"We just recently learnt that the Mr. Darcy apartment would have been Jane's bedroom when she lived here."
Imagine you had travelled around the Hampshire countryside tracking Jane Austen. Imagine you had immersed yourself in her for days.... what she would have seen, and eaten and worn.... who she would have known.... where she would have travelled, whether by foot or carriage. Now, imagine you follow her footsteps to Bath and come to the very house where she lived for the first three years of her stay here.
Imagine you park and lug out your overstuffed suitcase, wheeling it along the bumpy pavement, each stone jarring your hand as it jumps over it. Imagine.... the door to her house there is open, and a voice welcomes you inside.
"Hello Isil. It is so nice to finally meet you."
Imagine this very kind woman leads you to your apartment, one of the four that they have available in Jane Austen's old home, and you head to the window. You stare out at the lovely house, now a museum, across the street, and think, this would have been what Jane saw every day... just like this (sans the many cars that drive by on the well travelled road. Presumably for her it would have been the sound of horses hooves.)
In total Jane Austen spent a little over 5 years living in Bath (between 1801 and 1806). Prior to that she had visited on occasion with her parents. And, in her own way, she would have found Bath much as we have found it on our visit here, busy, engaging, expensive, and noisy. According to all accounts I've read, Jane was shocked and overwhelmed when her parents decided to uproot and retire here from Steventon. While she had written three of her books by this point, in Bath Jane was either unable, or unwilling, to do more. She attempted one new project and then gave it up.
So to all appearances this was an unproductive time for her. And yet as I can attest, while new places, new journeys may not always be comfortable, they help us grow and mature and lead us to parts of ourselves we had perhaps not known before. This was certainly the case with Jane who, after leaving Bath and eventually settling at Chawton (after a brief stay in Southhampton,) wrote her next three novels- Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion. Most students of Jane Austen agree that these, of all of her novels, show a new level of depth compared to her earlier works.
So, now back to your trip to Bath... imagine that you too plan to walk in Jane's footsteps. Until a year ago this property would not have been available to you as a place to stay. Now I would say it is a must. Our apartment on the 1st floor (which in the U.S. would be the 2nd floor,) has a lovely large bedroom looking out over the back garden. There is a main living area, separated from the bedroom by huge double doors, and equipped with an antique writing desk where my daughter has written her own blog account. There is a very well stocked kitchen, even set up with coffee and tea, with milk and sugar for us. And off to the side is the lovely modern bathroom, with two showerheads in the shower. All in all, it is a perfect place to spend time in Bath, whether you are here for Jane or not.
If you would like to arrange your own stay, and I definitely recommend you do, you can contact Bath Boutique Stays who I found to be warm, accommodating, and extremely helpful. The details are below. A couple of notes: The road nosie can be rather loud, with occasional sirens passing by, but quiets considerably at night and is lessened byt he huge doors for the bedroom. There is, as we have found in all places we have stayed thus far, NO air conditioning. And the furnishings are modern, with some odd antique bits thrown in so it has not been set up to look like Jane's house would have, but rather is for comfortable modern living. As well, you should know this is an honest review and I was provided no compensation for providing it.
Like Jane, I could not live in Bath for any length of time. On the other hand, staying for a brief time in her home will have been the highlight of my journey and will, perhaps, give me some additional insight to make my own writing flourish.
Bath Boutique Stays
(011) 07960 392068 or 07809 746338
2 night minimum, at the time we stayed it was 159 pounds per day, midweek (higher on weekends of course:>)
Below are photos of our apartment, called Cassandra's first floor apartment. I also got photos of the ground floor apartment, Emma's, which has a lovely garden attached. But, I'm off to see more of Bath, so I'll add those in the near future. Ta!
"Welcome to England."
And... welcome back to my blog. I know it has been a while. I've been a careless mistress these last many months and I apologize. I'm ready to re-enter your lives, if you'll have me. And I come to you with some fun, and funny, and downright crazy stories from my own journeys right now. I also bring to you the voice of my daughter.... who is posting her part of the trip on her own blog, THE DAILY BRAT (name chosen by her!)
I thought it appropriate that she should blog as well, since the reason for this trip is to inspire and do research for my next book - a new take on Pride and Prejudice. I've added the brief synopsis to my WORLD OF MY BOOKS page of my website. As I've yet to come up with a suitable title, let's just call it - ANNA'S PRIDE for now.
Already we have been here for five days. Such full and busy ones, in fact, that neither Faith (my daughter) nor I have had a chance to kick off this blog-fest. And, if they are any indication of what's to come, I'm not sure how many posts we will make before all is done and we are on the return trip to the U.S. in mid-August. I'll try to tweet moments out every now and then (@dwilsted) or add your email to the RSS feed at the top/right of this page to get an automatic notice when I have posted something new.
For now I am thrilled to report that we are basically over our jet-lag now. The trip was incredibly easy... certainly not what I was expecting with a two huge bags, me and my ten year old, and a red-eye. My ever supportive husband, Jeff, met us on the other side (he had just completed a business trip to Europe) and is staying for a week to help me with this first part of the research.
None-the-less, I find when I am in research/inspiration mode I am mostly living in my own brain. No one but another writer could probably understand the thrill I felt when I walked through Leavesden Studios (where they filmed most of the Harry Potter movies - for its context re: my book, be sure to read the synopsis.) Suddenly, faced with the amazing artistry required for creating the sets and props, the hero in my story came to life in front of my eyes.
Should I write, should I look around, should I take photos. I was overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of inspiration in front of me. In fact, I did all three.... and then I talked with people, interviewed a prop craftsman who worked on HP (Adrian Getley), and recorded my thoughts on everything for processing at some future point when I return back to the very un-magical world of my own home.
How could I blog any of this, I wondered? Well, I'm still getting my head around it, but here's what I have figured out so far; the more I experience, the more my character will experience. So, for example, last night we landed in a rather dodgy (like my British there;>) Inn. My daughter, whom I have apparently spoilt to the point where she was in tears by this, couldn't imagine staying. We lasted a night, which was fine.... and over a brilliant dinner at a local pub called, the George (p.s. thanks Spencer for turning things around for us), the linkages to the storyline began to flow through my brain faster than the lovely local beer I was drinking....
Anna and her daughter, Tiffany, would end up at that hotel as well. They would get in a huge fight. Tiffany (much older than my ten year old daughter) would storm off, and Anna, done with her tirades, would let her. Later she would get worried and track her to the pub where she would find Tiffany sitting with the hero, Malcolm. The argument forgotten, Tiffany would enthusiastically tell her mother all about Malcolm's invitation to stay with him nearby.....
I am often asked how I write and I can give no clearer description than this example above. It comes to me by living it and molding the experiences I have, like a sculptor does with clay, into something new.
It's been too long since I have gotten my hands dirty like this and I am loving every moment of it. Won't you come join me on my own journey inspired by my love of writing? I'll write again as soon as I can.....
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