Buns, Bath, and Beyond: A Pilgrimage of Sorts

Buns, Bath, and Beyond: A Pilgrimage of Sorts

A confession: one trip to Britain a year is not enough. When you read this, I will (hopefully) be coming to the end of a two-week visit to the United Kingdom. Yes, I know I was in Ireland just a couple of months ago, but let me explain.

It all started because my daughter is not very good at learning languages. The rest of us speak good French, but she was not enjoying her school classes and wanted to do other courses instead, so we came to a deal. She could drop her high school French classes after grade 10, and then, when she was old enough, she would do a summer French Immersion program. Our federal government sponsors several such programs to encourage bilingualism, and they are excellent. My son did one at the end of high school and his French went from very good to fluent, so it sounded like a great idea.

She found the program she wanted, applied, was accepted to her delight, and everything was perfect until the program was cancelled. Just an email with “We’re very sorry but…” And that was the end of her summer plans. She was terribly disappointed, and it was too late to find other programs.

She is starting university in September, and her program involves several semesters in Wales. And so, we thought, why not take her there, so she can see the campus? If she loves it, it’s all the more incentive to work hard and get the grades she needs. And if she hates it, she’s got time to switch to a different program.

Ah, but you ask, “how can you possibly go all the way to Wales, and not see __(fill in the blank)___?” We asked the same question. We have to fly into London, Manchester, or Edinburgh, so some sort of traveling around is necessary, and once we’re touring and renting a car, the sky’s the limit. And the list of Places We Must See began to grow.

The Bath Pump Room, by John Claude Nattes

I will bore you with photos next month, but Bath is definitely on my list. This is the town so closely associated with Jane Austen. She lived in Bath from 1801-1806, and whether she loved it or hated it on any particular day, it influenced her writing. She used Bath as the partial setting for two of her novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, and neither novel would be the same had she set those parts in a different location. I am looking forward to visiting the Pump Room, the Royal Circle, and the Assembly Rooms. And, of course, treating myself to a Bath Bun, or even better, a Sally Lunn Bun. If plans work out, I’ll be wandering these streets as you read this.

I wrote something about Sally Lunn Buns about a year ago. You can see what I said, and check out the recipe, here: https://www.austenauthors.net/sally-lunn-buns-a-bath-treat/

As I continue with my Miss Mary Investigates series, I’ll be moving my characters to Bath for the mysteries around Persuasion and Northanger Abbey, so let’s consider this research! Yes. Research! (How many Bath buns do you think I need to “research?” Asking for a friend.)

Winchester Cathedral by John Buckler

Also on my list is the city of Winchester, where Ms. Austen moved for medical treatment, and where she died in 1817. It is also where she is buried, in the north aisle of Winchester Cathedral. I’m not one to make pilgrimages, but Winchester lies on our route, and how could I not pay homage?

There is another link on my list, although a tenuous one, to Austen and to my books. We are planning to stop by the beautiful grounds at Stourhead, which is renowned for its fabulous landscaping. The Temple to Apollo is where Matthew Macfadyen’s Mr. Darcy made his disastrous and rainy first proposal to Elizabeth in the 2005 movie of Pride and Prejudice. And the bridge over the lake is the main background image on my Mansfield Park-based mystery, Death of a Dandy.

My plan was to use images from the area where the stories take place, but this scene was just too beautiful to pass up. I’m sure Mary and Alexander would enjoy a lovely wander around these grounds, perhaps once they have finished solving one of their Bath-based cases. What do you think? Would they enjoy their rambles, or is Mary entirely too sensible?

The Temple of Apollo, Stourhead
No explanation necessary!

Here is a very, very early draft from what will probably become my fifth Miss Mary Investigates mystery, set in Bath. The Darcys are there for a time and Mary is staying with them. And then the murders began! No title yet, but my plans have Colonel Fitzwilliam and possibly Colonel Brandon making guest appearances. And, of course, the Elliots and Captain Wentworth. I hope you enjoy this little snippet.

***

Early April, 1814

Another in an endless procession of raindrops trailed its way down the condensation-clouded window, obscuring the view of perfect be-columned townhouses that stood as white sentinels, stern against a slate-grey sky.

“It always rains in Bath,” Elizabeth Darcy murmured from the other side of the room. “One would do well to recall that and not wait for a glimmer of sunshine.”

Mary cast a baleful glare at her older sister, but had to sigh in resignation. Lizzy was correct, and there was nothing to be done about the weather.

At the breakfast table, her brother-by-marriage sat in silence as he sipped at the fragrant brew in his coffee cup. Darcy was far from the stern man Mary had met nearly three years past, but his taciturn habits remained steady, especially on days when he was forced into idleness by the weather or other such circumstances. He would speak when he was ready. For the nonce, Lizzy carried the conversation and brother Darcy scowled at the newspaper as he took his morning meal.

Mary turned from the gloomy view at the window and returned to the breakfast table, where she sat down to her tea and buns. “You are correct, as always,” Mary replied to her sister. “I must learn to accept the rain. Perhaps I am so excited to be here in Bath that I cannot wait to start exploring the town. There is so much to see, so many places of which I have heard tell, and so wish to know for myself. The baths themselves, of course, and the assembly rooms and the parks and all the entertainments…”

“And see them you shall, Mary,” Darcy’s voice sounded from behind the broadsheet he was still reading. “Right here, I am seeing announcements for a series of recitals by Mr. X the tenor, a production of Taming of the Shrew, a circus, several announcements of street entertainers, and at the opera, Mr. Mozart’s Magic Flute.” He shook the paper, which somehow obeyed his commands, and continued, “And so, dear sister, you shall have your choice of amusement.”

“Oh, do let’s go to the opera!” Lizzy spoke from behind her teacup. “I have never heard a performance of The Magic Flute.”

“Mozart….” Darcy grumbled. “Too many notes!”

“Oh Will! You are such a curmudgeon,” his wife teased him across the table.

That gentleman lowered his newspaper to reveal a wide grin that belied his stern voice. “For you, my dearest love, I shall attend the performance of your choice and shall enjoy every one of those many, many notes.”

He resumed his position behind the paper and read on for a moment. “What ho? Another one of those mysterious thefts! Let me see… There was a footman at the door all night, and another at the back door to the kitchens, and neither was disturbed at all, nor were any windows broken or locks forced. And yet the thief entered the house and left it again with a handful of jewels in his possession. Lizzy, dearest, have you safeguarded your necklaces?”

 

 

 

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11 COMMENTS
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Glynis
Glynis
August 1, 2022 2:01 PM

I do love it when Darcy and Elizabeth play a part! Lovely excerpt.
My daughter took myself and my Mum to Bath as my sixtieth birthday treat (early as she was over from Australia in the summer) I must say it was gloriously sunny, we absolutely loved it! I’m glad you were able to enjoy it and hope your daughter is successful whatever she chooses.

DarcyBennett
DarcyBennett
July 30, 2022 3:08 PM

Hope you enjoy your trip!

Kirstin Odegaard
AuAu
July 29, 2022 7:41 PM

Enjoyed the excerpt, especially the paper obeying Darcy’s commands!

Enjoy your travels. Now you have to round it out by hitting Chawton so you have the full Winchester-Bath-Chawton Austen tour! Looking forward to the pictures.

J. W. Garrett.
J. W. Garrett.
July 29, 2022 11:47 AM

‘It Always Rains in Bath’ Now, there is an understatement or a title. HA! That is almost as corny as ‘when it rains, it pours in Bath’ No, that’s too long. I’m sure you have something marvelous chosen. Darcy admonished his wife to safeguard her jewels. Will they be the thief’s next victim? Now that would be a very very stupid choice. Darcy would be completely unforgiving if someone upset his wife. Wishing you the best on the launch of this work.

J. W. Garrett.
J. W. Garrett.
July 29, 2022 3:10 PM
Reply to  Riana Everly

At some point in your writing, you have to use what you said about the buns. Every single time I’ve read where they are mentioned, they are extolled as being perfection. Well, perhaps the Darcy chef or cook has a recipe he likes better. You don’t usually see that. It just struck me when I read your comment. Why not? Blessing.

cindie snyder
cindie snyder
July 29, 2022 9:17 AM

Sounds great! I love mysteries especially P+P ones!

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