“If adventures do not befall a young lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad.” — Jane Austen
This morning we took a train from Paddington Station and travelled west to Bath.
Bath is a pretty little city southwest of London, with about half the population of our hometown Naperville. While Naperville brags about its 1831 settlement by Joe Naper, Bath is a bit older. About 2000 years ago, the Romans came here to take baths in the mineral hot springs. Centuries later, King Henry VIII’s Queen Mary came here in hopes that the baths would cure her infertility. Success! A baby boy was born ten months later, giving some big-time cred to the powers of the baths. During the Georgian era Bath was considered the place to see and be seen in England. The hoi-poloi flocked here for the dazzling social life. Then, Jane Austen lived here for a bit and featured the Royal Crescent in some of her novels. So, yeah, Bath has a bit more history than our city on the DuPage.
We visited the baths first. No one dips their toes in the scuzzy-looking waters these days, but the tour displayed all of the archeological finds from so long ago.
Compared to the baths, the Abbey is almost new, only about 500 years old. What made this church so special were the memorials for the deceased that lined the walls. Today we read the obits in the Trib to learn about the dearly departed, but a couple of centuries ago, people were memorialized on the in the stone walls of the Abbey. Like Charles Symmons: “He was gentle in manners, high minded and disinterested, fond of retirement and literary pursuits…” And Mary Stratton: “Her benevolent disposition and amiable manners endeared her throughout a long life…” We read one after the other, so many poignant descriptions of folks who walked the streets of Bath so long ago.
A must-see in Bath is the Royal Crescent, a beautiful curved street of town homes where I imagine the genteel ladies in gauzy frocks and gentlemen in splendid waistcoats sipping tea in stuffy little parlors behind closed doors. Nearby, in a pretty little band shell, the Bath band was playing tunes to Bathonians(?) sprawled on the lawn, kind of like a Thursday night concert in our Central Park back home.
Back down the hill, we walked through the blocks of stately Neoclassical buildings that make up the pedestrian shopping district. Lush flower baskets hung from lampposts over the bustle of tourists that browsed through Bath tee shirt shops, upscale British clothing and home decor places and the ubiquitous Gap, Urban Outfitters, Starbucks, and yes, a Mickey D’s where I could get my Diet Coke.
The perfect blend of old and new.