I have been something of a fan of Jane Austen since I was 11 years old. My favourite book is actually Persuasion, rather than Pride and Prejudice. Of course I cannot share Anne Elliot's distaste for Bath, and it used to be that I would picture Anne and Captain Wentworth as I passed the Assembly Rooms or the Pump Room, but I guess familiarity really does breed contempt. Well, not exactly contempt, but a certain tendency to take it for granted. This weekend my three favourite Swedish friends (referred to by Mark as 'the Swedish ladies') came to visit and re-opened my eyes to my adopted Georgian home town.
I live in Bath only because it is where Mark lives - he was born and bred in Bath and would be loathed to live anywhere else, whereas I have moved around so much, I am not tethered to a place. The Jane Austen link is merely a fortuitous bonus. I also am fortunate to have been given my godmother's tiny holiday flat in Dorset and when Irene last visited, we spent most of her visit there. It is just a short drive to Lyme Regis and we relived Anne and company's visit in Persuasion, walking along the Cobb, too scared to jump from the worn stone steps without a Captain Wentworth to catch us (not that that did Louisa any good!). So this visit it was Bath's turn for us to get all Austen-y. Seeing Irene's eyes light up as she spotted the colonnade between the Pump Room and Union Street where Amanda Root met Ciaran Hinds in my favourite adaptation of Persuasion re-charged my enthusiasm.
To save Mark from death by chatter, we decided to all stay somewhere other than my house. While looking for a reasonably priced B&B or apartment we stumbled upon Bath's bed and breakfast on a boat, which was both reasonably priced for the four of us and quite an adventure.
|bed and breakfast on a boat: grand cru|
On Friday Mark and I picked up the keys to the boat and were instructed on the important details and then went to pick up the Scandinavian crew from Bristol airport. It was very late when we got back to Bathwick and clambered aboard by torch light (electric/iPhone torches not the viking flaming variety!). When we arrived the boat was cosy, with a wood burner and central heating (although we didn't manage to keep the fire alight again during our stay and I slept Sunday night wearing two jumpers and a pair of slippers!).
|princess and the pea bed steps|
|artefacts at Bath Roman Baths|
I have been to the Roman Baths a number of times, but I always see something new - and with visitors, you get a different perspective.
|Vikings visit the Roman Baths|
|Bath Roman Baths|
After the Roman Baths, we had a bit of a wander and popped in to the Bath Tea House Emporium (as I have been raving about it for years) for a white peony tea and a yellow tea, accompanied by cake (jasmine tea and orange loaf, lemon drizzle and chocolate honey cake). Only Anna-Karin resisted sweet temptation - although that didn't last long. One of my favourite moments of the weekend was the expression on Anna-Karin's face when she found out there was a shop in Bath that sells nothing but the fudge they make on the premises!
|Anna-Karin raids the Fudge Kitchen|
Being something of a wimp, I decided that I needed to sit down for a bit and popped back to the boat. No sooner was my back turned than my friends scurried off to a traditional English pub! We met up again a little later and headed up through the city to the Royal Crescent Hotel for afternoon tea. I am a big fan of a traditional afternoon tea and had heard that the Royal Crescent Hotel's is one of the best. When I booked I asked if we could take tea in one of the lounges rather than the dining area and when we walked in, we were shown to a lovely lounge tastefully decorated, with portraits on the walls and a bevy of vases of cut flowers, overlooking Victoria Park with the city of Bath spread out before us. It was beautiful! We had been reserved a large sofa and two winged armchairs by an open fire with a low coffee table set for afternoon tea.
|Royal Crescent Hotel|
We returned to the boat glowing with happiness, full and contented. Somehow when we had settled down in the temporary warmth of the fire-lighters and kindling (the logs were far too damp to catch) with a glass or two of prosecco, we still managed to put away most of the delicious cheese I bought from 'the fine cheese shop' on Walcott Street (another place where the helpful and friendly staff are as much of a draw as the gorgeous cheeses).
|home sweet home|
It has been a wonderful weekend, and I will have a load of happy memories...the 'blooming tree', the know it all Bath redhead pointing out our moorings on the map beside the canal until clever viking number 2 asked, "So we are not where it says 'you are here'?", the fudge obsession, the clotted cream appreciation society, the strange noise from the boat in the middle of the night and the kindly vikings who put in ear-plugs rather than disturb me at the other end of the boat, the vertically challenged viking unable to reach the switch on the ceiling lights...oh and so many more!
Finally, just one note to any would-be Mr Darcy types...whilst admiring Lizzie Bennett's fine eyes is a good thing, exclaiming about the beauty of Anna-Karin's eyes in the same breath as asking your girlfriend if her particularly bad batch of spots is due to the medication she had to take for her asthma a few weeks back, is not the way to get your favourite dinner cooked for you! However, I do have to point out that said would-be Mr Darcy can be quite gallant when he chooses, and responding to being told of the shop assistant who thought Irene was Anna-Karin's mother with declaring it is only because Anna-Karin does not look like she could possibly be more than 30 and that Irene does not look old enough to have the children she actually has was...well...kinda nice.
Right then, I'm off to buy acne cream...