England 2014 (1) – Seeking Jane in Bath

Although Jane Austen, aka England’s Jane, lived only to 41, she is immortal to me in many ways. She lives on through her gift to the world, a treasure trove of novels, which two hundred years later are still admired and enjoyed by millions all over the world. I’ve read all six of her novels, Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey; some of them more than once. I’ve seen many adaptations based on her novels; those by BBC are among my favorite. These adaptations bring her stories and characters vividly to life and further pique my interest and curiosity. As I learn more about her, my interest in her works also grow. I love her stories and characters; I admire her for her keen observation of life around her, her sense of humor, her language, and even more, of her great imagination; and greatly I respect her for her talent, wit and ideals. For each novel, I have a favorite adaptation and I go back to them now and then for Jane and her novels are not only my escape and guilty pleasure but also part of my spiritual pillar.

Since I learnt about Bath’s Jane Austen Festival, I had wanted to see it up close, and this year I finally made it there for its opening weekend. This was not my first time in Bath. I was in Bath ten years ago on a bus tour from London; we had only few hours there, and I was not at the time aware of the Jane Austen Festival, but Bath did leave a favorable impression. This time Bath got a more proper visit that it deserves, we stayed three days and nights.

Bath is pleasant with elegant architecture all around. The tourist attraction it is, and being there on the weekend and during the festival too, it was busy but not crazy and it quieted down quickly and comfortably early in the evenings. Bath’s best feature is its town center, situated just north at the bend of River Avon; it is gorgeous with the magnificent Bath Abbey, Roman Bath, Pump Room, Pulteney Bridge, all covered in warm and pleasing golden hued stone, and the pretty Parade Garden by the river to boot. The view from tower of Bath Abbey is worth the climb. Royal Crescent is another architectural highlight in Bath not to be missed.

Dining experience there was delightful as well. From lunch at Blue Quails Deli, a small place that serves only breakfast and lunch, to dinner at the famous, historic Sally Lunn’s House, to the modern and exotic Turtle Bay, to the very dear and special Jane Austen Tea at the Pomp Room, to the daily full English breakfast served at the Kennard, the guest house where we stayed, I give dinning in Bath the best of this trip for its variety, quality and value.

River Avon from Pulteney Bridge

River Avon from Pulteney Bridge


Pulteney Bridge

Pulteney Bridge


Roman Bath

Roman Bath


Bath Abbey

Bath Abbey


Royal Crescent

Royal Crescent

Jane Austen Festival 2014 in Bath opened Friday September 12th and continued on till Sunday the 21st. It featured a grand opening on Sat the 13th with the Promenade, where participants donning strictly Regency attires paraded through Bath from the Assembly Room to the Parade Garden, a great Masked Ball on Friday the 19th, and a long and impressive list of events in between. You can still see it on janeaustenfestivalbath.co.uk. As it is the way, festival participants not only dress up for the Promenade, many of them stroll through town in their costumes throughout the length of the festival.

Based on timing and interest, I pre-booked and planned for these events, Pre-Festival Get Together, the Promenade, albeit only as a supporter watching and following and not a participant this time, Exsultate, Jubilate, a concert by Bath Symphony at Bath Abbey.

Pre-Festival Get Together the night before the Promenade was a perfect warm up, especially if you are there for the first time, and although its turnout was much smaller in comparison to the size of the Promenade, it was nonetheless a good opportunity to meet some like-minded fans. I met fans from Australia, Germany, Holland, Canada, USA and certainly those from England as well. One of such is from my own town. When Valerie told me where she was from, I involuntarily slipped out an excited cry, which quickly trailed off.

The grand Promenade was the next. Armed with intelligence of the Promenade’s procession route, which I obtained from Jackie, the festival director, whom I met at Pre-Festival Get Together, my husband and I occupied a good spot at the Circus to watch the parade. The parade went by the Circus twice then moved on to the rest of the route. We subsequently followed the procession to the Parade Garden where the crowd convened and eventually dispersed. It was a marvelous sight to behold and inspiring to see so many women and men turn up, for some it was a family event, and to see them so enthusiastically and un-bashfully flaunting their love of Jane and regency costumes. And wow, how beautiful and elegant the regency costumes are. It instantly transforms everyone who dons it; some ladies turned out bewitching and some gentlemen quite dreamy. A little spoiler for some here, although there was a decent turnout of gentlemen to participate in the festival, it seemed, majority of them, if not all, were a Mr. Darcy already taken and belonging to some Elizabeth.

An anecdote to add to this year’s festival. It turns out that England does not monopolize the zeal for Jane Austen, there are Janeite societies all over the world, and Jane Austen Society North America’s Greater Louisville Region chapter is such one that it stands out. Moreover, in its own 7th Annual Jane Austen Festival held in July this year, it beat Bath in number of parade participants by setting a world record of 450 participants, thereby setting up a rivalry and Bath vowed to take back the record from the colony. Luckily for Bath, it succeeded by setting yet another new world record, 550 people participated in the parade in Bath’s most recent and its 14th Jane Austen Festival. Will the race continue? If yes, it would not be unwelcomed.

Exsultate, Jubilate! The concert at Bath Abbey featured music that would be played in Jane Austen’s days. It was a beautiful event in very way. I could not imagine a more atmospheric setting and the acoustic pure, clean and full. Interestingly, it also featured a male soprano, an unusual phenomenon and certainly a first experience for me. And guess what, “Prince Regent” honored the evening with his appearance.

No visit to the Jane Austen Festival is complete without the Jane Austen Tea. We took it at the Pump Room. We ordered a regular afternoon tea and a festival special Jane Austen Tea, which featured potted jellied ham with pickled vegetables and brown toast in place of sandwiches, and lemon curd mini Bath bun, scones with Earl Grey butter and plum jam, Jane Austen custard tart, ginger beer and gooseberry syllabub desert shot, and a tea of your choice, as always. Pump room is gorgeous, the afternoon tea was delicious and the live music added to the whole thing the perfect note.

Parade 1

Parade 1


Parade 2

Parade 2


Parade Garden 1

Parade Garden 1


Parade Garden 2

Parade Garden 2


Parade Garden 3

Parade Garden 3

One can visit Bath anytime of the year and find traces of Jane in Bath all year long by visiting Jane Austen Center and Jane’s former residence on Gay Street near Queen Square, Jane’s residence on Trim Street and Sydney Place, Assembly Room which was the social center of Bath in Jane’s days and a place Jane herself frequented during her visit and stay, etc. Visiting Bath during the festival is however especially and wonderfully atmospheric. From the richness of festival to Jane Austen Tea that is available at the Pump Room only during festival time, which features noshes Jane would savor herself, it is during the festival, Jane’s connection to Bath is mostly and fully accentuated. When I go back to Bath, I would probably again go during the festival.

Having said that, Bath is a beauty and delight in its own right and it also hosts many other festivals. It would certainly be enjoyable to visit any other times as well. I walked by many shops that looked really tempting but since shops there close early around 5pm, I just couldn’t seem to find the time for shopping during this visit.

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