Copyright (c) Jane Austen’s World. Inquiring Reader, When I visited Bath years ago, I kept a journal, which I completely forgot about until yesterday, when I found it among a pile of papers. It is the custom in my family to arrange for lodging on the day of our arrival and the night before our departure in any foreign land, and to trust in the suggestions from the people at the local visitor’s bureau for the rest of the vacation. We visit such establishments after 3 or 4 PM, when many hotels begin to deeply discount their rooms. This habit is a bit like gambling, but for us it has paid off spectacularly.
My budget-minded family has followed this practice successfully, sometimes even at the height of tourist season, in England, the Netherlands, France, New Zealand, and the great American west. The pay-off is in finding lodging in charming hotels or B&Bs at a fraction of their normal price. (Our best bargain ever was in the French Quarter in New Orleans at the Place d’Arms, where we spent 4 glorious days in a luxury suite for $78/night. It was April, perfect weather for N.O.)
Back to England. My ex and I traveled from London to Bath (yes, we rented a car, and yes, he successfully negotiated his way out of London with me reading the map and helping him to enter and exit the round-abouts. Talk about a hair raising journey, for he had never driven on the British side of the road before and I am at best a terrible map reader). We entered Bath along the London Road, looking for the distinctive blue and white V sign, and discussed the price we were willing to pay. Those good people steered us to the Dukes Hotel on Edward Street, just off Great Pulteney Street, across the Pulteney Bridge in Bathwick and near Sydney Gardens.
As a Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen fan, I felt that I had simply died and gone to heaven.
Compared to Bath’s ancient Roman buildings and medieval streets, Great Pulteney Street is rather modern. In the 3rd quarter of the 18th century, the city council voted to expand Bath’s boundaries across the River Avon. This era marked an expansion and growth for the city that resulted in the addition of thousands of new houses inside Bath proper and outside of it. Sir William Pulteney, who resided on an estate called Bathwick and fortuitously located across the river, commissioned architect Thomas Baldwin to design and build Great Pulteney Street. The task was completed in 1789.
Situated at one end of this long broad thoroughfare is Sydney Gardens, the pleasure gardens mentioned so often by Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer and others who have journeyed to Bath.
Seen prominently at the entrance of Sydney Gardens was the Bath Hotel (see a 360 panoramic view), now the Holburne Museum.
To return to our first evening in Bath, our room at the Dukes Hotel was charming but offered no view (which often happens when you wait for a bargain). We immediately set off to explore Bath on foot, for it was mid-July when the days were long. Great Pulteney Street did not disappoint me with its wide sidewalks and row upon row of graceful houses made of Bath stone. I would take this walk several times per day, and it is this street in particular that I still recall most vividly. I imagined myself wearing a Regency outfit and hearing the clopping of horses’ hooves and the rattling of carriages as I made my way towards Bath proper.
At this point I must share with you why I am using Google earth images. My own photos are still missing. You can imagine how delighted I was to be able to reconstruct my journey from my newly found journal and the images I pulled from Google maps.
We walked past Laura Place, where Lady Dalrymple from Persuasion had taken a house for three months, until Great Pulteney Street ended at the fountain. It is then named Argyle Street.
We ambled along slowly, taking in all the sights and brazenly looking into windows when we could, and continued on to Pulteney Bridge, a Palladian bridge designed by the Adam brothers and finished in 1773. The bridge has seen several renovations since, especially in the design of the shops that line it.
We walked down the steps to the bank of the river and listened to the rush of water on the Weir until the sun set. Click here for an arial view of the walk I have just described.
And so I conclude our first evening in Bath, which, due to the stress of driving in a foreign land from a major city along by-ways that eschewed busy thoroughfares, ended quite early for us. I did have time to write down my thoughts at a tiny desk in our third floor room.
This video brings back memories of driving around Bath’s environs. Driving up and down green hills near Bath, England