A Clean Weekend Away

No dirty weekend for us! We picked Bath to visit last weekend to celebrate my birthday, and between the Roman Baths and a morning spent in the modern day thermae spa, we came back sparkling clean.

Arriving on Friday afternoon by train at Brunel’s Bath Spa station, we went to find our digs. We were staying in a fantastic apartment in a converted schoolhouse right in the centre of Bath. There were lots of stairs to climb but the view across the rooftops was worth it. And being just minutes, and in some cases just seconds, from the sights, the bars, restaurants and shops was a luxury that made the most of our time away.

So we still had time for a little sight seeing and we started with the closest and most obvious attraction, the Roman Baths. The operatic voice of a singer in the square outside floated down as the warmth from the natural waters rose, and there was a lovely sense of quiet, despite the inevitable handful of tourists having their photos taken with a Centurion and a Roman lady. I was glad that we had arrived too late to get into the adjoining Pump Rooms so we managed to avoid the obligatory tasting of the Spa waters, which I remember as tasting foul from a visit twenty years ago.

Instead we did a bit of window shopping… I am not a natural shopper but it was all so calm and unbusy, I was rather enjoying trying on a few outfits. Dinner had been booked at Clayton’s Kitchen at the Porter which was an exceptional meal -the best meal I’ve had in ages in relaxed surroundings and with excellent service – so we indulgently went back there for breakfast the next morning.


Quiet Street

But somehow Bath had been transformed overnight. From our Friday evening impressions of the Spa town with its calm and elegant streets clad in honey coloured Bath stone, we found ourselves in a busy tangle of alleys and lanes bustling with tourists and street performers.


We ducked into the Thermae Bath Spa for some respite. I had been imagining it as a quiet sanctuary-like day spa, but in fact it seemed more like a modern day version of the Roman Baths, a busy place where people came to socialise in the thermal waters. The rooftop pool literally could not have fit more people in it, but it was rather nice to be engulfed in the warm waters outdoors on an October morning, imagining the bathers as Roman citizens.

Refreshed, we walked up away from the shopping crowds and up to the Circus and the Royal Crescent, to admire the sweeping Georgian architecture of John Wood the Younger, and the lovely views down through Victoria Park. We grabbed a sandwich and went to sit down by Bath Abbey, where the queues for the Roman Baths now stretched around the block, and a non stop stream of buskers kept everyone entertained.

The crowds did not stop inside the Abbey where we enjoyed the exquisite fan vaulting on the ceiling but, rather incongruously, an enormous and chaotic cake sale was happening on the ground. I am the first person to scoff a cake at any opportunity and subsequently feel guilty, but this time not one item along that aisle full of confection actually tempted me – they all looked rubbish! Instead my latent religious guilt compelled me to buy one to aid their fundraising efforts, and I ate it as we walked along the winding River Avon and across the Pulteney Bridge.

We walked along Great Pulteney Street which, at 1000ft long and 100ft wide, is the widest and grandest road of Bath and I could picture those Georgian ladies perambulating up that wide boulevard in their enormous frocks. However it was only built as a façade and subsequent developers acquired the plots and filled in the structure behind, and I loved the idea that each interior would be laid out differently despite the uniform frontage.

At the end of the street is the Holburne Museum, home to the collection of fine and decorative arts by Sir William Holburne. Paintings by Zoffany and Gainsborough hung upstairs while downstairs we picked our way through a diverse collection of silverware, porcelain, miniature cameos, silver gilt spoons and fine furniture. We had been recommended to stop for a cup of tea at the modern extension at the back of the museum which looked out onto the Sydney Gardens, the only remaining pleasure gardens in the country.

Sunday morning saw a walk through Bath’s cobbled streets to meet family friends for breakfast at Raymond Blanc’s brasserie at the Francis Hotel in Queen Square. We just had time to visit the elegant Assembly Rooms with its fabulous chandeliers and its Fashion Museum in the basement, before saying goodbye to our lovely apartment and jumping on the train back to London.

For more pictures of our trip see my Pinterest Travel snaps page

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