Posted in Travellogue

For the love of Jane Austen !!

I do like a Literary jaunt and often I try to infuse our travel plans with a bit of literary trail.

A decade and a half back when I moved to UK, I found out about the Jane Austen Festival in Bath. Being a Jane Austen Fan, I was immediately curious to see and experience the festival. When I visited the festival back in 2008 I had hand written on a little note pad my first impressions, with an intention to include it in a letter to a friend back in India, who is also a Jane Austen fan.

Interestingly when I read it now, I can see my child like enthusiasm of knowing more about my favourite writer. I find it strange to read my own words a decade and a half later and find my naivety and my wide-eyed observations very amusing.

“She lived in Bath for five years, after her father retired. She knew Bath from childhood since her grandparents were from Bath and though she was not wealthy, but she had wealthy relative. In fact, she disliked Bath and had written to her sister mentioning it being very unpleasant to stay in Bath. And even in her books the characters from Bath are described as silly overly pompous or slimy.

It was very interesting to know about Jane Austen as a person. She did not marry because she did not believe in marriage without affection. She in fact has supposed to have got a proposal at the age of 27 from a rich man, when it is considered very late in those times. She is supposed to have accepted and within twelve hours withdrawn it. She was told by many that it was wise to do so, and it will secure her a comfortable life. She was driven to poverty and had to live in slums, when she became unwell her brother helped her out and moved out to coun. In those days even in England, not being married was looked down upon. I can relate to this woman, she may not have been very brave and powerful, yet she had some conviction.

I bought a book at Jane Austen Centre, which is compilation of her letters to her sister Cassandra and her niece. It is said, in those days the girls were taught good letter writing skills, it was the way ladies made their mark on social world, exchanged views about fashion and gossiped. A good writing skill was must for all girls. Jane Austen’s letters are mere exchange of thoughts, views, and communication with her sister. Her sister was her confidante, her support and good friend. I read the first letter, she wrote it when she was 20, and she mentions flirting with a guy named Tom Lefroy(the person with whom she falls in love as per the movie Becoming Jane), and how she has spent her money on pink petticoats and laces for the ball, which man is eyeing which woman, etc. Her letter is very much like a letter I would write to you!!“

I still find it a bit quizzical as to why the Jane Austen festival is held in a place which the author disliked very much, yet it sits in my memory very closely associated with Jane Austen and I have very fond memories of my visit.

Jane Austen Festival 2008

I have always enjoyed reading her books. I loved her story telling, the description of the English countryside in her books, the regency era picnics, and her writing style,which in beginning I struggled with. As a young girl in India reading her books, I had to get used to her language, her style of writing and narration. English language has evolved since her writing the books, words do not have the same meaning as they did in when she wrote the book. Her way of describing things ,choice of words, the old way of describing age, what does ‘coming out of a girl’ refer to, words like insipid and unattached fascinated and puzzled me at the same time. It gave me the love for English countrysides, an understanding of the era and it also improved my vocabulary immensely.

I admire her courage and strength, for staying true to her heart, in spite of the difficulties in her way. I find it an extraordinary feat that a woman who never travelled out of England has managed to capture the hearts of many around the world with her words. They have an audience even two centuries later. Her books have been translated in many languages and have been adapted to movies and series across the world. I find her tales are timeless and are relevant across cultures.

I personally prefer reading books to screen adaptions. I am always a bit sceptical whether they capture the essence of the book, and sometimes I find reading a book more engaging and it is more soul satisfying. But I do watch the screen adaptations too, and not averse to them.

I have a few favourites from Jane Austen s book adaptions on screen. I love the BBC Mini Series 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice and a movie in Tamil called Kandukondain Kandukondain, which is the adaption of Sense and Sensibilities. And how can I forget the modern rendition of Emma ; Clueless.  And I also loved the reference to the book Pride and Prejudice, in the movie You’ve got mail

“Confession: I have read Pride and Prejudice two hundred times. I get lost in the language; words like: Thither. Mischance. Felicity”.

Kathleen and Joe s exchange on Pride and Prejudice throughout the movie is very interesting. I have read Pride and Prejudice many times; unlike Kathleen I have not kept count of it, and I personally prefer Sense and Sensibilities over Pride and Prejudice.

I have been recently wondering whether her books are popular with Millennials and Gen Z. Will her stories and tales live on? Can her characters and stories be relatable to 21st century?

As her avid fan I hope and wish her stories to be alive and read for many more years. I also happen to know Mark Twain, disliked Jane Austen’s work and he has vehemently criticised her work. Years ago, when I read about his views, I was a bit disappointed. I do like both the authors, and admire their command over storytelling, their wit and humour. I am also not too sure, if I were to give the book to my husband and say “ Read it , you will love it “, as Kathleen says to Joe in You’ve got mail. I doubt he would be as enthusiastic as I am about Austen s work.

Charlotte Bronte did not like Jane Austen’s writing as it did not have enough poetry or passion in it for her. I loved reading Bronte s Jane Eyre. And I am certain Bronte and Austen would agree that they both had very different styles of writing.

So it is a ‘universal truth ‘that not everyone likes her books and writing style. I understand we all have our own preferences in reading, and not all books have the same fan following and not all books are written for everyone.

In her stories, I found the extreme pressure on woman of finding a man narrated well and with a bit of humour . She depicts very well the plight of women in that era , and how marriage was her ticket to a comfortable life, the whole charade involved in finding a suitor with prospects was interesting and insightful for me. I originate from India, where arranged marriages are very common and I could see the parallels of it in her books. And I believe in the present days as well there is an immense pressure on woman to find someone by certain age, which can create anxieties and stress. She has taken all the immense pressure turned it to a story and narrates it with a bit of fun and humour.

Besides that, I found her stories transported me to regency world, the social gatherings and picnics and parties. She seems to have been a keen observer, with great social skills and has narrated the stories rather very well. Perhaps the writing gave her the solace she needed and it was her form of coping mechanism with the immense stress on her of finding a man. She gave her heroines what she did not find, a love match.

In her letters, I could see a brilliant vivacious girl, with a great penmanship, who had to play by the rules the society had laid down for her and every women. She expressed and rebelled in the way she thought best. I have often pondered what if Jane Austen lived in the current days. I think she would be an influencer, would have many followers on her social media posts, she would be creating funny videos on Tik Tok and writing funny, sharp and edgy blogs.

If you are an Austen admirer and fan of Regency period, I believe the Jane Austen Festival in Bath is worth a visit. It is an immersive and fun experience.

I did enjoy the festival a lot ,it is also the best way to see the city Bath. Unlike Austen, I love the city of Bath; with its Roman Baths, the Royal Crescent, Bath Abbey, cobbled streets, pretty cafes to site by and do a bit of people watching.

Stain glass at Bath Cathedral

I had been wanting to visit the festival again for a while.

Last year we were passing by Bath, during the Jane Austen festival. We decided to stop over and experience the festival again.  The festival is usually held during September, and there are various Jane Austen themed events that are organised. There is festival Fayre, whereby there are stalls full of Regency articles, hats, and silhouette artists. There is a country dance Ball, Regency themed Tea parties.

We attended the hilarious 20-minute version of Pride and Prejudice, which also has a funny recreation of Mr Darcy with ‘wet shirt scene. I enjoyed the show and had a hearty laugh.

Pride and Prejudice in 20 minutes

The Pump Room, which is mentioned in the book Persuasion, has been the social heart of the city for a long time. It now has a Regency style Ball during the festival time. 

The grand event which was my favourite from both the visits is the famous costumed Regency Promenade. The promenade is a procession of people dressed in regency costumes, walking in Jane Austen’s footsteps taking in many of Bath’s famous landmarks. The parade takes an hour to finish and ends at Parade Gardens. The costumes are so colourful, and it has joyous vibe to it.

New world meets old world
Link to Jane Austen Festival s official page

There are many places in England associated with Jane Austen some of which I have visited, perhaps I will write about them another day. But the one which remain close to my heart is the Bath Jane Austen Festival and the costume promenade.

Posted in Travellogue

Experiencing Bergen!!!

Beautiful Bergen with its colourful wooden houses, vast emerald green coastline, mountains and fjords, made me fall in love with it instantly. It is often called the Gateway to Fjords , it is the second largest city of Norway, is also the European city of culture. It is surrounded by seven mountains and hence is sometimes referred as a city between mountains.

Continue reading “Experiencing Bergen!!!”
Posted in Travellogue


August this year, we travelled to the Dutch capital, Amsterdam.The city famous for its beautiful canals, liberalism, coffee shops, red light area and cheese. This was a much anticipated trip as I had been wanting to take the Eurostar to Amsterdam from London, for a very long time. Also given that it is the 25 th year of Eurostar, as a train enthusiast I was super excited to have picnic on the train to celebrate. With a packed picnic bag, I arrived at the St Pancras station a bit tired as I had been overzealous in preparation of the picnic. But all was well once we boarded the train and I was calm and joyful. As soon as the train rolled out of St Pancras Station. like a child, I kept asking my husband every five minutes “ Shall we eat now?”. I am still not sure what was I more excited about the picnic on the train or the train ride.

Posted in Travellogue

Pretty Praha !!!!!!

Prague has been on my wish list for many years now. Always the allure of seeing elsewhere ,would push the desire to visit Prague in to the corners of mind to be retrieved at a later date. This has been going on for a while, until we visited Rouen and the Gros Horloge of Rouen. Gros Horloge at Rouen piqued my interest in another astronomical clock. It is this impulse of seeing and admiring another astronomical clock, that made me plan a trip to Prague.

We landed in the Vaclav Havel Airport, Prague, bought the three days Prague Card. We decided to take the public transport to get into the city.  Mostly we prefer to use public transport, wherever possible, and is also the reason we end up buying the city cards, which gives access to most monuments and museums and also gives the abiltiy to take local public transport. We boarded a bus from the airport ,then changed over to the Metro, to reach our hotel. Travelling by public transport in a new city as soon as you arrive may not be best  way to begin a holiday , but I enjoy doing that as it is a chance to get a first glimpse of the city , a chance to observe and experience the city in its dynamic form, to feel the pulse of it and get excited of being somewhere new. Arguably, perhaps I believe the city looks equally exciting , from the window of a taxi. I just want to be a narrator here, a story teller , taking you along with my journey.

We stayed in a hotel located in Nevo Mesto, not far from the historic old Town, called the Grandoir Hotel. We dropped our bags at hotel and went out to explore the city. And the best way I enjoy to explore a city is on foot. We walked towards the historic old town. The  Bohemian capital is filled with oodles of charm and romanticism , especially the old town, with beautiful buildings in pastel shades, striking baroque architecture ,charming streets adorned with vintage gas lamps and cobbled paths. I found it hard not to fall in love with this old part of the town.

Colourful buildings and pretty streets of Prague

Prague is often referred as city of Spires, yet I was more mesmerised and intrigued  by the magnificent archways. The majestic archways  appear to be standing tall  with their open wide arms , welcoming the visitors, leading them  on to beautiful alleyways ,  on to lively parts of town , winding pathways  weaving  on to another charming part of the city, nudging you  on to keep discovering. We walked towards the old town hall to view the astronomical clock, to find it covered  in scaffolding and all wrapped up in covers. The clock was meant to be ready and open for public after the renovation works, by this time. Unfortunately the work got extended and it was not yet ready to be open to public. I felt a wave of disappointment.  I remember coming back to London and voicing my disappointment to a colleague, who very nicely pointed out to me set backs are part of travel , and most importantly the monuments need to be closed from time to time for up keep so that the generations to come may continue to enjoy its glories and stories. He also pointed out that ‘ Big Ben’ is closed for renovation now and is covered in scaffolding and disappoints so many tourists who come to London. As a Londoner,  I do wait for the day when Big Ben would have the scaffolding down , I have never experienced the feeling of not being able to see a monument from a tourists point of view and the feeling was not same.

The disappointment coupled with my hunger, was making me grumpy. At this point I was  not wholly sure as to  should I attribute my grumpiness to travel burnout or that we were just simply famished. Suddenly a strong desire to eat  Dal and fragrant Basmati rice took over me. I voiced my opinion to my husband,who was equally famished but not as grumpy as me. He knew just exactly the place to  go , in Prague. We walked in to an Indian Restaurant called K the two brothers. When I looked at the menu, it had pulao rice, and I was still looking quizzically at menu, and feeling  a bit more disappointed. The waiter who was taking the order,  perhaps gathered my predicament or my grumpiness, said in a cheerful tone that they could make the rice the way I would prefer and any other dish that I woul like. We ordered creamy dal makhani , Jeera Rice, some bread and yoghurt dip. And at the end of the meal, I was offered a Masala chai, and it tasted just like the ones made back in India or at home , with comforting aroma of cardamom rising from the cup along with the steam was enough to lift my spirits. I walked out of the restaurant with my tummy full and heart content, feeling a bit blithesome. We walked around a bit more , and went back to our room for a bit of  snooze or catnap.

Beautiful streets of Prague

Creamy dal, rice, Mint paratha and yoghurt dip (Raita)☺️

The starter we were recommended, a bread filled with cheese

Interiors of K The two brothers

Prague is well known for its fairytale architecture, spires, and  for its beer. Little did I know that Prague is a musical city, in fact Lonely planet calls music being the ‘lifeline of Prague’. Jazz has a very special place in this city s heart, along with rock and roll music, and of course the classical musical concerts in the evening, in churches, in town halls are very popular.The Prague Spring in May and Prague Autumn with classical Music concerts held at Rudolfinum is  sought after. There are pamphlets dotted around the old town , listing out the programme/ concert. While enjoying a cup of coffee in the cafe of the Municipal house , we saw a pamphlet of a concert in the evening, to be held in Smetana Hall of the Municipal house,-The Best of Mozart and Strauss. We bought the tickets for the same day evening show and wandered around streets of Prague, until the gates of the hall opened for the show. The interior of hall is  beautiful,  Grand stairs leading on to the splendid concert hall, which is very airy with a glass dome ceiling with beautiful murals on the walls, by the Czech artist ,Karel Špillar. The acoustics along with the soul stirring music brings the place alive, the murals dance in the light and the audience sway with joy to the rapturous music. The municipal house building itself , has been restored to its original glory in 1989 and there are tours available of the Municipal house during the day at regular intervals, and in the evening the concerts are held. We choose to attend the concert instead of taking the tour in the day, and it was a pleasure to listen to the music and being swept away by the music.

The next day we visited Klementium, a historic complex of buildings, known for its Astronomical tower,  views of the city from the tower and its beautiful Baroque Library. I  heard a lot about the library on social media and this is what inspired  me to visit the Klementium. In order to view the Baroque Library, you have to take  the tour of the  complex, which comprises of the library, Meridian hall and astronomical tower. The library was finished in 1722 and has since remain untouched in its appearance, hence it has a very original and authentic architecture untouched by time. There are no photography allowed of the library, for conservation reason. Seeing an old library survive the test of time and standing there surrounded by books from the  1600s to  the recent times , is an experience indescribable, especially for a book enthusiast, like me. All I did was stand in there and breathe in the effervescent smell of the old books, and I remembered the quote.

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”

― Jorge Luis Borges

As we moved along with the tour, we passed many telescopes and many other astronomical objects used to study the sky , stars, distance between the stars and meteorological measurements. Though originated as a look out, the tower started being used as a astronomical tower by Jesuit mathematicians and physicists. JosephStepling , Jan Klien being the ones who gradually equipped the tower and filled it with their drawing and observations . Klementium bells were used to determine the high  noon based on the movement of Sun in the Meridian Hall. The Merdiain hall situated in the second floor of the tower, is where the high noon( which is different to the noon on the clock) is determined everyday, based on the sun ray coming through a small aperture in the wall. The sub beam coming through the hole would fall on a white string stretched on the floor , the exact time it fell on the white string , determined the high noon. The whole room is turned in to an Camera abscura, I found this room particularly very interesting.

The final part of the tour is view of the town from the top the tower. You get beautiful views of the spires , the River and entire city. It’s a perfect spot for a selfie, and instagrammers paradise. You have to keep dodging the selfie sticks , and avoid photobombing someone’s  special selfie accidentally. I did manage to get some wonderful shots of the city from there, which made up for not having a photo of the beautiful Baroque library.

View of the Charles Bridge from Klementium

Another spot for getting wonderful photos and possibly the most beautiful views of the city, is from the top of Old Town hall, where the Astronomical clock is situated. Many of the interior rooms were closed for renovation, like the chapel on the first floor ,which gives you a view of the twelve apostles which adorn the clock, the historical and ceremonial hall. The structure of the old town hall is of gothic and is a very fetching architecture. The gothic tower was tallest in the city when it was established in 14th century and it also includes a watch tower and a living space for the watchman , who would warn the towns people in case of any danger. Currently there is a lift which takes you up to the viewing platform or you could take the stairs up, which we did. The views from the viewing platform are breathtaking, you can admire the Tyn Cathedral and St Nicholas s church. We saw a bride and bridegroom walk out from the St Nicholas church, while standing on the viewing platform. You could also see the Prague Castle in a distant and many more beautiful buildings consisting of spires, which is why city  is often referred as City of spires.

View on to Tyn Cathedral from Old Town Hall

View on to Mala Strana from above from Old town hall

Bride and Bridegroom now taking a photo

Glass lift to go to the viewing platform

We went inside the Tyn Cathedral, the most famous and perhaps most photographed building of Prague, with its beautiful tall spires. There is no photography allowed inside the church and is not open to public during masses. The interior of the church is very beautiful and displays are a combination of gothic, Renaissance and baroque style.

A post card of the interiors of the Cathedral

Another church which we visited, is  the  nearby St Nicholas s Church, which is a baroque style and  the interiors impressed me massively . I was moved by the beautiful frescoes inside and the dome, which are an additional beauty to its Baroque architecture.

Another place I enjoyed eating, was a place called Lehka Hlava, when translated from Czech to English simply means Clear Head. It is a restaurant and can be referred as tea room too , housed in a renovated  old gothic house dating from 15th century. It serves vegetarian food, has a relaxed atmosphere, with beautiful ceilings and decorations, and the food served is bursting with flavours. The place is very popular, although we reached there late in the afternoon, we had to wait 20 minutes to get a table and they could not let us know when the next table would be free as they do not rush people or have time limits. We waited in the lounge, which perhaps was the passage of the house, and ordered some drinks. When we moved to our table , I noticed the ceiling of the room was deep purple which gradually then blended in to the wall merging in  a dark green. The table had a lamp shaped like Mushroom and light coming out from the mushroom. The food was flavoursome , the atmosphere very uplifting, and the whole experience is very relaxing and unique.

We were in Prague for three days, we walked on the famous Charles Bridge, did a River cruise on River Vltava, walked in the Jewish quarters , saw the beautiful Spanish Synagogue , were moved by the photo of a couple taken together smiling blissfully  at wedding, who later perished in the concentration camps, tasted the famous Tredlink or chimney cake, admired the beautiful architectures and the lovely hand made curious which are manufactured and made in Prague, walked through the Golden lane where the alchemists lived and also Franz Kafka supposedly lived there for a while. We did not go to famous Prague Castle or Vitus Church or dancing building not because we did not want to , but we were getting tired and sitting down more for rest or spent a lot of time in the hotel cat napping and snoozing, making us wonder were we unwell. We were under the weather, tired and perhaps a bit what is termed as travel burnt out. We managed to beat it by eating food that reminded us of home, all the three days we had relaxing massages  and reflexology treatments at the end of the day. We were lucky to have a Spa in our hotel, we could have the treatments and take a lift back in our rooms and drift in to wonderful sleep. It’s worth mentioning, I did not realise until the therapist at the Spa informed me that Prague/ Czech Republic is also well known for Czech Beer Spa and Beer cosmetic products.

Loved this shop called Manufactura

Tredlink Chimney Cake

Charles Bridge

A couple s photo at Spanish Synagogue, who perished at Auschwitz

Spanish Synagogue

Jewish Quarters

Tribute to Franz Kafka in Jewish Quarters

Rudolfinum Music Hall

This trip to Prague made me understand travel burnout and that it is real. I would have attributed my tiredness and my husbands lethargy to either age or to general tiredness. It made me alter my plans for the sight seeing, cross out  some on list move it for another trip, seek out something to remind me of home, letting our body relax and unwind at its own pace. I have always understood and known that travel is never about the destination, yet this trip to Prague made me realise something else, which is better summed by this quote I read on the internet a few days ago.

“It is not the destination where you end up but the mishaps and memories you create along the way.”
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