lunch at meet back at the cathedral by 2:30. It was really hard to just rush through the town center, though! Winchester is charming and really fun to browse. There are antiques shops, bookstores, cute boutiques, and all kinds of goodies. But we tried to hustle. My son and I grabbed a quick sandwich at a coffee shop and  began our walk toward the cathedral, meeting up with my husband and mother-in-law on the way. I couldn’t resist popping into one more shop before heading to the church, so they went on without me to wait for the rest of our group. We finally had everyone together around 2:40 and entered the cathedral.

Winchester Cathedral towers above us.

Winchester Cathedral towers above us.

Looking down the side of the cathedral toward the tower.

Looking down the side of the cathedral toward the tower.

A head-on view of the cathedral with its massive stained glass window.

A head-on view of the cathedral with its massive stained glass window.

The stained glass window seen from the inside.

The stained glass window seen from the inside.

From the nave, looking down toward the altar.

From the nave, looking down toward the altar.

Karen and Lily take a closer look into one of the side chambers.

Karen and Lily take a closer look into one of the side chambers.

Looking up at some very early frescoes adorning the ceiling of one of the side chambers.

Looking up at some very early frescoes adorning the ceiling of one of the side chambers.

And a close-up...

And a close-up...

And we find Jane's grave beneath her memorial window...

And we find Jane's grave beneath her memorial window...

Here’s the text of Jane’s Grave in case you can’t read the photo:

In memory of
JANE AUSTEN,
youngest daughter of the late
Revd. GEORGE AUSTEN,
formerly Rector of Steventon in this County.
She departed this Life on the 18th July 1817,
aged 41, after a long illness supported with
the patience and the hopes of a Christian.

The benevolence of her heart,
the sweetness of her temper, and
the extraordinary endowments of her mind
obtained the regard of all who knew her, and
the warmest love of her intimate connections.

Their grief is in proportion to their affection
they know their loss to be irreparable,
but in the deepest affliction they are consoled
by a firm though humble hope that her charity,
devotion, faith and purity have rendered
her soul acceptable in the sight of her
REDEEMER.

Plaque beneath the memorial window...

Plaque beneath the memorial window...

102_1281We spent quite a bit of time in the cathedral, as it has a lot to see. I only wished the choir had been singing during our time there so everyone could enjoy the amazing acoustics in this place. They are incredible. The cathedral is well worth seeing if you are a history buff. King Alfred the Great (he of the English Common Law) ordered the building of the original Winchester Cathedral (the foundations of which you can see right next to this cathedral). He is buried a short distance away in another spot. My son got the children’s map guide to do a scavenger hunt around the whole cathedral, finding out-of-the-way things you wouldn’t notice unless someone pointed them out. We finally tore ourselves away to re-board our coach and get underway for Bath. I snapped the pictures below of the Abbey Gardens, which are so lovely.

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Final view of the town hall...

Final view of the town hall...

We drove off toward Somerset, passing Stonehenge on the way. Unfortunately, they now charge you ten pounds just to stop and park, so we didn’t stop. Everyone with cameras pulled them out and took flying snaps as we passed by!

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My husband tests our group with Jane Austen film trivia questions as we make our way to Bath. It was a close contest!

My husband tests our group with Jane Austen trivia questions as we make our way to Bath. It was a close contest!

img_2154At last we pulled into Bath, two hours behind schedule but glad to have made it. We were already late for our supper reservations, so we just dumped our bags at our beautiful B&B before jumping into taxis to head for Tilley’s Bistro and Sally Lunn’s. The proprietors at Tilley’s were kind enough to give us our special “early dinner” rate, even though we were five minutes past the cut-off time. At left you see half our group “below stairs” at Tilley’s. One of our group decided to go to the pre-festival gathering at the Jane Austen Centre, while the rest opted to eat at the wonderful Sally Lunn’s next door to Tilley’s:

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We all enjoyed a leisurely (and delicious) dinner before heading back to Brooks Guest House for the night. We had much to anticipate, as the Grand Costumed Promenade would kick off the Jane Austen Festival on the morrow! Next time I’ll share photos from our Saturday in Bath!

Bath Abbey, its splendor gloriously lit up at night.

Bath Abbey, its splendor gloriously lit up at night.

September 18, 2009

What the well-dressed matron will be wearing in Bath tomorrow…

We had a lovely journey from London to Bath, although our coach driver encountered more than the usual traffic, putting us here about two hours late. That’s okay — we’re in one piece, and we’ve all been fed and are checked into our darling guest house! I promise to post pictures of the rest of our time in London soon. Unfortunately, I seem to have left my jump drive back in our London hotel, so Lindsay is having to put everything onto another drive for me! :-P

To tide you over, here are photos of my completed costume for Bath (minus hat):

Blue and white check "silk" drawstring gown -- full front view.

Blue and white check "silk" drawstring gown -- full front view.

Bodice front close-up

Bodice front close-up

Full back view...

Full back view...

Back close-up, showing the self-fabric ties.

Back close-up, showing the self-fabric ties.

Chocolate brown velvet Spencer jacket

Chocolate brown velvet Spencer jacket

And the back view...

And the back view...

Tomorrow is the Grand Costumed Promenade to kick off the Jane Austen Festival. We are praying for the rain to hold off, as it was overcast all day today. I’ll be sitting in my booth in Queen’s Square while everyone else does the mile-long parade. ;) On tap for the rest of the day is the Fashion Museum of Bath (which is housed in the Assembly Rooms). Our ladies also have vouchers for “Tea with Mr. Darcy” at the Jane Austen Centre and a tour of the Centre’s museum. Lots of fun!!!

July 23, 2009

Counting down to the big fall tour!

england-trip-day-1-london-109I can’t believe we are just seven weeks out from the big historical costuming tour! My husband and I will be leading a group of 23 ladies through a one-week tour of London’s best spots for studying the fashions of history — including the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Museum of London, Kensington Palace, the Greenwich Fan Museum, and Shakespeare’s Globe. We’ve also left time in the schedule for visiting the National Portrait Gallery and other wonderful spots all around London Town. It’s going to be fantastic!

I’ll be “live blogging” during our tour, September 10-17, and then again during our weekend extension to Bath for the opening of the Jane Austen Festival. Stay tuned for lots of wonderful photos by our group photographer, Lindsay Keen of Deep South Images.

england-trip-day-1-london-098

March 9, 2009

Day Two: Bath!

Saturday started out overcast and gloomy — rather foreboding for a trip out west to Bath, which is typically colder than London this time of year. Bria, Benjamin, and I hopped the train from West Dulwich to Victoria and from there to Bath by way of Salisbury. We quickly found out we were in the wrong train car, as only the last three would be going all the way to Bath Spa Station! You really have to stay on your toes to successfully navigate the English transportation system. You can be on the right train in the wrong car and end up (for example) in Weymouth far to the South if you don’t watch out. With buses, you can be on the right number but on the wrong side of the road, going in the wrong direction. It’s dizzying at times to keep up. We moved back to car #7 with all the other folks en route to Bath. In the picture you see Bria showing Benjamin the view out the train window. As you can see, the sun did come out! The clouds burned off outside of London, so I had high hopes it would be more pleasant in Bath than in London. The ride from London to Salisbury isn’t exactly beautiful (you see a lot of building backs and grafitti), but the ride from Salisbury to Bath is really lovely. We were, unfortunately, too far away to see Salisbury Cathedral, but we could glimpse the steeple from our seats.

The beautiful hills and fields near Salisbury.

With all the stops, the journey out took 2.5 hours, but it seemed to go by very quickly. We arrived in Bath at 11:45, and I hailed a taxi to drive us up to the Jane Austen Centre for lunch in the tea room there. The sun was still out, but the wind had picked up, and it was very chilly. I didn’t want to attempt an uphill walk to Gay Street in the wind with the stroller, and taxis are much less expensive in Bath than in London, thankfully. We arrived at the Centre just before noon and went straight up to the charming tea room on the third floor. Bria ordered a Bath Special (including a sweet Sally Lunn bun), and I ordered the Lady’s Afternoon Tea, which featured cucumber and cheese sandwiches, a scone with clotted cream and strawberry preserves, and a pot of Darjeeling tea. It was all absolutely delicious, and the service was friendly. Below is a picture of our table with all the treats!


After this luncheon break, Bria and I browsed the Centre’s gift shop, which is (of course!) crammed to the ceiling with all things Jane Austen. We oohed and ahhhed and made some purchases for friends back home. The Centre actually carries my Regency patterns in its online store, so I introduced myself and told them I looked forward to being a part of the costumed promenade in the fall.

After putting Benjamin back into the stroller, we walked down the hill, around Queen Square, and up Crescent Gardens, which contains practically a whole row of B&Bs in Bath. I’d already made an appointment to meet with one of the staff at Brooks Guest House, which is where my group will be staying during the Bath Extension in September. The B&B easily deserves its four-star rating, having been recently refurbished from top to bottom. The rooms retain their traditional charm but include very modern amenities. I thoroughly enjoyed the tour I was given by Michael from reception, who was obviously a bit “house proud” about the place!

We headed back around the corner to Queen’s Square toward the city center. By now, the sun had disappeared behind the clouds, and the wind had picked up a bit, so it was chilly. Oh, well…. I had to stop to photograph this beautiful blue door. Those who know me know my passion for the blue front doors of England. And, yes, I know they have greens and reds and golds, too, but I just really am keen on the blue ones! By the time we got down to the Pump Room, there was a huge crowd there. Lots of market stalls were crammed into the walking areas, and street performers called out to people to stop and watch their antics. Right through the collonade into the Abbey yard stood a bronze statue of an elderly man in a trench coat. As Bria and I watched, he turned and reached out to someone passing by. A living statue! This was so much fun that I stopped and shot a video. If I ever figure out how to post it, I will, because he was so incredibly good at what he did. He stood stock still until someone dropped coins in his bucket, and then he’d beckon to the person, shake his hand, and slowly go back to his original position. Our host family later told me these actors cover themselves in a very thick latex kind of paint that becomes basically a full-body mask. They can’t wear it for long, as it blocks up the pores. Sounds like something very unpleasant to get out of, but it was so much fun to watch! The most fun, though, came when a teenaged girl walked up who didn’t know this was a man rather than a real statue. She walked right up to him, presumably looking for an identifying plaque or card, and he reached out to pull her hair. She shrieked and jumped a foot! Bria and I got a good laugh out of that, and I only wish I’d caught it on film!


We decided to tour the Abbey first, as I’d not been in last time I was in Bath. It was so cold outside that we were more than ready to get into the warmth, so we headed into the breathtaking cathedral. There must be more stained glass in Bath Abbey than I’ve seen in one place before. It is positively everywhere and amazing to look at — just the sheer scale of work is enormous.

Looking down from the back of the cathedral.

The enormous Abbey pipe organ.

The elaborate baptismal font.

Bria and I spent a lot of time looking in nooks and crannies, and I was very surprised to find a memorial marker for a Cromwellian soldier and his wife (in an Anglican church, of all places!) This gentleman commissioned the memorial for his beloved wife and had himself carved into it so that he is looking into her eyes, and she is gazing up into his. The detailing of the clothing is amazing (true of a lot of effigies). Check out the detailing of his armor below.

These two infants are on either side of the adult effigies, but the plaque doesn’t name them, so I’m not sure if they are meant to represent the couple’s children or are just decorative.After browsing through the Abbey shop, we crossed the churchyard to look into the National Trust store and pick up a few more gifts. Then we crossed over again to the Pump Room and Roman Baths for a tour. Very few people were there, so we had an easy time getting in. Turns out we hit the ticket line just right, as we saw the entire room jammed with tourists as we were leaving! The Roman Baths are interesting, though I confess it’s hard to get worked up about a pagan temple where people used to go throw curses into the water or leave gifts for the goddess in the hopes of receiving favors in return. ;-) The smell of sulfur is pretty strong, and the water is a very unpalatable brackish green. Bria bent down to test the temperature, surprised at how warm it really was.

Looking down into the main bath from above.

Actresses portraying Roman ladies visiting the baths.

I was surprised at just how exensive the baths were. There are over a dozen sub-rooms, making up a rather amazing complex of steam rooms with heated floors, dressing rooms, storage rooms, and more. There are several smaller pools, including a “cold plunge” pool. Much of the original temple to Minerva has been excavated, including floor mosaics and parts of the pediment from the front of the temple (with a gorgon’s head in the center). Many of the curses that people wrote on pewter and tossed into the water have been recovered and are on display. Some are fairly funny — like (roughly) “To the man who stole my second-best robe, may his hand wither and fall off.”

We worked our way through the displays and back up to the main entrance, where we retrieved the stroller. We walked through the beautiful Pump Room so Bria could see it. We paused by the fountain where tourists can “taste the waters,” but, after seeing where the water came from, Bria was not at all tempted to partake. ;-) I’d already had my taste in 2006, so I passed it by without a regret, either! Out in the hallway, we found some beautiful sculptures that I’d never noticed before. They were made of Carrera marble and depicted mothers with their children. I especially loved the one below of a mother praying with her child.

The amazing dome inside the entrance to the Roman Baths.

After leaving the Pump Room, I was determined to locate Bath Old Books. My husband remembered it being behind and to the left of the Abbey, but I remembered it being up near the Royal Crescent. So I compromised by starting out to the left of the cathedral and working my way up a side street full of shops. I popped into a charming children’s shop to pick up a few more gifts, then asked the proprietor if she knew where the old book store was. She told me it was further up and toward the Crescent. Ah ha! So we continued up the street until I saw a store with gorgeous scarves in the window and remembered my promise to pick up a scarf in Bath for my wonderful cover artist, Anna Lankford. After having my purchase wrapped, we kept going upward and onward through crushing crowds of shoppers. We ended up at the Circus, and continued toward the Royal Crescent. As we passed a side street, I spotted a familiar yellow storefront and surprised Bria by calling out, “That’s IT!” I knew the book store would be up at the end of the street on the corner if it was still in existence. Sure enough, we’d found it, about two blocks away from the Royal Crescent.

Peering through the shop window.

I let Bria take a look first, and then I followed. I had a delightful chat with the shop owner (the wife of a husband-wife team who says the shop is just what overflowed from their home, which is every bit as crammed with books as the shop!). I found two treasures to take home and asked the owner if she had heard about the new regulations in America that could outlaw used children’s books. She was appalled and said, “Do they think children eat books? Surely they have parents to prevent them doing that anyway!” I heartily agreed, and we talked about what a terrible loss it would be to ban children from reading antique books.

I finally tore myself away from the shop, and, since we were so close to the Royal Crescent, I encouraged Bria to take just a few more uphill steps so we could stop in at Number One Royal Crescent (the most famous house and the most prestigious in Bath). It was open to vis
itors, so we stepped in and gave ourselves a tour. The rooms are sumptuously decorated (particularly the drawing room). The ladies’ bedroom was fascinating with all its accessories, including a long head scratcher, as ladies often left their towering Georgian updos in place for a month at a time with no washing (ugh!).

By the time we left the house, it was getting darker and was even colder, so we headed back downhill toward the train station, which was about a mile and a quarter away. I’d thought we might grab another taxi, but I never saw one, so we just kept trudging, thankful it was all downhill.

It was a long, cold walk to the station, but we did make it and managed to be there with ten minutes to spare. We boarded our train and got back to Dulwich in time for a late supper. We then collapsed into bed, anticipating a wonderful day of rest on Sunday. Next time I’ll blog about our delightful Sabbath with our host family!

February 26, 2009

Going back to England!

For years I’ve had requests from my pattern customers to lead a historical costuming tour to England. As a busy homeschooling mom, I just didn’t see that on the near horizon. But last year, my husband brought it up and said there’d probably never be a better time to go — one silver lining in the black cloud of a failing economy is the falling of travel costs and a better exchange rate for the American dollar. We also now have lots of older children who help run the household and need little help with their schooling, so my husband urged me to consider going in the fall of 2009.

I started researching the options and was surprised to find what an amazing, cost-effective travel package I could work out. My husband enthusiastically cheered me on, urging me to post on my message forum to see if there was enough interest to get together a good-sized group. Lo and behold, three days after posting, I had a completely full tour list and a waiting list to boot!

So this fall, I’ll be leading a group of 24 enthusiastic participants for a week in London. Half the participants will be staying on for a three-day extension to Bath for the opening of the Jane Austen Festival. My oldest son will be accompanying me as my assistant (and a very excited first-time visitor to Great Britain!).

To help cement all the items on the itinerary and make sure everything runs smoothly, I’m popping across the pond on March 5th with my baby, Benjamin, and our sweet 15-year-old neighbor, who will serve as my helper. We’ll be in London four days to meet with curators, hotel managers, and such. On the Saturday, we’ll take the train over to Bath to meet with folks there. It will be a whirlwind journey there and back, but I’ll be posting pictures here as often as I have WiFi access so my fall tour participants can see what’s coming in five months’ time!

Stay tuned for lots of fun images!

September 19, 2006

A Morning in Bath and a Drive into the Peaks!

I realize I forgot to mention yesterday that Matt and I visited Sydney Gardens in Bath on Sunday evening while the babies were napping. We got there before the sun set and enjoyed walking its paths. This was Jane Austen’s favorite spot in Bath. Here is a picture from the main entrance:

I’ll post more pictures later, since I took lots!

Monday morning we had breakfast, then packed up the car and checked out of our hotel. We drove into the center of Bath and parked up near the Circus so we could walk to the things we wanted to see (the Jane Austen Centre on Gay Street, the Assembly Rooms, Museum of Costume, and the Royal Crescent). We took a tiny side street (closed to traffic) and realized we had stumbled upon the very shops mentioned to us by Naomi the day before–an antique book store, an antiques shop, and a “charity shop” (what we Americans call a “thrift store”). We eagerly perused the tiny corner bookshop, which was filled with treasures. Matt found a biography of G.A. Henty, who is a favorite writer in our household, and Melissa found some top-secret gifts for members of her family. I got a beautiful book on the places mentioned in Jane Austen’s novels, which is filled with color photos and lots of neat descriptions. There was also an original copy of the memoir of Jane written by her nephew, James Edward Austen-Leigh, but I put it back on the shelf with a sigh of regret. Just a bit too pricey for the pocket! Still, it was fun to hold it for a while!

We checked out the antiques store, which was just like Dickens’s Curiosity Shop in the flesh! It was one of those places where you can barely walk without tumbling over something or other. Shelves stuffed with china dogs, old hats, candlesticks, and toast racks ranged the walls. From an upper balcony hung old military uniforms. In the very back of the shop was a photo of the same building 40 years earlier, when it was what we’d call a Five and Dime–a store that carries a little of everything at low prices. The interior shelves were all original to the shop and still advertised confectionary, quality goods, and tea! A little further down the lane was this cute cafe:

We continued down hill over stone sidewalks until we reached the Jane Austen Centre. This is a wonderful place to visit if you are ever in Bath! The staff are all fellow Janeites and very knowledgeable about Jane’s life and times–particularly about her time in Bath. The exhibit is well put together and includes a short film on Jane in Bath with Amanda Root as narrator (she played Anne Elliot in “Persuasion”). There are some original garments on display as well as several reproductions (out where you can see everything up close and not through glass!). Photography is allowed, so we took lots and lots of pictures! The doll shown here is from the Dressing Elizabeth Bennet feature that demonstrates all the layers of a lady’s Regency attire. Everything on the doll is hand-stitched, and Melissa and I just about went cross-eyed over the tiny handiwork! After we get back, we will size down the rest of the photos and put them all up so you can see everything! The Centre also features a third-story tea room that serves Regency tea daily, but we didn’t have time for that, so we moved on to the Assembly Rooms and Museum of Costume (which is in the basement of the same building). On the way, we saw the Royal Crescent, which is every bit as stunning as you’d imagine. It has its own private lawn/park in front and glows golden in the sunlight.

If you really want to see what the Assembly Rooms look like, watch the film version of “Persuasion” with Ciaran Hinds and Amanda Root. The room where Anne and Wentworth talk about “that wretched day in Lyme” is in the center of all the Assembly Rooms–a kind of “spoke” to a wheel. It is beautifully painted and has a domed ceiling. From there, you can walk into the “Upper Rooms,” which include a ballroom, an octagon room, and a concert hall. The hall is what you see when Anne goes to hear the Italian songs and sits with Mr. Elliot. Amazingly, the ballroom suffered a direct bomb hit in WWII and was faithfully restored to its former glory. The poor, misguided souls of the late Victorian era had actually gone in and painted the plain walls with all kinds of curlicues and wild birds and such, feeling that the room was too plain. The photograph of the “improvements” is something to see. Melissa and I agreed it was good that a later generation took everything back down to the basics and restored the beautiful simplicity of the original design! It’s a shame we weren’t allowed to take photographs, because the chandeliers alone were worth it!

The basement of the Assembly Rooms houses the Museum of Costume, which owns over 30,000 original garments. Only the merest fraction of those are on display at any given time, but we thoroughly enjoyed what we saw! here are some of my favorite Regency Era gowns:

When we get home, we’ll scale the rest of the pictures down a bit put them up so you can enjoy them all. The lighting was pretty low, so we used flash on some pictures (there is a bit of a glare at times as a result, but never directly on the garment itself). I wish we could have taken detailed closeups of the incredible lace and handwork displayed in one wall cabinet. It was breathtaking. (Matt, by the way, sat this one out so he could get us some lunch. I can hear him now, “No lace, Mrs. Bennet! No lace!“)

In one part of the museum we came upon some ladies working on mounting pockets for a future exhibit. These were beautiful pockets from the 18th century, and the curator had come up with a fantastic way to show how they worked. She dressed a mannequin in a reproduction shift, corset, and quilted petticoat, then created a see-through skirt out of–get this–steel! The skirt actually looked like organza, but it was woven entirely of thin steel “thread.” It was fireproof and touchproof and gave a bird’s eye view of the pockets tied around the waist of the mannequin. It’s always fun to see how curators come up w
ith display ideas!

After taking lots and lots of pictures, we finally went upstairs to drool all over the two gift shops, which are stuffed with fashion history books, paper dolls, Jane Austen ephemera, postcards, and more. I got a few postcards to keep and some to send home. Here is a picture of Matt after he dropped some postcards into the mail for home. We’ll probably beat them there, but it was still fun to post in that red box!

I have to stop and comment here that I think you come into Bath like Catherine Moreland and leave like Anne Elliot. As Catherine, you marvel at the incredible architecture and walk around like someone in a dream. Rounding each corner brings a new delight, and you wonder what you’ll see next. But after a day and a half in the town, you realize you’ve seen it all–and that’s all there is. It’s a fun place to visit, and the surrounding villages would make a charming place to live, but Bath itself is more a place to come and shop. That’s exactly how Jane Austen felt about it–that it was all one “white glare…cast from a mould.” In her day, she said it was full of “single persons, mostly superannuated females!” It was a place to go and be seen, but most of the activities became wearing after a while. She much preferred the country. We adored Bath and would gladly go there again, but we were glad to press on to the north country and enjoy its beauties!

So, stowed back in the car with our “take-away” lunch, we hit the road for Derbyshire. We’d instructed the GPS to take us by the scenic route rather than primarily by the M roads. Driving through Gloucestershire and Warwickshire was a treat–mile upon mile of wonderful scenery and beautiful villages. Here’s my “bird’s eye view” from the back seat, where I was blogging about Sunday as we drove yesterday:

And here are my happy companions on either side!

As we approached Warwick, I asked Matt if we had time to stop by Warwick Castle, which I visited when I was 16. It was right in our way, so we hopped out for a detour. The earliest section of the castle dates to William the Conqueror, while the later sections were begun in the 1100s and continued up through Elizabethan times. During the English Civil War, the inhabitants of the castle sided with Oliver Cromwell and avoided the fate of nearby Kenilworth Castle, which was sacked and burned. There is a Kenilworth bedroom in Warwick castle that contains paneling stripped from Kenilworth when that castle was sacked. Later, Queen Victoria had a matching wardrobe made to go with the paneling and presented it to the Duke as a gift. The original paneling contains the name of Robert Dudley, who was friend to Queen Elizabeth I (they were prisoners in the Tower at the same time). Speaking of whom, one of QEI’s saddles rests in a case in the Great Hall of the castle! Melissa photographed it. (We’ll upload all the Warwick pictures when we have a good connection at home to handle all the files.) The Great Hall currently houses (in addition to its regular armor and such) a collection of costumes worn in plays by the Royal Shakespeare Company. The display started two days before our arrival, and we were tickled to get to see this little “bonus.” Melissa and I walked through the “1898 Victorian House Party,” which is a huge collection of wax figures in period dress throughout the main rooms of the castle. Included among the figures are a young Winston Churchill and Prince Edward IV (for whom the “Edwardian Era” was named). I saw this same exhibit when I was 16, and it hasn’t changed a bit. I guess they must regularly clean the costumes and dust the figures!

I know my boys will love to see pictures of some armor and the huge trebuchet (catapult) next to the castle, so here are some of my favorite shots!

Because we arrived at the castle an hour before closing time, we got discounted tickets–and we still had plenty of time to look around. If you ever plan to visit, consider going late to get the discount! You will have plenty of time to poke around and see all the wonderful sights. We saw a tournament ground on one side that is used for reenactments. It’s a shame they weren’t putting one on while we were there.

We still had about two hours to go before we’d reach Bakewell, so we skipped supper and pushed on toward Derbyshire. The GPS guided us through several tiny villages with narrow streets as darkness fell, but when it announced, “You have reached your destination,” we were in the center of a hamlet almost entirely dark except for the lights at a nearby pub! We looked at each other in bewilderment, and Matt drove carefully along, looking for the sign of the Rutland Arms Hotel. No such animal. He turned around and drove back to the Bull’s Head public house to ask for directions. The keeper there said, “Oh, you mean the “ROOTlund Arms?” (The northern English accent is decidely different from the southern accent. “Me” is pronounced “meh,” and “you” is pronounced “yeh.” They also use a short “a” like we do–saying “Bath” instead of “Bahth.” “House” sounds more like “hoos,” and some vowels are almost dropped entirely. It is so much fun to hear the almost Scottish or Welsh tones and pronunciations. It’s a lovely accent.) Well, Matt pointed the car in the direction indicated, and we went three and a half miles as instructed. Ah-ha! Now we were in Bakewell. But where was the Rutland Arms? Not a thing remotely resembling it to be seen…. Matt remarked, “A neon sign would be nice!” (understand, there are almost NO neon signs in the English countryside!). We decided to see if the GPS could now find the Rutland Arms, and it did, but it said it was another three miles distant. We pressed on and ended up in another village entirely, but there was the Rutland Arms! Matt pulled into the car park and went in, just to make sure. A bemused innkeeper told us there are two identically named hotels within four miles of each other and that the one we wanted was back in Bakewell! The GPS still didn’t show it, so we just drove back and went slowly into the town center. There, in blazing neon glory, was a sign: Rutland Arms Hotel”–hanging just below the roofline of a tall building right in front of the town’s main roundabout! We all had a good laugh over that one. We couldn’t see it coming in from the other side of town, but it sure was obvious now!

By now, it was 9:05, and the hotel’s restaurant had already closed
. We’ve discovered that just about everything in the country closes around 9pm save the pubs, which are usually open until 11 (but not serving food). After inquiring at a couple of places, we found there was an authentic Indian restaurant that served until 9:30. So out in the heart of Derbyshire, we ate curried chicken and lamb massala over warm garlic pitas! It was quite delicious, and our host (a native Indian) was warm and friendly. He loved the twins, as his own wife is expecting their first child. There has been a fun and unexpected surprise on just about every stage of this journey. We feel so blessed!

I formatted pictures and updated the blog before going to bed, and tomorrow I’ll tell you about what we did today–driving around the peak district, eating a real Bakewell pudding, and visiting Chatsworth in period dress, where we saw Mr. Darcy and gave him all your best regards. ;-) Here’s a teaser picture to keep you in suspense:


What on earth are those gals up to now?
Playing in Mr. Darcy’s waterfall cascade? The temerity!

Good night, all!

September 17, 2006

"I am for Bath!"

We had an absolutely wonderful day yesterday, wending our way to Chawton and Winchester and finally arriving in Bath around 8pm. We went out for a late supper around 9:30, leaving me no time to edit pictures or blog before bed. But I promise a nice, long, juicy post later this evening! Today we are going to church in Bradford on Avon, about six miles from here. Sarah (from London) has cousins in Bradford who attend an evangelical church there (for those a bit in the dark about such terms, this basically means non-Anglican — they would have been “dissenters” back in the day and most closely resemble our Reformed Baptists in the US). We look forward to worshiping and fellowshiping!

But just to give you a little taste, here are some pictures from yesterday’s adventures:


Shopping for English muslin at MacCulloch & Wallis.
What? You don’t shop for fabric in full Regency dress? Why ever not?

Oh, by the by, all of these pictures are clickable. I apologize for the non-clickable pictures in Friday’s post, but Blogspot was giving me fits and not allowing photos in my post, so I had to squish them all and upload them to my site to get them to work. When I have time, I’ll go back and add the larger versions, making them clickable. Oh, and, um… Melissa and I didn’t set out to dress alike again. That was a total fluke. We got asked all day if we were twins. I am completely flattered…!


Here I am with Melissa in front of Miss Austen’s house in Chawton. I can’t wait to tell you about our visit! It was quite wonderful, and Miss Melissa had an especially exciting time! (Sorry, you’ll just have to suffer until I can explain. ;-)


This is the side entrance to Jane’s house. Isn’t it a picture? The roses had that true, rich, rosy smell our American hybrids lack. The whole garden is gorgeous.


Here I am with my Mr. Knightley (and Bingley and Darcy and Wentworth all rolled into one!). We stand beside the front door, next to the bricked-in window.


Melissa took this shot of Bath’s cathedral last night on our way to supper. Slightly blurry–sorry, we were hurrying along!

Well, I must prepare to leave for church. I hope to be back at the keyboard later tonight with lots of stories to share! Right now, the sun is streaming down in golden glory and the birds are singing their hearts out in the garden outside the window as we sit atop a hill overlooking Bath from Leighton House. Someone pinch me!

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