Monday, October 16, 2017

Big Fancy Houses

Royal Crescent, Bath UK
Royal Crescent, Bath UK
Looking at houses is one of my all-time favorite activities. And they don't have to be big and fancy. I think my favorite so far is the Georgian House Museum in Dublin, which was a moderate house lived in by a normal non-aristocratic family. 

Of course, I don't have any objection to stately homes. I love looking at the ornate decor, but I'm also fascinated by the servants quarters. Even more than the furnishings, I'm interested in how people lived in the past. Bonus points for historical figures.

Apsley House

Which is how I came to visit Apsley House, home of the Duke of Wellington, who is most famous for his defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo.

Photos were not allowed inside, so all I can do is tell you that the man had a fine eye for art and good taste in home decor. Plus, all the loot given to him by grateful foreign heads of state is extremely impressive. It takes up a whole room all by itself.

The one jarring note is a giant sized statue of a naked - except for a strategic fig leaf - Napoleon in the staircase hall.  He also had a huge painting of Napoleon next to a huge painting of himself, clearly liking how he comes off in that comparison.

I can also show you a photo of what I consider a classy bathroom - full real wooden doors to each stall - because I decided the photo ban didn't apply to the bathroom. Probably.

It was hard getting a decent shot of the front of the house because of where it is placed on busy Hyde Park Corner.

Wellington Statue, Hyde Park, London
Wellington Statue, Hyde Park, London
The house overlooks a statue dedicated to Wellington...

Wellington Arch, London well as the Wellington Arch, up which you could ascend for a small additional sum. However, I don't climb things for the view. I've never been up in the Statue of Liberty or the Arc de Triomphe, and I'd do either of those before anywhere else.


Since it wasn't very far away, I decided to wander over to Bel-grah-via, just because it had turned up in novels I've read and I wanted to see it in real life. One of the poshest areas in London, the homes were naturally very nice. Like a great many expensive areas in other big cities, the biggest buildings are no longer single family homes. In Belgrave Square, one whole side seems to be flying flags of foreign countries, which I assume means they're embassies.

One side didn't seem to be a hotel or embassy, but some of the houses may still be divided into flats.

There were a couple of freestanding buildings on the corners.

And even continuing around the block, the gorgeous architecture continued. Some may find it boring, but I love these simple white Georgian terrace houses with their classical accents.

You couldn't see much of the garden square from the outside, and it's private, so I couldn't go in to take a look. But part of it seemed very nice and well kept.

A different side seemed more utilitarian. 

Even if some of the residences were divided into apartments, though, I'm sure they are still ridiculously expensive. So I would imagine that the residents are less than pleased with the eyesore on one corner.

No1. Royal Crescent, Bath

Though I came to Bath twice in 2015, I somehow managed to miss exploring No1. Royal Crescent. It's one of the best presented museums of its type, though, so I'm glad I finally got to see it. There are interesting handouts in each room, as well as volunteers who will be happy to tell you about the displays if you don't feel like reading.

I enjoyed looking at all of the main family rooms.

The Drawing Room

Dining Room

Master Bedroom 

...and more. But belowstairs is where it got really interesting. First in the Servants Hall, there was a list of rules.

Then, in the kitchen, there was a spit that was turned by a dog. I'd heard of this, and seen pictures of it, but always in big country houses. I didn't think that was the kind of thing which took place in elegant Bath.

It seems like animal cruelty now, but those dogs were considered quite valuable for their skill and were apparently treated very well...aside from having to spend many hours turning the spit for the meals of the house.

Anyway, I liked this exhibit very much. I know I'll be returning to Bath, and I'll probably go back and see it again.

The Museum of Bath Architecture

Then, like a nerd, I went to the Museum of Bath Architecture. There was a lot that would probably be boring to many people, but I loved it. 

There was a model of the city that I could have probably spent an hour or more poring over if I could have stood that long on those hard slate floors.

There were various displays of actual homes that were built, along with a lot of detail.

But even the drawings and records of how the plans were conceived and executed were full of interesting facts.

Well, interesting to me, anyway...

In addition to the big fancy houses, I managed to squeeze in another few things while in Bath.

Tea at the Pump Room

My splurge here in Bath, and the highlight of my trip, was having tea at the Pump Room. I've been wanting to have a traditional English Tea somewhere, and decided this was the best place for it, since it also gave me the opportunity to enjoy the Pump Room.

The room itself is gorgeous. 

And the tea was fabulous. They charge per person, and it ain't cheap, but there was definitely enough food for two.

I gorged on it, and still ended up taking some home. Should've stopped before the second scone, but I was happy with my leftovers.

Fashion Museum

The Fashion Museum has so much inventory that the exhibits are constantly changing. So I plan to visit every time I come to Bath. 

This time there was a special exhibit on lace that was full of stunning samples.

Not only dresses...

...but shoes..
...and boots...

...and gloves...

Bath Abbey

I took a bunch of photos of Bath Abbey last time I was here, one or two even came out okay. There was an event of some kind going on this time, so I wasn't going to get any new ones even if I'd planned to, which I didn't. I didn't even plan on going in again. In fact, I was trying to get away from it because it was making a God-awful noise with the bells, they were just going on and on and on.

Then I remembered just how much I have to be grateful for, particularly just in the last few weeks. And while I don't happen to have a religion, I also don't happen to be an atheist. So I do actually like churches as quiet places to give thanks now and again. I like the ritual of lighting a candle and it's as good a place as any to make a donation. 

Fortunately, one set of candles was located right next to a little chapel, which suited me perfectly. I found myself a corner with a chair that had a nice little padded bench, and spent some time counting my blessings.


Since I had been to Bath before, and I didn't feel the need to do a whole lot, I had planned to find myself a few congenial coffee shops and actually try to be somewhat productive. I still have a few loose ends to tie up among our family affairs, and I was going to nail down some details on my future itinerary.

But I didn't get a whole lot accomplished. Turns out I didn't want to just sit and look out a window at the city, I wanted to be out walking around in it. So that's what I did, mostly just taking photos of what I liked. Sometimes they worked, most times not.

The skies were overcast almost the entire time I was in Bath. Very rarely, weak sunshine would try to struggle through. But almost all of my shots were coming out really dark, so I tried making them lighter, but then they were almost completely blown out. 

Still, I have enough to remind me why I love this place. Next time, I'm just gonna come and hang out for a couple of weeks.

I'm in London for the coming week, and haven't planned anything yet for after that. I'd originally intended to explore a bit of the UK I hadn't seen yet, then head for France and Italy on the way to Morocco. But even though all of the destinations, with the exception of a few days in Paris, were all going to be new to me, I'm just not feeling the excitement. Morocco seems to be calling me more strongly, maybe because it seems more exotic to me.

So tune in next week to see where in the world I am, because right now, I haven't a clue

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