Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Bath, Tea with Mr. Darcy and Shutting Down the Tower of London

It's Sunday and after another lovely breakfast, (did I mention that the hotel makes lattes and mochas for us and we can have them or hot chocolate or wine delivered to our room whenever we like?) It's a great hotel, Twenty Nevern Square. I will stay here again when I come back to London. It's Posh.

Today we're going to Bath, so we head for the train station and buy our tickets. Now we are a bit confused. There are many, many lines for the trains and the big boards don't tell us which track is for our train. I ask at the Information Desk, and they tell us to just go in where all the tracks are and look for the destination on the train. This is not correct information, because when we do that and start searching -- a purser takes pity on us and tells us to go to track 32.

Apparently if you do this all the time, you just know these things. We're Americans - we don't understand public transportation.
The train is comfortable and not too crowded, so we settle in to watch London slip by and then we begin to see farms, lots of sheep and the wonderful types of small towns you see on BBC specials. Yes, it really does look like that. Really.
We have to change trains and there isn't a warm place to wait, so we're grateful we wore our wool coats, scarves, hats and gloves. Finally we arrive in Bath -- and we are in Austenland.

This is the Bath Abbey, not to be confused with the Bath Cathedral.

Bath is very crowded as there is a Christmas Fair in the streets around the cathedral and it's so picturesque there, I think people just visit to enjoy the ambience. We can certainly understand.

We see a familiar landmark from home and this begins our quest to "Find Starbucks" as we travel. Kinda like "Find Waldo" but there's coffee involved. And you KNOW how people from Seattle are about coffee.

The buildings are all made of this lovely white stone.

We find the "Circus" which is where all the parties and balls were held during the Regency period. We can imagine the Bennett sisters walking these very streets. Except they're imaginary characters in a book. But we are willing to suspend disbelief.

Sheryl is really the Jane Austen fan, although I will say I enjoyed "Pride & Prejudice & Zombies" very much. One of her best books, I think.

We both want to see the Fashion Museum and I'm delighted to say we are not disappointed. Again, for me -- this is the fashion tour of Europe.

These dresses could have been worn by Jane and her sisters.

And the Victorian gowns are lovely.

But this is my favorite. When I'm invited to the Academy Awards -- I'll wear this dress. (Johnny Depp will be my date - Hey, it's my fantasy).

There are gloves, hats and purses too. I love accessories!

After the museum and we head to the Jane Austen Centre for tea. Sheryl is now thrilled beyond belief because there's a portrait of her favorite hero on the wall. "Hello Mr. Darcy".

We enjoy a lovely tea party, buy some things in the gift shop and head back to the train. We have to take the 4pm train, because we have tickets to see the "Ceremony of the Keys" at the Tower of London tonight. Since it took so long for us to get here today, we don't want to take any chances we'll get back to London too late.

We're back in plenty of time to get to the Tower and we walk along the Thames.

This is not the "London Bridge" because we are informed that's in Arizona. This is the "Tower Bridge" and I know, it looks like that other one, but it's not. Take my word for it.

Sheryl tells me this is where the Queen shops. That would finally explain why she needs a purse, because really people... what does she carry in it? Apparently her credit card so she can buy stuff here.

It reminds me of a casino in Las Vegas.

We stop by the gate and ask about the "Ceremony of the Keys" and the guard actually makes fun of me, in a kind of good-natured way. Then he hugs me, which I think is not very official kind of behavior, but maybe he's the friendly, greeting guard. And where do we wait for the guide to the ceremony?

In the "Tower of London Starbucks" of course!

We don't really know what to expect, but to attend the "Ceremony of the Keys" you have to get tickets in the mail. We are very impressed. This ceremony has been held continuously for 700 years. It was even held during WWII when the area was bombed, (one night it was late but it happened). That folks is HISTORY!

I thought the guards would have antique weapons, but they have machine guns. Very serious looking machine guns. And they are all spit and polish, "who goes there?" official.

We are not allowed to take photos or even talk during the ceremony. But it was so fabulous, we don't care. After it's all over we have our photo taken with the Yeoman Warden (Beefeater) who led the tour.

Tomorrow we visit the Vic and Al (Victoria and Albert Museum) and go to the theater again. It will our last day in London, and we're sad. Except not too sad, because on Tuesday we're going to Paris!


amber polo said...

Did you eat hot roasted chestnuts from street vendors with real coals?

Deborah Schneider said...

Hi Amber,

We didn't -- although we did see them, (and they smelled wonderful). I wish now that we'd done that, just because it would make such a fabulous holiday memory.
Thanks for stopping by!

DG said...

I love your description of the tube.I had such nice experiences on London's public transportation!

and what?! the guard hugged you?! hilarious! :)