Bath. What a marvelous place. It was in Bath where I enjoyed so much Regency-era architecture (read about that HERE), the place where I had the first solid meal since our departure three days prior, the place where I sat in rooms where Jane Austen sat (and did other things, I assume) and it's where I met for the first time in person the lovely, marvelous and talented Sophie Andrews of Laughing with Lizzie , the newest ambassador to the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation. That's her in the blonde wig--so cute!--next to my daughter--also so cute!--after the photo shoot. But more on that later.
First, after the coach tour of Bath, was our arrival at the MacDonald Bath Spa and Inn. I can't say enough good things about this hotel, which was our favorite during our stay in England. It was classy without being stuffy, polished without being cold or intimidating and downright gorgeous at every turn. I suppose that is what makes it a five star hotel.
The silver-toned plaque on the column in the photo above reads: The MacDonald Bath Spa Hotel Re-opened by HRH The Princess Royal the 15th of February 2007. I confess I had to ask which princess and was told that it was Camilla. I believe she is referred to as a princess by the Scots--but not in England (hence my confusion--she has since been given a new title: Dame Grand Cross). As this hotel is one of a series with the name MacDonald, I think it safe to assume it is a Scottish chain. At any rate, the employee (who was the closest thing to a real footman I am likely ever to see) who answered my question seemed vastly pleased by the honor.
Many of the walls on the ground floor (not to be confused with the first floor which, in the U.K., is equivalent to our 2nd floor here in the U.S.) were covered with this lovely bookcase trompe-l'oeil (to fool the eye) wallpaper. And, of course, the gorgeous doric columns. I quite love my little cottage but one of my biggest regrets is that it just can't "do" columns.
This scene was viewed through the French doors just off of the award-winning restaurant. We only ate breakfast there but it was pretty award-winning, I must say.
One of the things that impressed me most about this hotel was how they took everything in stride without batting an eye. Shortly after settling in, I met Chris of Farthingale Costumes in the lobby/foyer (not sure what the Brits call it) to receive the hand delivered regency-style costumes for my daughter to choose from for our photo shoot. I was very impressed with his service. When we were done, we left them with the capable folks at the front desk and they took care of them until Chris came back to pick them up the next day. Such wonderful service from both establishments! (I love the English.)
However, the best part of this day, with all of its wonders, and one of the highlights of this entire 18 day trip, was getting to meet, for the first time in the flesh, my darling friend Sophie Andrews and her mother. They came to the hotel to pick us up and take us to #4 Sydney Place, the Georgian townhouse Jane Austen lived in with her family for about four years.
Sophie walked in wearing her so-cute book fabric dress which is very fitting for a young lady who adores books as much as she does. Her blog and companion FB page (go there now to read about her evening chatting with Susannah Harker, who played Jane Bennett in the Colin Firth version of P&P, after her most recent play) are chock full of Jane Austen (and the works of) memes, tid-bits and chatter as well as photos of Sophie as she visits Jane Austen-associated locations (such as Chawton, another Jane Austen home and the stately homes where the film versions of Jane Austen books are filmed) and her experiences at the Jane Austen Festival and with the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation. I have known Sophie online for over three years and watched in amazement as this still-teenager turned her passion for Jane Austen into a compelling blog and witty FB page (with more than ten times the followers than mine) with little more than a laptop and her own intelligence. In person, she is even lovelier and more of everything than I had imagined. It will come as no surprise that I felt that she was the perfect person to put on the cover of one of my upcoming (i.e. yet to be written) regency romances.
But first, she showed us around #4 Sydney Place which is available for rent by (entire!) floor via Bath Boutique Stays.
This is the entryway to the house. The quote on the wall is Darcy's famous declaration of love to Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice. Underneath it is a bowl of delicious, pear-flavored sweeties (hard candy) sitting on top of a bookcase containing Jane Austen's novels (naturally) as well as the works of contemporary regency-era authors such as Shirley Marks, (a personal friend of mine), Jane Odiwe and Cassandra Grafton, (both friends of Sophie), all of whom have stayed here.
I can't remember, now, if Sophie said that this fireplace is original or not but the walls are--for sure! (Ha!)
This is one view of the garden, a place where Jane was sure to sit and visit with whomsoever passed by.
Another view of the garden. It isn't terribly large but back gardens (or front ones, for that matter) are not common in English cities.
Looking out through a window at trees that *could* have been there way back when . . .
Here is yet another example (I feel like I bring this up all of the time) of panelled shutters, something for which I greatly long. Pretty sure Jane touched these (unless they have been replaced since--the bricks outside the window look fairly original, though).
And here I am signing my books at a table (not original) in the house that Jane lived (in). My daughter said something funny and I was nearly hysterical with jet lag and lack of nutritious food. Meanwhile, this photo is not as impressive as it looks. Yes, I am signing books, and I wrote all of them, but they all belong to Sophie. She was one of my biggest fans--and now I am one of hers. Somewhere during this time period, Sophie and her mother fed us which was much appreciated. I think it was probably around 5 or 6 in the evening but we needed to get out and take photos before it started to rain, so our little "tea" was very timely. Then it was time to get the girls costumed up.
I couldn't resist taking this photo of this gown that my daughter is wearing--it shows how many clothes were fastened in those days. Buttons had been invented by the regency/Jane Austen era but they were quite expensive and were bulky, too, since they didn't have the means to make them small as ours are now. Once Mary had donned the green velvet spencer with the military frogs (love it!) and Sophie and donned her iconic bright blue gown and spencer, we were ready to head out to the park right across the street.
Sophie was an excellent model. My daughter doesn't relish being on a book cover in any recognizable way so she was mostly humoring me. She did an excellent job of that, too.
I love this photo and would use it on a book cover in a heartbeat but there's that picky daughter of mine. I have chosen photos that mostly reflect the fun we had since I am saving the best photos for-- what else?-- book covers.
Here they are being a little sassy. (Please note the date on this bridge--what could be more perfect?)
Isn't England a gorgeous place?
Since the book for which I began this whole book cover quest features a blonde heroine, Sophie bought a wig for this shoot. I think she looks adorable in it!
Naturally, I could not be amongst all of this green and gray without taking photos of the scenery.
And here we are, back at the folly where we started. (Love the graffiti on the far right.) (Not really.)
We had a great time and I loved every minute of it. By this time we had been in England for 2.5 days and I had taken more than one third of the total number of photos I took during the 18 day stay.
After changing again, the four of us had dinner at the Pulteney Arms, a charming pub around the corner from #4 Sydney Place. It was the first real meal I had eaten since arriving and it was very good! Best of all was the good company of Sophie and her mother--it was a lovely, lovely evening!
The next morning we toured the grounds of the hotel a bit. It's truly a beautiful place!
This stone structure is what is known as a garden folly. These were popular as they implied that the property had been around for a long time. It was preferrable for society to believe that one had owned a piece of land for hundreds of years. This all changed during the industrial revolution when the common man could become rich through his own industry. Suddenly everyone wanted everything to be new so as to prove that they possessed enough money to purchase or build from scratch. This is why Victorian era silverplate sets have a piece for everything, from the olive spork to the fish fork--their grandparents did not have such things so their silver was not inherited. (Quelle horreur!)
Next, a somewhat blurry drive-by of Highgrove, the country home of Prince Charles, as well as picture perfect photos of Anne Hathaways's cottage, and Stratford-Upon-Avon, birthplace of William Shakespeare, a town that has greatly changed since I was there 17 years ago. (I hardly recognized it!)
This entry was posted on Friday, October 16, 2015 at Friday, October 16, 2015 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .