Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Solitary holiday #3

Brasserie entrance with wrought iron, flowers and ivy
Harrogate, July 2015
I liked Harrogate, despite the rain. The town was accessible and attractive, as were the people. Maybe I'll go again next year.


Despite the forecast it didn't rain all morning, and I ventured out to have a look round. The town is larger than I was expecting and I wandered about fairly randomly, just getting oriented. My first impressions were that the architecture is lovely, there's quite a lot of history reflected in the buildings, and there is no shortage of places to eat, often advertising local produce that looks rather tasty. And lots and lots of shops that I didn't go into. Maybe later in the week.

Like my Solitary Holiday two years ago, I thought I'd like to make another dress, but this time for me rather than for Lola II. My inadequate preparations for this holiday (as usual) meant I hadn't bought any fabric in advance, but I did do a bit of Internet research and discovered that there are two fabric shops within walking distance of my apartment. Two! The first was very small, very crowded, the member of staff I found was rather unhelpful and they didn't seem to have the range I wanted. The other one, however, was bright and airy and despite having less stock overall, they had more than one design in the jersey fabric I was looking for. And I got a whole lot of invaluable advice and information about sewing with stretchy fabric, using a fancy double needle, tips for putting in the zip, and an offer to help me get the hem straight if I couldn't do it on my own.

Royal Hall exterior
'Kursaal' or Royal Hall, 1902


Looking into the hall from a box
The rain held off for my outing today, which was to the Royal Hall. This glorious building was built at the turn of the 19th century as an entertainment venue for those coming to Harrogate to take the waters. At the time it was named the Kursaal, but was renamed after the First World War due to anti-German sentiment. At the turn of the 20th century it had deteriorated to the point of demolition, but was saved and restored to its former glory.

'Ambulatory' circuit, Royal Hall, showing doors to boxes
There happened to be an Open Day on Tuesday including a tour of the building. Apart from the wonderful decor, stained glass windows, interesting private boxes and the provision of a walkway all around the outside of the inner hall, the part of the tour that made the greatest impression on me was when we were shown where the rear balcony was. In its heyday, the smart folk of the time would have looked out over a rose garden, a tennis court, statuary and parkland leading up to the grounds of the Majestic Hotel. Now you can see only concrete yards, the bins, and the back of some of the halls belonging to the International Conference Centre.


Today's cultural outing was a tour of the Turkish Baths. Unlike the single spring in Tunbridge or the few in Leamington (now reduced to just the one there too), there are many sources of spa water in Harrogate, and with varying composition including waters containing sulphur, iron and magnesium. The first spring was discovered in 1571, well before Leamington's or Tunbridge's.

The Pump Room (which I visited after the Baths) was built on top of four of these springs, and the Turkish Baths was built just up the road in an absolutely enormous heavy-looking building that now houses the Tourist Information office, a large Wetherspoons pub, a nightclub and a Chinese restaurant as well as the Baths, which have been restored to nearly how they would have been originally but taking account of modern sanitary requirements.

Frigidarium, Turkish Baths
The fixtures and fittings are wood, tile, terrazzo and mosaic floors and glorious walls painted in the Turkish style. Heat is provided by a boiler in the basement, and we were taken through successive rooms from the 'cold' room, the plunge pool through three stages of heat including the steam room. It is still owned by the Council and in use today (although obviously not during the tour) and also offers other 'treatments'.

As the popularity of spas declined in England, lots of buildings were repurposed. The Victoria Baths became Council offices, a building originally built as a theatre or assembly room is now an Art Gallery. In more recent times the town reinvented itself as a conference destination and even hosted the Eurovision Song Contest in 1982 and the end of the first stage of the Tour de France last year. There are still quite a few reminders of Le Tour around town in cycle logos, small sculptures or features on buildings.

The original Pump Rooms, now split into several separate establishments


This was supposed to be a mostly fine day so I planned to go to Harlow Carr, a Royal Horticultural Society garden. It can be reached on foot through the municipal Valley Gardens and Pinewoods, so that's what I did. I'm sure the gardens are very lovely and probably comparable with many other gardens I've visited and enjoyed. The main problem was the rain, which took much of the pleasure out of seeing plants and landscape, and then the battery on my camera ran out. Eventually I got so fed up of getting rained on that I gave it up and walked back, at which point the sun came out. Not for long, though.

Dinner was at a Turkish restaurant, where the lentil soup was particularly delicious.


Throughout the week at odd times here and there I've been working on the dress. Today I haven't planned anything else, so I had a good run up at the most difficult bit - putting the zip in. After two or three attempts I finally decided that the fabric is so stretchy that I don't actually need the zip, which made the business a whole lot easier and could have saved me three hours. I did some cooking, some reading, and I watched a film on DVD. Outside, it rained.

One of the reminders of the Yorkshire Tour de France


There's a Parkrun in Harrogate just a few minutes walk from where I'm staying, so I did that. Compared with the lovely Leamington route around the golf course with its monster hill in the second kilometer, Harrogate's course is almost completely flat and just three straightforward laps around a field. It was gloriously sunny and I felt optimistic for better weather at last.

The dress is almost finished, but the final hem went very wrong when I kept running out of thread. The fancy twin needle works surprisingly well at producing a stretchy seam, but is fairly hungry for thread and misbehaves badly when deprived. I had to unpick the whole seam, and it was lunchtime, and I wanted to go to a particular pub for lunch which was near the fabric shop. So I put on the dress with its slightly unfinished seam to show the lovely ladies in the shop, and the moment I stepped out of the door it started to rain.

The pub was a good choice for lunch and the lady in the fabric shop was pleased that I'd come to show her the almost-finished dress. I finished it in the afternoon and then finished up my holiday with a performance of The Gondoliers in the evening, the first event of the Gilbert and Sullivan Festival being held in Harrogate through August. Lovely.


More rain, obviously, but sunshine as soon as I got home and went indoors to unpack. That's life.

Red roses holding a lot of rain
Waterlogged roses

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