|Harrogate, July 2015|
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.
|'Kursaal' or Royal Hall, 1902|
|Looking into the hall from a box|
|'Ambulatory' circuit, Royal Hall, showing doors to boxes|
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|
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.