A romantic night in Bath without the kids provided plenty of fun, plenty of food and a perfect, unique place to stay
Later in the year, friends of ours are leaving their kids behind and going to California for a week to celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary. Sadly all we managed to wangle was 29 hours (and counting) in Bath. But, thanks to an amazing little hotel, it was quite perfect.
We are only an hour’s drive from Bath so, given the limited time we had, it was an ideal destination for us. And the city always feels different enough to make it seem like you’ve been away properly, not just snuck off 40 miles down the A46.
At first we’d been tempted to book one of the big, luxurious spa hotels that abound in Bath. In particular, the Macdonald Bath Spa had been recommended to us. Friends had told us they’d loved the spa treatments, the impeccable service and the beautifully-kitted out rooms. They’d got a really good deal too - £100 for dinner, bed and breakfast.
But, in truth, we’re just not fancy hotel people. What we wanted was somewhere individual, a little bit classy and a big bit comfortable. Oh, and somewhere we could stagger back to after an evening sampling some local beer…
The obvious choice was a city b&b. I quickly came across the Bath Paradise House Hotel online and fell in love - it was mainly the prospect of the half-acre walled garden that did it. It's a small but very luxurious b&b / hotel; individual and with lots of character. Their website was very impressive, and the reviews were fantastic. We got a good price and booked.
So, on the appointed day, as soon as the kids were despatched to school, grandparents were en route to be our proxies and we sped off for our 29 hours of freedom. This meant we got there very early – way before lunch. And at first glance the hotel didn’t look too promising; it’s in a fairly forgettable residential area at the top of a hill, but the staff were welcoming and happy for us to use the lounge area and get us coffee since our rooms weren’t ready.
But the city was too much of a pull and we headed straight out. Bath has got its fair share of detractors: many complain that it’s touristy, busy and expensive. And they’re right. But I still love it. It’s also got wonderful architecture, great shopping and a fine array of eateries.
Our first stop was brunch but we found ourselves indecisive when faced with so much choice. We eventually decided on somewhere good and trendy right in the city centre – The Arch (www.thearchbath.co.uk). I loved the décor there – deep red walls and wooden floors – and we enjoyed a very satisfying Eggs Benedict and a bottle of wine before staggering five minutes back up the hill to check out our room.
We must have been upgraded since we’d only paid £99 and had been given something quite amazing. We were in the garden room, slightly separate from the main Georgian house. Our huge window overlooked that glorious garden – glorious even in the hammering rain. We had a four-poster bed, satisfyingly solid, quality furniture with stylish yet understated furnishings.
Though it’s not a sentence I ever expected to find myself typing, I was truly wowed by the bathroom! Even though I appreciate Molton Brown toiletries, it was the Jacuzzi bath and the TV screen built into the tiles around the bath and shower seriously impressed me.
Staff at the hotel were very helpful with their recommendations and reassuringly approving of the restaurant we’d already booked for dinner. In fact we turned up at Raphael Restaurant (http://www.raphaelrestaurant.co.uk) an hour before our initial reservation – we’ve been eating early with the children for too many years now to be able to hold off until 8pm!
This meant we ended up eating from the two-course pre-theatre menu, offered between 5.30pm and 7.30pm. Raphael Restaurant had also been recommended by friends and we weren’t disappointed. Our waitress was satisfyingly French (it’s a French restaurant!) and there was a great buzz to the place. Certainly this wasn’t an eaterie for an intimate, long, lingering meal… service was fast and the tables were densely packed. But this suited us just fine - and we ended up pretty much swapping life stories with the couple next to us!
It was still early and we weren’t ready for another drink so we decided to try the Bizarre Bath walking tour (http://www.bizarrebath.co.uk). This runs every night from 8pm till 9.30pm and, on the flimsiest of pretexts, positions itself as a historically-themed introduction to the city. It was great fun and our guide was very skilled and very humorous. Our very international group of twenty were kept laughing throughout.
After this it was back to our beautiful, beautiful room and a gloriously comfortable bed.
Despite all our fine dining, the next morning we managed to work our way through a very special breakfast with a lovely fruit salad to offset the full cooked! Breakfast was served in the lounge which overlooks another part of the garden and has panoramic views across to the Royal Crescent. Much as I wanted to take advantage of that bottle of Cava, practicalities overcame me: we wanted to make the most of our remaining five hours away, not waste them snoozing.
Our plan had been to go to the Thermae Bath Spa (http://www.thermaebathspa.com) for the morning. This is a relatively new day spa featuring all sorts of weird and wonderful luxury treatments at the site of the UK’s only natural thermal waters. We’d decided we would try a two-hour spa session at the New Royal Baths, making use of the two baths fed by thermal waters – one a rooftop bath - and a variety of ‘aromatic steam rooms’. At £22 this seemed like a reasonable price to try something completely different and engage in some serious people watching.
But the best laid plans rarely come to fruition and after breakfast we took our tea into the garden and felt quite overwhelmed by the peacefulness of it all. The little tables and chairs set out in the different parts of the grounds were calling us loud and clear.
And so we ended our brief trip away with an activity that was very fitting for us; we went to the hotel's collection of board games and spent a very happy couple of hours playing ‘al fresco’ Scrabble - a perfect end to a perfect (very) short break.
When we checked out, I asked if there were any family rooms in the hotel, thinking it would be a great place to come back to with the children. When the answer was ‘no’, and I found myself unexpectedly heartened... this place is way too good for the kids!