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Jane Austen Country

Jane Austen Country

I ventured out of London today for a day trip to Bath, famous for Jane Austen and for its 2,000 year-old Roman baths.  I went with London Walks, which is well-known for its wide range of London walking tours, including its popular Jack the Ripper walk.  Many people don’t realize that it also organizes occasional day trips to nearby cities such as Brighton, Canterbury, and Oxford.  I was amazed at how easy it was.  I didn’t even have to book in advance.  All I had to do was show up at Paddington Station in the morning, pay the guide’s fee and the tariff, which covered the train fare and admission charges, and off we went for the 90-minute train ride to Bath.

We started our day with a two-hour walking tour of the lower town.  We saw the Guildhall, Pultney Bridge, Beau Nash’s house, and the buildings that house the Roman Baths and the ruins of the Temple Minerva.  If you feel tempted to try the waters yourself, you can test them out at Thermae.  This luxurious spa offers visitors a modern version of the Roman and Regency baths experience.  There was a long line of people waiting to pay £35 (a little over $50) for a 2-hour session in water from the town’s naturally warm, mineral-rich springs.  Guests can choose between an indoor pool or an open-air rooftop pool with magnificent views over the city.

We had an hour on our own after our morning walk.  I grabbed a quick snack before visiting some of the shops in the lower town.  Later I realized that I should have stopped for a sit-down lunch.  My feet really regretted that extra hour of walking by the end of the day!

Our afternoon started with a tour of Bath Abbey.  There’s been a church on this site for more than 1,200 years.  Edgar, the first king of a unified England, was crowned in the original Norman church in 973.  The present church was built in 1499, but sadly, it was largely destroyed during the Reformation 40 years later.  It was later repaired with support from Queen Elizabeth I.  Additional restoration work was undertaken during the Victorian period, and again after it was bombed in World War II, so visitors can appreciate its full beauty.  Queen Elizabeth II visited the Abbey in 1973 to mark the 1,000th anniversary of King Edgar’s coronation.  Her visit is commemorated by a memorial plaque on the floor of the chancel.

After our visit to the Abbey we had a steep, 15-minute climb to the streets of upper Bath, the epicenter for Jane Austen mania.  There we saw the Assembly Rooms, the Circus, and the Royal Crescent.  The Assembly Rooms were the most fashionable place to see and be seen in Jane Austen’s time.  The Circus and Royal Crescent are beautiful examples of Georgian architecture, although the photos I took don’t do them justice.

We had another hour on our own at the end of the day.  Many members of our group toured the Roman Baths, but my feet were rebelling after five hours of walking.  Instead of the Baths, I opted for – you guessed it – tea!  There are lots of tea shops in Bath.  The most famous is Sally Lunn’s, but it had quite a line.  I opted for the charming Georgian Tea Room, where I had a tea worthy of Jane Austen.

After tea I was ready for the walk back to Bath Station for the train to London.  We arrived back at Paddington Station around 7 pm.  In case you were wondering, there’s a lovely Paddington Bear shop in the station where you can stock up on a wide range merchandise featuring the cuddly bear.  I’m glad I opted to take an organized tour for my first journey outside of London.  I definitely saw a lot more of the city and learned a lot more about its history than I would have on my own.  As an added bonus, I didn’t have to worry about finding the right trains by myself!

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