The train from London took a little more than an hour but it felt like we had gone back two hundred years. Exiting the train station, we stepped onto the streets, purposefully preserved from the 1800s. Yellow-beige buildings, cobbled streets running up and along the hill. A river casually flowing under the bridge. I was in the world of Jane Austen.
I know, I know, she only spent a few years of her life in Bath. And her museum had been closed by the time we made it there. The gift shop, on the other hand, was open; I purchased a thin book of her unfinished novels, a copy of which had mysteriously disappeared from my library a couple of years earlier. A friendly young lady, dressed as one of Austen’s characters (I can’t remember whom) stamped it for me. The sun disappeared around 5 pm and the wind began to play with the debris and garbage of the streets. The city suddenly looked grey and empty. Only now we noticed that the city center did not have any trees, adding to the feeling of loneliness. It was bare.
We live in fantasy and we travel in fantasy. Coming to a new place, we do not truly see it. We look through a lens; past memories, images from films, pieces of stories from the books we have read or stories we have heard. Like in relationships, one is often encapsulated in his or her perception of themselves, perception of the other person and the history of what has occurred. We rarely react to the here and now, to a specific situation unfolding in front of our eyes, seeing the other person for who they are. Rather, we peer through a veil that is like a quilt, sewn from different fabrics and patterns of our experiences, dreams, hopes and fantasies. Did I want to see Bath for what it is? Of course not. I wanted to preserve a fairy tale of Jane Austen’s novels and the taste of amusement, delight, and satisfaction one gets from her writing.
Standing within the herd of over a hundred elephants from all around the world in our living room, a pink elephant from a glass store on the main city square in Bath reminds me that yet another fairy tale came true.