The Jane Austen Center

Let’s take a trip to England in 1775, when one of the best romance novelists was born: Jane Austen! She began to write novels when she was thirteen, and her first book, Northanger Abbey, was based on a trip she experienced to Bath. Over the years she completed six novels and left another two unfinished. Unlike her female protagonists, Jane Austen and her only sister never married. She live her life under the care of first her parents, and then various brothers. Miss Austen often claimed that her novels were her children, and she was extremely fond of them all. Four of her books would be published during her lifetime (Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, and Emma), though they were published anonymously. Her last two books (Persuasion and Northanger Abbey) would be published using her name after she died. One of her brothers, Henry Austen, later gave Jane the credit for the previous four books. Her books have been exceedingly popular and never out of print since 1832. Jane Austen died in 1817 after her health failed her. She was 42.

Jane Austen has to be one of my favorite authors for a number of reasons:

  1. Her novels beautifully showcase the late 18th and early 19th century and the difficulties for women during this time period
  2. She was extremely dedicated to her work, sometimes taking decades to edit and revise her novels
  3. Her own life was so different from the lives of her characters. She was engaged twice; her own true love died before they could get married; she lived her adult life relying on the kindness of her parents and brothers

Her hardships and experiences are imbedded in her novels. This woman is such an inspiration to me that of course I had to visit her museum in Bath, England.

The Jane Austen Center is a fabulous experience for those who love her work and anyone looking for something to do. The employees are all dressed up as characters from the novels. A ticket to the museum includes a talk about her life, learning about the history of Bath and how it influenced her writing, and seeing a wax figure of Jane Austen herself. My favorite parts of the tour included discussing where Jane had lived during her time in Bath and her experiences there, and dressing up in 18th century garb and taking photos with a Mr. Darcy wax model.

Tickets to the museum cost £12 ($16.85) for an adult, though they do accept international student ID cards. Other parts to the museum include a tea room, where you can eat traditional finger sandwiches while drinking tea, and a walking tour through Bath to all the signification places Jane Austen visited during her life. For more information, please visit their website.

(I take all of my own pictures. I do not get paid to advertise)

I will never forget seeing the Stones for the first time as they came into view over the hill. From my vantage point in the shuttle bus, they looked stubby like short barrels on the landscape. The wind bit at my face as I climbed the hill side to come as close as the fence would allow. Here was Stonehenge.

This ancient landmark has been here for 5,000 years. The first Stones were arranged on this site during the Mesolithic Age in 2,500 BCE. Stonehenge was in use by the local people for around 1,000 years into the Bronze Age. Their ancient settlements nearby have also been excavated for visitation. Stonehenge, itself, is thought to be a religious site, and burials of local prominent people surround the site. It’s true purpose, however, is still unknown. The famous Stones on the hillside have not always looked this way: the great pillars have been rearranged three different times throughout its usage.

This striking place is the pilgrimage for over a million people each year. After finally having made it here myself, it’s easy to see why we put this on our bucket lists. Stonehenge displays human intelligence, power of will, and power of belief. Early civilizations would have had to figure out how to cut, carve, and move the stone to their current stations. The people would have needed some knowledge of astrology since the main pathway from Stonehenge aligns with the movement of the sun on the winter and summer solstices. Religious belief has caused the creation of some of the most fantastical monuments in history, including the Pyramids of Giza, Buddha statues, and the Aztec Pyramid Temples. Stonehenge, if it was a result of religious beliefs, would certainly not be an abnormality on this list. Finally, Stonehenge displays just how willful and stubborn humans are. The movement of giant stones that weigh multiple tons across a landscape and up a hillside to be arranged in a series of circles for the purpose of worship is the kind of force of will that levels mountains and builds empires.

When I stood beside Stonehenge, I felt such an awe that I could almost believe I had stepped into the church of nature. To stand in the dirt and grass, to feel the wind whip around my body, and see these stones that people had once claimed, I felt a part of the great circle. I felt connected to humanity and nature all at once. It is this feeling, I believe, that draws people to the site.

I got to Stonehenge using Scarper Tours in Bath, England. The tour bus picked Lora and I up from Bath. The bus traveled an hour to the Visitor station, where we got onto a shuttle bus to Stonehenge. Scarper Tours gave us two hours to explore Stonehenge and the visitor center museum before heading home. All in all, the trip took about four hours. There are other tour companies to choose from, but I feel Scarper Tours did a great job. The trip cost me around £32 ($45). The visitor center museum is included in the cost of the ticket and is certainly worth a visit. This trip to Stonehenge has been a highlight of my trip so far. If you are interested in booking a trip with Scarper Tours, click here for their website. If you want more knowledge about Stonehenge, click here for the website for that.

(I take all of my own pictures)

If you are wondering right now, where the hell is Salisbury? Well, you aren’t alone. Salisbury is a quaint little town slightly south-west of London. Salisbury was on my list because it would be a respite from the vastness of London, and it held a copy of the Magna Carta. In 1215, the Barons of England decided that they had had enough of King John and how he over-taxed his subjects. The Barons gathered together and presented King John with the Magna Carta at Runnymede….Continue Reading “Salisbury: The Magna Carta”

Welcome to Westminster Abbey! On the coldest March day in ten years, I arrived at the doors to London’s famous Westminster Abbey. At 1 in the afternoon, the Abbey was busy even during shoulder-season. Still, I waited a mere 20 minutes before being allowed inside the gothic wonder. Westminster Abbey was first built during the 10th century and has been the place of crowning Kings and Queens since 1066. The Abbey is home to over 1,000 years worth of history. It still holds services 29…Continue Reading “London: Feature Story”