The countryside that glided by the train windows looked much like the American Midwest farmland, with hay bales, harvested fields, and livestock peopling the gently rolling land. Only the buildings were noticeably different, because they were transplants from the nineteenth century—farmhouses, country cottages, the occasional manor house and medieval church, almost all of them built of brick or stone. It was lovely!
Manchester, a large city, is energetic and industrial. The Sense and Sensibility costume tour that Laura and I were on began here. Manchester was interesting to me for its pivotal position in the Industrial Revolution; we had no time to really tour it, but if I go back I’d like to explore its history some more. I’d want to see Elizabeth Gaskell’s house, which is being turned into a museum; this important Victorian author lived in Manchester for over thirty years.
Liverpool, which we visited on Monday after the tour started, seemed relatively similar to Manchester, but it had a seaport feel. Despite the business-oriented character of both, these cities had beautiful architectural examples—Liverpool has the fantastic Walker Art Gallery, which looks like a temple from Rome! (I’m serious—my friend Laura, who’s been to Rome, said she did a double-take when she saw it.)
Liverpool isn’t right on the sea—so I still haven’t seen the ocean up close—but has access to it by the Mersey Estuary. London has its pigeons, Liverpool has its seagulls. But believe it or not, so do Hereford and Bath, which are decidedly landlocked (though they are built around rivers). By the time I was in Bath, I’d had rather enough of seagull shrieks!
Hereford is a mid-sized town of over 50,000 people, but it felt smaller. (Everything feels smaller in England, though; I think I might have mentioned that before.) It’s about sixteen miles from Wales, and I was excited to see some Welsh—in a brochure and on signs around the county of Herefordshire. I didn’t hear anyone speak it, though, which would have been so cool! We stayed at a wonderful bed-and-breakfast, which was our jumping-off point for exploring the town, which felt more normal to me, seeing as I’m used to towns that size and that modern. (Actually I’m the most used to little American towns, but the little English towns I visited were very individualistic.) Hereford has its share of lovely, old-fashioned buildings, however! The cathedral, made of layers and folds of reddish brick, reminded me of a rose, especially because when I first saw it, it was awash in sunset. One of the oldest buildings in Hereford is a striking black-and-white, half-timbered house built in 1621 … that’s from the reign of King James I! Townhouses that old are unusual.
|The Old House (wikipedia)|
|Outside the Assembly Rooms|
|The Pump Room in Bath---also in JA's novels|
|The Royal Crescent|
|The Jane Austen Centre|
|No. 4 Sydney Place|
I’m sorry this post got so long … I had more to say than I realized! I should have known better than to try to cram a week’s worth of England in a normal-sized blog post. Is there anything you want to know more about before I move on to other subjects next time? (I’m actually planning on something related to my trip—namely, historical costumes!)