Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Visit to Jane Austen Centre in Bath

Paul and Bath Guide
I arrived at the Jane Austen Centre in Bath on a day where it was umbrella up and umbrella down, umbrella up and umbrella down, etc. It was getting late in the day, and the tours had just ended. This is pretty much how my husband and I travel. We have not toured some of the best known tourist sites in the world. An example: When we were in Paris in 1985, it was Memorial Day weekend, just as in the States. We did not know that everything shuts down in France for the holiday, including the Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, etc. It was suggested by a French woman that we visit the Arch de Triomphe where the U.S. Air Force band would be playing. Ah, the irony! (We did visit these sites on our most recent trip. We only had to wait 27 years!)

But back to the Centre. With their doors closing, I only had time to thank the greeter at the door, a handsome man dressed from top hat to Hessian boots, who is possibly the most photographed man in England. We picked up a map of locations of Bath’s great sites and the houses in which Austen had lived (one of them right down the street as it turns out). In looking around the gift shop, we noticed that the Centre was not averse to promoting the film and television adaptations of Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, etc. Colin Firth was everywhere, including his portrait as Mr. Darcy.

Stop #6 on the tour was Trim Street. According to the Centre, Trim Street was “the final lodgings of the Austens. This was at the very bottom of the social scale. It was populated by prostitutes, pimps, beggars, and thieves. Definitely not the place for three genteel ladies to live."  Is it any wonder that Jane was eager to leave Bath?

We climbed up a steep street to the Circus where we ran into a guide, also dressed in Regency attire. In a booming voice, he told us the history of the circus, including the fact that the houses are now inhabited by Johnny Depp and Nicolas Cage. The HOA contacted both to kick off their Christmas festival by dropping a note in their letter boxes, and Nick and Johnny agreed. Nick turned on the lights, and Johnny had a small part, but for the life of me, I can't remember what it was. In any event, they were good sports.

My friend, Tony Grant, from London Calling, provides tours out of London of Bath. You can't match his enthusiasm for all things Jane Austen, and you will need to step lively or you'll be eating his dust! Tony took my husband, daughter, and me on a tour of London as seen through the eyes of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. It was fantastic!


  1. Sounds like a fun visit--I still haven't visited Bath myself, though it's high on the list.

    >a handsome man dressed from top hat to Hessian boots, who is possibly the most photographed man in England.

    You could be right!

  2. Hi Jane. I wish I had more time for Bath. We did it justice in 1982, our first visit. And it's quite different now. Like here in the US, every town has the same stores, e.g., Banana Republic. Of course, there's a McDonald's as well. Even so, it's a truly beautiful city. I hope you get there soon. Mary