I’m not a bona fide die hard Jane Austen fan. I haven’t even read one of her books straight through. Probably like many people, my love for Jane stems from repeated viewings of many film adaptations, the most recent of which is Joe Wright’s Pride & Prejudice. Still, I was really hoping to visit Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton, where she spent a lot of time and wrote most of her books. On this trip, I made do with Jane Austen Centre, located a few blocks down Gay Street from the Circus.
The museum is housed in a Georgian town house just up the street from one that Jane lived in during her time in Bath. There is a very good gift shop on the first floor, and I got so caught up in shopping (unusual for me–I hate shopping) that I missed the beginning of the tour. I got a bit obsessed with the “Keep Calm and Read Jane Austen” tea towels, tote bags and magnets. There were also maps, books, soaps, and other trinkets begging for examination. Eventually, I realized it was past the tour time and rushed upstairs to join the 10 or so other visitors in a windowed room overlooking Gay Street.
A woman dressed in Regency clothing told us about Jane and her life. We learned about her everyday life, her family, and how they influenced her writing. The talk was unrushed and pleasant in a large room full of sunlight.
Next, we toured the museum which focuses on Jane’s time in Bath. They have a copy of Emma opened to show her dedication to the Prince Regent. The museum displays are full of tidbits about Jane and her time period. One informative map shows the many locations she lived while in Bath. For those who wish, there’s the opportunity to play dress up in Regency clothing.
After enjoying one of the biscuits offered toward the end of the exhibits, I got to try out a quill pen similar to what Jane used to write. I will never again complain about ball point pens, and instead thank my lucky stars every day for my computer and Scrivener.
Back near the train station and the Roman Baths is the famous Pump Room. They do a nice tea, and I’m always up for tea.
It really is one big room, with a row of windows that look down on the Roman Baths. There is a fountain of the previously-mentioned foul tasting spring water, too, that visitors are welcome to try. This time, I passed.
But back to tea, and why it’s so awesome. I love tea, and the idea of a meal based on having tea is absolutely brilliant! Before this trip, I was under the mistaken impression that I hated clotted cream. I thought this because, apparently, all the clotted cream in the US is spoiled. Or just completely wrong. I’m not sure. But my assumption was soon corrected the first time I had tea in the UK. It looks like butter, yellow and thick. It tastes like butter, but also like cream. Like the best mix of butter and cream you can imagine. Slathered on scones, it’s absolutely perfect. I could not get enough of it the whole two weeks I was in the UK. Seriously. Like, I started planning in the tea times.
Bath Abbey is next door to the Roman Baths. The present structure dates back to 1499, when Bishop Oliver King demolished Norman cathedral ruins and built the Abbey. It’s a beautiful Gothic building that still holds services today.
Now I’m all nostalgic about tea. A cup of tea is never a bad idea…