I love Bath. If you know Bath but have never been you will probably know two things about it, that it's a world heritage site and that it is Jane Austen land. Both facts are true and are reasons to visit Bath, but like any city including London and Paris I think Bath improves every time you visit and is more enjoyable when you've 'done' the tourist stuff (though all the Austen stuff is clearly mandatory if you are female).
My Bath though, the Bath I revisit, is about sophisticated relaxation.
I adore London, particularly shopping in London, but London's size can be exhausting. In London if you want that one special dress, that knock out pair of heels or that scent to entrance your proposed new love you can keep going from Marylebone to Upper street to Selfridges to Knightsbridge- every village and department store will have what you want, or need, but you are never quite sure there isn't something better out there- and so you and your oyster card keep travelling until you collapse exhausted from a seven mile round trip.
Bath is delightfully compact and full of the kind of boutiques that edit their stock with all the products you feel you need under one roof.
For shopping for me I especially love Prey on George Street, just off the very central street Milsom street. When I first visited Bath as a penniless ish new graduate it was in Prey that I blew my lunch budget on French shabby chic bathroom accessories and I've loved it ever since. Downstairs you will find books like the Taschen guides to the world's major city break destinations, statement costume jewellery, home accessories and scents from L'Artisan Parfumeur and Annick Goutal. Upstairs you will find fashion from Orla Kiely and the kinds of designers you wish you could find when you are going around and around London shops wondering why everything looks the same.
My newest fashion discovery is Instant vintage. Also on George street I visited on the Saturday of the Jubilee when the lovely staff were making sure all their customers had champagne to toast the Queen and themselves. I bought a new clutch bag (I had forgotten to take an evening bag with me) and a fabulous pair of vintage looking pearl, bird earrings that were the envy of all the girls in the club I went to later. My shopping accomplice found two new dresses and a belt. We both also won prizes in the Jubilee lucky dip- she a thirties bracelet and I an extremely sweet silk stitched purse.My only sadness is Instant vintage's website really doesn't do them justice, so you'll just have to go to be sure that I'm right.
For cards, notebooks (fellow writers), pens and the most wonderful advent calenders (think German picture calenders) I recommend Mayther. For home ware, emergency presents and general lifestyle porn you can't go wrong with Vinegar Hill.
Now I must say to me holidays always say Italian food and so I love Martini because it's a proper Italian, with anti pasti, secondi, loud gregarious waiters, singing for birthdays, rich desserts and Montepulciano. They also serve proper Italian food, the kind that makes you want to sing like Pavarotti because you're so happy (incidentally I had a cocktail named after the larger than life tenor which was delectable, though I don't know that elderflower and champagne is terribly Italian myself- they had Aperol though if you wanted to be more authentic).
For a lunch time paninni and people watching in a comfortable but chic Georgian first floor room (and some retail therapy on the way out) go to Bloomsbury- it's Veggie but it's great, they do a mean ploughman's, proper salads and wake up after too many of the above mentioned cocktails coffee.
Your Lonely Plant will tell you go to Sally Lunn's for the buns- and you probably should once, though I find them to be enormous and filling in the way food from another age can be. For a top notch afternoon tea with bubbles, little sandwiches, and cake which is also Georgian but more the Wolesley than the inn on the corner go to the Pump rooms and feel special.
To walk off lunch:
I'm going to go traditional here and say the Royal Crescent because it's breath takingly beautiful and quite steep- so actual calories will be worn off while you run like Sally Hawkins as Anne Elliott towards Rupert Penry- Jones' Captain Wentworth in Persuasion (or is it just me who does that?).
Go to the Baths of course. Not the Roman ones- though you really should because where else in the world can you walk around so much of Rome in an actual city (okay in Rome but that's different). But I mean the new Baths- set inside a Bath stone Georgian building but inside it's more like the Sanderson, or a European bank, than anything the characters in Vanity Fair would recognise.
Downstairs you can steam in four different scented pods, shower off in hot, cold or monsoon showers and take the spa waters in the pool. Up on the roof is a second pool over looking the Abbey and the hills of Somerset you can float and bathe in the natural warm salty waters with bubbles galore- when I went the sun shone so brightly I wished I'd taken sunglasses but it also look fun in the rain! It's not a spa in the hotel sense- you will have to share, but that is why it's like the Roman experience- and it's fun!
If all this has has made you feel ready to get your dancing heels on I had such fun at OPA which is a restaurant earlier but turns into a very stylish and fun club, a self declared 'Rihanna free zone' (there's a sign as you enter) the music policy is eclectic and the door men join in and dance late in the evening.
If all this makes you feel ready for bed then I've always wanted to stay here, if anyone wants to take me I'm available from around mid July.