Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Encountering the Faith in Bath

My dad has always said "Mormons are Mormons are Mormons wherever you go."  I was reminded of this during our anniversary getaway this last weekend in Bath, England planned exclusively by my sweet husband (queue collective "ah").

We saw the waters, drank them, and even "took" them at the over-priced, luke-warm Thermae Bath Spa (try the cheaper Bath Cross Spa, although the scented steam rooms and foot baths of the pricier option were lovely).  We enjoyed the uniform Georgian architecture made out of honey-colored bath stone, dining at the eclectic Walrus and Carpenter, and the free two-hour walking tour.

I also particularly enjoyed the little-visited Victoria Art Gallery, where I found a few surprises.  Local artist Peter Brown was doing a painting demonstration just outside the gallery, where an exhibit of his Bath paintings from the last year were on display.  Very cool.  I also chanced upon, thanks to my husband's good guidance, a wonderful history lesson of Bath as found in the museum's intimate print collection, documenting architectural developments, dress, and the discovery of Minerva's bronze head (1879?) as part of the Roman temple complex adjoining the baths.

The last surprise made me chuckle a bit.  As part of the Peter Brown special event that night, paints, pastels, and paper were laid out on card tables for children to draw upon.  Among the crayons I heard a familiar accent, and looked up to find a similarly familiar shiny-faced, exuberant countenance belonging to a young women packing up her five-minute drawing and thanking the museum docent for the "wonderful experience."  My Mormon radar went off, and I asked the young women where she was from.  I pegged it: she was from Rexburg, Idaho, a Mormon town and seat of  BYU-Idaho.  She was flattered I had identified her faith so quickly.  

The next day, in the Jane Austen Centre's Regency Tea Room (decor has much to be desired, but the very wide menu options for tea and excellent service make it more than worthy of the awards it has received), I found a similar accent and eager friendliness.  Yet this time the woman was from South Carolina, and I thought that my skills were off.  We talked politics, English traditions, and experiences in Bath.  It wasn't until we were leaving that the woman shared with me that she was, in fact, LDS.  I felt just a little bit smug.

That American Latter-day Saints (I have yet to test my theory with members of the faith from other countries) are so easily spotted by one familiar with their characteristics is either evidence of pervasive Mormon culture, at least in the U.S., a compliment to the manner of lives those of my faith share (light of countenance is often the only clue, but many of other faiths share this characteristic), or some combination of both.  Whatever it is, I certainly enjoy refining my detection skills while traveling in this beautiful country.

We arrived at 8:00 a.m. before the tourists and got fantastic pictures.
Don't be fooled by our apparent summery outfits - I am wearing cashmere and ski leggings under my dress.

Excavated Roman Baths, underwater till the late Victorian period.
Pictured behind is the glorious Bath Abbey.

Tasted a bit like Alka Selzer.
42 minerals later, my headache of 4 days had subsided.

Peter Brown doing his thing, aided by 10+ eager onlookers.

The most expensive painting of the exhibit, at 12,500 pounds.
Notice the artist's daughter in the lower right.

I wonder if Collin Firth knows he is immortalized as Mr. Darcy several times over
at the Jane Austen Centre, in the shop, tea room, staircase, and even the ladie's room.  


  1. Looks like it was a nice visit. We missed Bath when we went to England last time, but it is on my list for the next visit. It looks like it was a lot of fun.

  2. I used to play spot the "Spot the American" as a teenager. Biggest clues? White socks. Clothes that error on the baggy side.

    Spot the American Mormon game is one step beyond this in difficulty. And, to brag, I do pretty well. Yes polite and kind are good indicators, but I can figure it out without even having the person make a sound. I've wondered in the past about why I always know. And, in addition to the regular American clues, there a few more clues.

    Clue 1. They dress modestly. (Clothes all have sleeves, shorts and shirts tend to hit the knee, etc.)If there is an item that would be worn separately by anyone else (like a tank top) it will be layered over a more modest item.

    Clue 2. Sometimes they have bad hair. Not bad as in bad, bad as in boring. It just kind of sits there. It's rarely funky or dyed (unless it has been dyed blond) and rarely interesting. Yep, land of boring hair. I know! I wish I didn't have to say this, but often it's true. You don't have bad hair Lorianne.

    3. Yeah, they tend to smile a lot and seem to be very nice, approachable, down to earth people.

    I was in Fez a year ago surrounded by thousands of people and boom, I spotted the Mormons in a second. And no, they weren't wearing name tags.

    Anyway you've hit one of my favorite traveling games, that I don't even have to think about playing to win over and over again.

  3. Seriously funny, Mary. I was going to comment on the modesty clues but then forgot. I once spotted a whole family of them in capris - a dead giveaway. I also think that hair parts - clean and straight - are usually easy signs.

    Do you ask them to confirm, or just watch/listen afterwards to make sure you are right?