Location: Contemporary cool in Georgian Bath
Perfect for: Culture seekers and food lovers
Is Bath the most perfect place in Britain? They’ve got it all: Roman bits, Regency swank, stunning countryside and very contented locals…And Milsom View is the perfect urban bolthole, with reclaimed, industrial and quirky furnishings, plus towering ceilings and vast windows, complemented by modern touches like free WIFI and HDTV with full Freeview a Krups coffee maker and more…
“First class is the only way to travel,” chirrups Monsieur 2 picking surplus flakes of complimentary croissant from his trousers and surreptitiously scoffing them behind his newspaper. Reclining in First Great Western leather seats, I have to agree. After a particularly troublesome week, it feels good to be able to kick back and do nothing for the next 90 minutes; and the scenery on this route is pretty special.
Arriving at Bath Spa calm and uncrumpled, we pick up our bags and hoof it straight up to Milsom Street, where our apartment is based, to meet landlords Chris and Amy. We’re momentarily panicked when we clock that our apartment entrance is shared with an Indian restaurant, but Chris and Amy are so smiley and welcoming, we don’t let on, and as soon as we’re inside, all qualms disappear.
It is pure designer heaven (and no sign of spicy smells). Reclaimed, industrial and quirky furnishings, plus towering ceilings and vast windows, are complemented by free WIFI and HDTV with full Freeview. It’s the perfect urban bolthole.
Chris and Amy talk us through the keys, and then leave us to make tea and discuss plans. There are loads of things we want to do during our stay, and first on the list is the Roman Baths.
With so much steam rising we can hardly see the baths, but the ancient bits and pieces in the rambling museum are a joy. As is the gift shop. So much so, that five minutes later, we’re turning the key in our apartment door and dropping off our purchases. Monsieur 2 then leaps on the Krups coffee maker and demonstrates his juggling skills with the Nespresso pellets while shouting “Roll up, roll up, see the incredible juggling hunk!”; you just never stop learning about people, do you?
Now that we’ve seen the ancient baths, we want to try out the modern version – the new Thermae Baths, which, like everywhere is, is well within walking distance. Inside their Springs Café we take a seat amongst wet-looking diners in waffly bathrobes, and enjoy a super-healthy lunch before taking to the waters in the rooftop pool. It’s spinach and pine nut salad and roasted paprika and lemon chicken for me, and steamed red mullet with olive polenta followed by tea-smoked duck breast with root vegetable gratin for Monsieur 2.
“It’s like diving into tepid chicken soup,” I point out. “Too warm to swim, but oh so relaxing.” Judging from my beloved’s expression, I don’t think he quite approves of my anaology, but he certainly rates the experience, especially the epic views. Had we had the time, we’d have taken advantage of the spa’s 30 therapists and 20 treatment rooms. “Next time, we’ll book in for a hot stone treatment and mud wrap, too” he says as we leave.
Pottering through the backstreets of Bath, we find row upon row of little boutiques and independents – all the prettier for their sandstone walls and hanging baskets.
I find a fabulously rambling book in one of the antique bookshops, all about life in the early 1900s, but end up settling for a Mitford – The Sun King – which I haven’t read before. By the time I’ve finished, we’re rather peckish, and take Monsieur 2 up on his offer to treat me for tea at the Pump Room.
Under the lofty Georgian ceiling in the grandiose Pump Room, life judders to a pleasing halt to the strains of classical piano and tinkling tea cups. But rather than go the whole tea hog, I choose a slice of Victoria sponge, and Monsieur 2 goes for cheddar crumpets with piccalilli. Both delicious.
Monsieur 2 sniffs sceptically, “Three year-old eggs squeezed through a rusty metal bucket and left to stew.” Gulp. We’re glad we tasting the waters on a full stomach.
Bath is best seen from the street, and we parade up and down. “I keep expecting Jane Austen to pop out of a house and beat a carpet,” I say wittily while Monsieur 2 pats my head lovingly – or patronizingly – I’m not sure which.
We pick up dinner at Jamie’s Deli next door to the apartment; the cheeky chappy’s empire is based in Bath, and his Italian restaurant supplies the deli.
As Monsieur 2 warms up our feast of squid-ink pasta and a rich garlic and mushroom sauce, I check out the treats left by Amy and Chris: bottles of wine, local cheese, olives, chutneys, fresh artisan bread and selections of Fortnum & Mason’s tea.
Popping open the Prosecco, we toast our landlords. Thanks guys!
There’s the TV and a pile of retro games to keep you amused during your time here, but we want to hit the night streets. And after a quick change, we walk to the city’s only gay bar. “It looks like something from 1980s middle America,” gasps Monsieur 2. With that we turn on our heels and make tout suite, for Pulteney Bridge to sup cocktails in Opium, in the vaults under Grove Street. It really is a hidden secret; you have to hunt to find it, but the clash of Baroque, Bohemian and bizarre makes it a real find. “We’ve finally found Jane Austen’s fantasy boudoir,” Monsieur 2 says. Wow, that girl had an imagination.
Popping on a loungy mix on the Sony dock, we slip into the Egyptian cotton sheets of our kingsize bed, and get ready for a zizz. What a day.
Chris and Amy recommended the Wild Café on Queen Street for brunch. It’s just a two-minute walk away (isn’t everywhere here?), and we tuck into sublime Eggs Benedict and freshly brewed coffee.
Now for some serious Bathy sights. A quick whizz around the Circus and Royal Crescent, and up to Alexandra Park – it’s a trek, but the view over the city takes our breath away.
But there’s no rest for the wicked, and we march back to the oh so elegant Assembly Rooms, complete with Fashion Museum in the basement. It’s a gorge-fest of fashion past and present, from a pair of gem-encrusted gloves from the 1600s right through to this season’s collections.
Retracing our steps from last night, we trip over Pulteney Bridge to Bath’s little Holburne Museum – it’s a lovely little art gallery, with a good collection of Gainsboroughs, a sunny café – and a mean broccoli and gorgonzola tart.
“Is Bath the most perfect place in Britain?” I ask Monsieur 2, having handed our keys back to Chris and Amy. “They’ve got it all: Roman bits, Regency swank, stunning countryside and some of the most contented locals I’ve ever met.” “It is rather special” he agrees. And, after paying Sally Lunn a visit en route to the station – I mean, those buns are big as your head, and a lot tastier – we’re all set for our return home.
Back on the train, I broke into a chorus of “Back to life, back to reality…”. Monsieur 2 intones, “You should save your singing for the Bath.”Remember to mention les Deux Messieurs on booking to receive a discount of £10/night!
Travel: We were spoiled rotten by First Great Western. Thank you.Not what you’re looking for. Discover other amazing UK cultural destinations and city breaks here
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Milsom View is a gay friendly boutique luxury self catering in Bath, Somerset.
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