With overseas holidays not on the agenda right now, or for quite some time I would imagine, a British staycation is definitely the order of the day. Mark and I have always been frequent visitors to this beautiful city, so it was an easy choice to make for a couple of nights R&R on the 12th and 13th August. You’ll never be bored in Bath.
Bath, like any other city, is a bit of a nightmare to drive around, and parking is an even bigger headache, so we wanted somewhere close to the action. The elegant Francis Hotel, which is part of the MGallery Hotel Collection fitted the bill as it’s located in Queen Square, right at its heart – so, a stone’s throw from the shops, museums and sites of the centre. As most of the city’s attractions weren’t open due to lockdown restrictions (we were aware of this on booking), we were quite happy to spend some time chilling in our hotel room (not what you think you mucky-minded people!), mooch around the shops, enjoy some good food, check out a couple of abbeys (one of Mark’s favourite things to do) and just… relax!
Background to the Francis Hotel…
Francis Hotel was first opened by Emily Francis, a leading entrepreneur of her time, she merged seven Georgian townhouses to form the property standing today. The luxury 98-room boutique hotel has a sympathetic contemporary interior design and outdoor terrace for alfresco dining and drinks. Situated right in the heart of the Bath, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the hotel is the perfect spot for those seeking to explore this historical city, elegant parks, and the surrounding rolling countryside.
First opened as townhouses and later used as a boarding house in 1858 at No 10 Queen Square by local builder Soloman Francis. It was later re-opened with much celebration as the Francis Private Hotel in 1884, following its expansion incorporating No 6 through to No 11, Mrs Emily Francis, widow of Soloman Francis, was able to expand her business; progressively taking over residences until May 1884 when seven of the adjacent houses were opened with much celebration as Francis Private Hotel.
It was John Wood the Elder, creator of Bath’s many prestigious buildings, who designed Francis Hotel’s now Grade I listed building from 1728 to 1735. As it can be seen across his celebrated designs, he had a passion for classical architecture, apparent from the seamlessly interconnected townhouses that make up the Francis Hotel today.
In 2015, the Francis Hotel enjoyed an extensive restoration that has since transformed the building into a unique Regency-inspired townhouse hotel, combining 21st Century elegance with all the splendour of its historic past.
In 1943, during WWII, part of the property’s original frontage was destroyed by a 500kg bomb in the Bath Blitz. Despite the devastation, the historic hotel was restored to its former 18th Century glory.
What we loved…
The Francis Hotel was a good choice. Like many of the hotels in the city, this beautiful Georgian building made up of Bath’s iconic honey-coloured stonework is simply gorgeous. It doesn’t look that big from the outside but inside it’s huge, with its intricate network of corridors to various rooms, making it all part of its charm.
Our room: The Classic
Our room was compact and bijou but had everything you needed for a short stay. A really comfy Queen-size bed with crisp white Egyptian cotton linen and duvet, flat screen TV, beautifully appointed shower room with The White Company toiletries and super fluffy pristine white cotton towels. There was a nifty cupboard housing the tea/coffee bits and bobs, an ironing board, a safe and super fluffy cotton bathrobes.
We didn’t spend too much time in the Bar at No 10 lounge, we only managed to drink our after-dinner coffee there, but if we were bigger drinkers, it would have been a very pleasant space to enjoy a bottle of something bubbly or one of their classic or signature cocktails. It’s open from 10am until 11pm daily, with in-room dining available until 10pm.
What we loved about this room was the fine display of Georgian glassware in the most gorgeous colour aqua; the blue tint reflecting the healing minerals used in the many of the city’s spas.
We ate our dinner and breakfasts in the Brasserie Blanc, aptly named as the menu was devised by none other than celebrated chef Raymond Blanc. As you can imagine, the food is simple, hearty French cuisine, apparently inspired by the flavours of Raymond’s childhood and which are also guided by the seasons.
Excellent starter (we shared). Beetroot and goat’s cheese. I chose the fillet with a selection of green vegetables. This was cooked perfectly. The steak was pink (as it should be) and the veg al-dente. Mark chose the lamb with dauphinoise potatoes and green beans. He followed his mains with a cheesecake with strawberry jus. All courses were beautifully prepared and presented.
Our breakfasts were served in the same room and were just as tasty. Mark opted for the full English while I chose the smoked salmon and scrambled egg. Again, these meals were competently executed.
The waiting staff are brilliant! Even though they had to endure wearing face masks and gloves, they were still smiling – you could tell by their eyes! Nothing was too much trouble.
What we did…
Founded by the Ancient Romans because of the natural thermal springs, Bath has always been a place of indulgence and wellness. As a result, it’s a city with a far slower pace of life than most of the UK. Even more so now because of Covid. Therefore, the streets were far less busy, which suited us as we have visited in the past and it’s been too busy with throngs of people hustling and bustling. We were able to amble our way through the streets at a leisure pace, dipping in and out of shops as we pleased.
This leads me neatly to…
I have always liked the shops in Bath. I was sorry to see quite a few of my old favourites have disappeared (Duo boots being one) but enough have remained plus a few new ones have opened too.
The shops I loved (mainly boutiques as that’s my thing)…
Sassy & Boo
9 Bartlett Street, Bath BA1 2QZ
1-4 New Bond Street, Bath BA1 1BE
The Dressing Room
7 Quiet Street, Bath BA1 2JW
The Ochre Jumper, below, is Autograph at Marks & Spencer
19 Green Street, Bath BA1 2JZ
EP Mallory & Sons Jewellery Store
1-5 Bridge Street, Bath BA2 4AP
Bath Guildhall Market
33 High Street, Bath BA2 4AW
1-2 Bartlett Street, Bath
Russell & Bromley
16/17 Old Bond Street, Bath BA1 1BP
Mark loves several shops in Bath too…
He really likes the market and the city has some excellent galleries and art shops. Here are a few he recommends:
It was a boiling hot day on the day we chose to do our window shopping but that didn’t stop us enjoying ourselves. I was so hot in my outfit choice of midi skirt and three-quarter sleeve top that as we passed the British Heart Foundation charity shop, I spied a cheeky little dress in the window. We went in and the lady kindly let me try it on in the shop with Mark obscuring me from anyone. It fitted like a glove and at only £5.99, it was a steal and saved the day!
I also really loved the relatively new shop Sassy and Boo. Mainly because I loved the brands that were on offer but also because the Ciren, the lady serving, was so nice and welcoming.
Mark found a fab little magazine shop (Magalleria) and spent a little time chatting to the owner whilst I was browsing. We then met up for a coffee and slice of cake for Mark at The Loft.
Had we stayed longer and had more attractions been open we may very well have visited a few of the following:
The Roman Baths
Royal Crescent and Number One
Assembly Rooms and Fashion Museum
Places to visit near Bath…
Cheddar Caves and Gorge
And we would have definitely gone on one of the City Sightseeing Hop On, Hop Off Tours which includes either the City Tour which takes you to all the urban historic spots across seventeen stops or the Skyline Tour which takes in the Abbey, the Holbourne Museum, the University of Bath , Claverton Down and Prior Park Landscape Garden or taken the Skyline Walk which is a six mile circular countryside walk – find out more at www.city-sightseeing.com
On our second day we visited Lacock Abbey and Wells Cathedral. You can read about this part of our trip by clicking here.
So much to do and so little time. I feel another mid-week break calling!
The Francis Hotel
Queen Square, Bath BA1 2HH
What I wore…
Photography Mark Roberts
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