As far as beautiful cities go, Bath is pretty high up on the list. My first time visiting the city was only last weekend, but I instantly fell in love with the elegant Georgian architecture and sweeping terraces.
I live in Portsmouth, where the bombing during the Blitz damaged a lot of the original buildings, so we’ve got a real hotch potch of different architectural styles in some areas. I’m lucky enough to live in a beautiful building that dates back to 1790, but wander a few roads down and you’ll find eighteenth century stonework alongside twentieth century council flats.
Further into the part of Portsmouth known as Southsea there’s more regularity, but the two-up, two-down terraced houses here are a world apart from the four storey grandeur in Bath. There are plenty of larger houses in Portsmouth, but I noticed a certain uniformity about Bath which charmed me and my OCD tendencies in the same way that Southsea charms my creative, more messy side.
Rehearsing Pride and Prejudice for our performance in March, I’ve become aware of how fashionable a place Bath was in Jane Austen’s time. Wandering down the grand streets I could just picture the Georgian ladies with their dainty slippers and pretty bonnets, gossiping to one another and blushing at the gentlemen.
It still seems a pretty fashionable place now, or at least one of wealth – young couples link arms in their designer gear, well-heeled ladies balance shopping bags (not the plastic kind but the oversized cardboard kind with the string handles) on cashmere-clad arms, and there’s a lot of dark wool coats. The latter may not be a particularly solid indication of wealth but I’ve always found a long dark wool coat to give off a certain air of sophistication.
I was sad to say goodbye to this elegant city as we drove back down to Portsmouth. We’d been on a tour of the Roman baths, sampled the famous mineral water in the pump room (warm and tasted unnervingly like blood – must be all the iron), and had a peek inside the cathedral before meandering along the lanes for a spot of window-shopping.
That said, there was something comforting about returning home, to its disordered architecture and familiar charm.