2017 is almost at an end, so it seems easier to believe that so many months have passed since my sensational and soothing May Bank Holiday sojourn to Bath!
The life of a Londoner is one that moves at a uniquely hectic pace…
At times our lives seem to defy the laws of physics and are defined by a rhythm often out of synchronicity with our restful needs and wistful desires.
Being born and partially bred as a West Country girl, I always look forward to my short trips back to a tempo of life that follows a completely different tune: relaxation and breath are always restored, sleep becomes deeper and my dreams more meaningful, the soft water soothes my skin and the minerals within it quench the spirit.
Bath, the southwest England town of honeyed stone buildings envisioned by 18th century Georgian architects and renowned for the natural hot springs that have been a unique attraction since the Roman era is an unrivalled place to enjoy the best of ancient experiences and modern conveniences.
The compact destination is an ideal setting for a great escape featuring sensual delights, aesthetic culture and unspoilt countryside vistas.
Bath was regal enough to be found suitable as home to Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia during his period of exile between 1936 and 1941.
His Imperial Majesty resided in the two storey Italianate villa Fairfield House which he gave to the City of Bath to be used as a home for the aged when he received the Freedom of the City in 1958.
The only city in Britain to have been bestowed World Heritage status, Bath is popular with tourists from home and abroad and a cherished place to escape for Britons with a love of serenity and in search of scintillation of all their senses: the air is fresh, the atmosphere peaceful and the architectural and pastoral sights are pleasing to the eye and the variety of cuisines all charming to the taste buds.
Engaging all senses for relaxation and delight whilst in Bath is now even more of a pleasure since the one of a kind boutique hotel No 15 Great Pulteney Street has made its mark on the grandest thoroughfare in town.
Great Pulteney Street is a majestic promenade joining the Robert Adam designed Pulteney Bridge which crosses the River Avon to Bathwick on the other side of the historic city centre.
Sir William Pulteney commissioned the architect Thomas Baldwin to design the imposing street and his construction of the façade was completed in 1789.
Developers purchased plots and built a variety of structures behind with variant internal structures and functional purposes. Historic residents of Great Pulteney Street include the author Jane Austen and the abolitionist William Wilberforce.
The staff at No 15 Great Pulteney Street gave me a warm welcome to Bath before I had even arrived in the city, with their attentive care and warm consideration during my direct booking of a well-deserved escape.
Approaching the hotel on foot after sightseeing on a bright, hot day made me feel as if I was in Tuscany, not in the West of England.
Strolling afforded a wonderful opportunity to pass the famed fountain at the centre of the Laura Place quadrangle and appreciate the golden ratio of Great Pulteney Street’s architecture – 1,000 feet long x 100 feet wide – enriched by the gilded tones of the sun melting into the distinctive limestone buildings.
Knocking the stately front door upon arrival gives a moment of anticipation of what exactly is in store.
Even the most jaded Londoner will feel a leap of excitement for what is sure to be a new experience.
It soon became clear that Authenticity and Uniqueness are the order of the stay when I was greeted with the genuine smile and understated diplomacy of the hotel’s elegant manager Rumbie Garaba.
The welcome was warm and the sight of so much whimsical and well curated works of art seemingly floating in mid-air but actually suspended in Perspex or weaving their way up the walls of the main staircase in distinct groupings ranging from vintage evening bags and collectible cameras to musical instruments and giant perfume factices was a delight to behold.
Encountering the primary installations and discovering many new ones throughout my stay at different times of the day in natural and ambient lighting made each view appear anew in both form, perspective and intrigue.
I was particularly charmed by the sight of the quirky Serge Mansau factice housing Tocade by Rochas, a Floriental scent reminiscent of lipstick and roses that I have in my collection and had not worn for a while. The obscure and sensual choice made me confident that I was in for a refined time that would be full of surprises and attentive to every detail and reminded me to hang my own collection of perfume advertising before some examples reach their centenary.
After being guided to my Henrietta Junior Suite with all questions asked about the art work answered as if I had been given a simultaneous expert tour of a private museum and informal introduction to the works within a dynastic seat I found many more delights within.
The suite was well proportioned with a soaring ceiling showcasing a delightful chandelier and a spacious scale that felt like a small apartment in comparison to some lauded hotel rooms in London. The expansive sash windows with original shutters looked out onto a tranquil view of the street and fields beyond giving the best of both city and country life within eyeshot and walking distance.
The sense of light and space was optimised by a neutral interior palette enlivened by stripped back walls contrasting with trompe l’oeil paint effects and well-chosen art work. The natural fabric textures were as luxurious as they were homely and the gift of a fine bottle of Prosecco a wonderfully welcoming touch.
I enjoyed an afternoon siesta reclining on the sofa reading books from the well curated selection of Art and Anthropology titles.
The spirit of curiosity was amplified when I noticed the dolls house and found all of the necessities for making tea and coffee housed within it as well. There were also delicate antique china cups and saucers with romantic and elegantly mismatched Oriental designs and my favourite Island Bakery biscuits.
What of the larder I was informed of?
I took my first of many trips to discover delights that would be any child, young at heart adult or greedy guts dream: a fridge full of the chocolate bars I had not eaten since secondary school, another full of my favourite San Pellegrino and Fentiman’s fizzy drinks, a freezer full of mini tubs of ice-cream, all the better with which to watch the giant flat screen TV, enough crisps and lollipops to last a whole tuck-shop term and a bowl of fruit for the virtuous.
Now I truly was at home.
A vision of tip-toeing in the sumptuous bathrobe to a Midnight Feast was enough to motivate me to leave for my usual spa evening, the suite was so welcoming and the amenities of the hotel so inspiring, I could have stayed inside until checking out time.
Twilight at the then newly revamped Thermae Spa was a delight and something everyone in the UK should try at least once in their lifetime.
Bath spa is the only natural thermal spa in Great Britain and if you have never heard of it before you are very late to the party, but better to be late than never to come at all.
The famed spa water originally fell as rain 10,000 or so years ago before sinking deeper than 2km underground where it was heated by hot rocks before rising back above ground through three hot springs which supply the Roman Baths at the centre of the City.
Prince Bladud, the Celtic King of the Britons first discovered the natural thermal spring around 863BC and bathing in the water cured his skin disease. It is easy to feel why in AD 60-70, the early Britons may have treated the site of the later Roman baths’ main spring as a shrine to their goddess Sulis whom the Romans aligned with their own goddess Minerva.
After an open air rooftop swim, glass cocooned soak or themed experience within the restorative waters which contain more than 42 minerals of which calcium, chloride and sulphate are the most concentrated, you will feel like you have been reborn or at the least rested well from the stresses of your usual city life.
I was lucky enough to spot several passing hot air balloons whilst up on the roof at sunset and if you plan your trip well, you could bask beneath the full moon.
I thoroughly enjoyed the New Royal Bath which perfectly fuses the features of glass and stone with the elements of light and water.
The new Wellness Suite on the second floor is a feast for all the senses. The Roman Steam Room was a particular pleasure. It reflected both Bath’s rich Roman history and the New Age West Country adherence to the healing power of botany which is rooted in Romano-Celtic holism. The aroma of flowers and herbs infused the steam with extra healing and tranquilising powers and I left the treatment room feeling totally relaxed and delicately scented with the beneficial essences.
The floral philosophy was also followed through in the Georgian Steam Room which channelled one of Bath’s most influential architectural periods. The trickling fountain more than makes up for the fact that the one at Laura Place is dry.
I did not get a chance to recline on a heated tiled lounger within the Celestial Relaxation Room as the Wellness Suite can have a somewhat night club feel in the final hours of operation when it is the place to be for locals and tourists who enjoy nothing more than a nocturnal soak or starlit swim.
The dark and twinkling chamber filled with calming sounds and inspired by the Bath-based astronomer William Herschel who discovered the planet Uranus in 1781 reminded me of a chill out room in a 1990s rave, but with more steam and less bass.
If you can snap up a lounger with a few friends it would be the ultimate chillax experience prior to a night out on the town.
A more up-tempo and revitalising experience within the space was the pulsating body jet showers which you can choose to pummel or caress you as and where needed and the Chromotherapy showers that use colour as well as water to awaken or relax the mind and body.
The Infrared Room was also a great experience, where mild infrared waves of light penetrated deep into my joints and muscles providing a restorative and detoxifying treatment.
After two hours of relaxation, a night stroll back to No 15 Great Pulteney Street in the cool air was invigorating and a chance to take in the famous landmarks without the crowds and in a differing light.
The magnificent Gothic architecture of Bath Abbey looked dramatically different from its usual honeyed warmth in the dark of night as did the silken flow of the River Avon.
Taking the water and the city sights at late hours meant that the hotel restaurant had closed by the time of my return so I enjoyed a wonderful Indian meal at Tulsi. It was as good as the best London offers and priced similarly much to the dismay of nearby diners from the North of England.
It was not meant to be a cocktail night.
The bartender of the Vom Fass liqueurs and spirits at Tulsi had the night off and by the late time of arrival back to No 15 Great Pulteney Street, the creative mixologist who had tantalisingly shuffled the deck of cocktail cards for me to appraise the best digestif had finished work.
All the more reason to return in 2018!
To make up for my missed culinary and cocktail experiences, Rumbie gave me a nocturnal tour of the hotel that gave much more inspiration for reasons to return to the hotel for both business and pleasure.
The hotel has a real soul as well as architectural substance and idiosyncratic interior style and would be perfect for business conferences, photo shoots, romantic sojourns and getaways for groups of girl or guy friends.
I will certainly return to the floral themed Room 27 with my little lady in tow or perhaps take the room fit for a writer when researching or editing.
After the sublime complimentary Prosecco – bubbles I don’t often quaff but can be good if crafted and chosen well as this one was, several trips to The Larder ’round midnight for popcorn, ice-cream and more I had a blissful sleep in the plush bed fit for an Empress and perhaps crafted by angels.
The minerals of the sacred Bath spa water continued to work magic above and below my skin as I slept deeply wrapped in the sweetest lucid dreams.
Rising into the new day brought the dilemma of whether to sink into the deep bath tub in a spume of Bamford bubbles or continue my wellness experience on the other side of the spacious and exquisitely decorated bath room, encased beneath the tremendous showerheads.
I went for the encapsulating shower experience that was as good as those in the spa.
Perhaps, even better: I did not have to share the space and could forego my bathing suit.
No 15 Great Pulteney Street has since opened its own spa which features a hot tub and sauna and specialises in facials, body treatments and massages. I look forward to trying one of the holistic experiences in 2018.
After a relaxed start to the day with an elegant cup of tea and larder fruit, it was time for some work.
My commute was more civilised than any in London: I walked to the end of the street and crossed the road for a morning of research on behalf of a jewellery industry client within The Holburne Museum.
The Holburne Museum was Bath’s first public art gallery and is based upon the fine and decorative art collection of Sir William Holburne.
Sir William was a naval officer and second son of an aristocratic family and his career took him as far away as Brazil and the West Indies.
Perhaps his time in distant countries and interactions with other cultures sparked his passion for collecting.
Sir William’s vast and varied collection of over 4,000 books, objects and pictures was bequeathed to the citizens of Bath by his sister in 1882 with the intention that it would form “the nucleus of a Museum of Art for the city of Bath”.
Little is known about Sir William’s adult life or the impetus of his artistic choices as in 1886, the museum’s trustees destroyed “all letters and accounts which were not worth retaining.”
The Collection’s artefacts speak louder than the words that are no longer with us.
The museum has been open to the public since 1893 and has acquired another 2,500 works.
The Holburne Museum is home to many inherited and acquired treasures including old master paintings, vibrant Italian maiolica, refined oriental ceramics, outstanding portraiture and unrivalled seventeenth and eighteenth century silver and porcelain.
It is also the foremost institution in which to study the two distinct production techniques of Portrait Miniatures: an intimate medium of art which has been explored in the UK since the reign of Henry VIII.
The collection brilliantly showcased the technique of “limning” which originated in manuscript illumination: pigments were mixed with water and gum or egg yolk before being painted upon card, ivory or vellum.
There are also fine examples of the art of enamel portraiture which was invented within the jewellery trade and utilised ground glass melted onto a base of metal.
Another highlight of the collection was the largest known group of “ancient” gems from the infamous collection of Prince Stanislas Poniatowski (1754-1833).
After Poniatowski’s death it transpired that the gemstones were not of Roman provenance but contemporary copies whose designs had been invented by their engravers.
As well as Jewellery the museum is home to outstanding examples of Georgian fashion and Art.
I enjoyed learning more about the medium of Silhouettes which are as dramatic a delight to view now in old examples or the new work of contemporary artists such as the African-American Kara Walker as they were to audiences and collectors in the past.
Silhouettes often known as “shadow pictures” were the most accessible form of portrait available in Georgian Bath. They were sold at an affordable price often within toyshops.
The museum’s exquisite rooms and diverse exhibits create a monument devoted to the fine art of living.
The decorative artefacts and stylised utensils that were integral to the etiquette and grace of Georgian life were masterpieces in their craftsmanship, beauty and utility and gave much inspiration for life and commercial opportunities in the modern day.
After returning to the hotel with interior design and objets d’art at the forefront of my mind, it was a joy to meet Jonathan Walker, the hotel’s Managing Director and gain further insight into the fashionable history of Bath, the aesthetic vision and artistic mission of the hotel and tips on where to buy my next china tea set and original interior trinkets.
No 15 Great Pulteney Street is a great patron of emerging local artists whose exceptional works adorn the walls and unique commissions are part of the interior design and brand philosophy.
The lofty Artists’ Floor offers guests remarkable views over Bath’s rooftops and rooms adorned with unique murals by local artists that allow you to select a space bespoke to your mood, style and personality.
It is no wonder that the hotel won the award for Outstanding Hotel of the Year at 2017’s Independent Hotel Show and that I highly recommend it as the ultimate Bath base for your own great escape.
© W. O. Adeyemi/ AFRICA: Seen & Heard Ltd and africaseenheard.wordpress.com, 2017. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to W. O. Adeyemi, AFRICA: Seen & Heard and africaseenheard.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
BOOK – Direct for better room rates and preferential check out: No.15 Great Pulteney, 15 Great Pulteney Street, Bath BA2 4B. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Telephone: 01225 807015 Website: https://no15greatpulteney.co.uk/
BASK – Thermae Bath Spa, The Hetling Pump Room, Hot Bath St, Bath BA1 1SJ Website: https://www.thermaebathspa.com Telephone: 01225 331234
VISIT – The Holburne Museum, Great Pulteney Street Bath BA2 4DB Email: email@example.com Telephone: 01225 388569 Website: http://www.holburne.org Opening Hours: 10am to 5pm (Sunday and Bank Holiday 11am to 5pm).
SPRITZ – Tocade by Rochas Paris https://rochas.com/en/fragrance/women/tocade/
WATCH – FOOTSTEPS OF THE EMPEROR
READ – IMPERIAL EXILE by Keith Bowers http://imperialexile.co.uk/
CREATE – A Museum of One’s Own: Private Collecting, Public Gift. This constructive and beautiful book by Professor Anne Higonnet will put your Art purchases and their perpetual purpose in to perfect perspective https://www.amazon.co.uk/Museum-Ones-Own-Private-Collecting/dp/1934772925
EAT – TULSI Tandoori Restaurant, Bridge House, 15 Argyle St, Bath BA2 4BQ Telephone: 01225 335558