Thursday, 19 June 2014

The Public Gardens of Bath

Sydney Gardens

Whether as a boutique hotel or bed and breakfast, a domestic residence, or as a gentleman’s dwelling, Dukes enjoys a majestic location on Great Pulteney Street . She faces Sydney Gardens and what was once the highly acclaimed Sydney Hotel, the very centre of entertainment and pleasure in Georgian Bath. The Sydney Hotel has evolved into the Holburne Museum; however, the original Georgian gardens, respecting their early design, still largely prevail. Following a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast in the tender embrace of one of Great Pulteney Street’s most well-known boutique bed and breakfast locations, head off to Sydney Gardens. The gardens are unique in being the only pleasure gardens in the UK remaining from the eighteenth century.

The pleasure garden and Sydney Hotel were designed to act as a focal point for the Bathwick estate. On the ground floor, the hotel offered social spaces for reading newspapers, card playing and the important pleasure of coffee drinking, and included reading rooms, bandstand, tennis courts and a gymnasium.

By 1836, as appears so typical today of the hospitality industry, the nature of the hotel evolved as the building was transformed into a private lodging house and an additional floor was added to accommodate further letting rooms. No doubt, the anxiety and concern back in 1836 was little different from that shown to the proposed Holborne Museum extension, blocked by planners and demonstrators at the turn of this century!

Laid out in the 1790’s, the development of the Great Western Railway cut across the park. Further impact, attributable to the industrialisation of the West Country, saw the building of the Kennet and Avon Canal running through the park, parallel to the railway line. Today, as the railway line hosts regular steam trains and the canal welcomes the gently chug of a holiday canal boat, it is difficult to appreciate the alarm and public outrage the dissecting routes would have provoked.

Cleveland House sits astride the Avon and Kennet canal.. Cleveland Tunnel, some 173 feet in length, runs beneath the house. The house acted as the former headquarters of the Kennet and Avon Canal Company. A cleverly located trap door in the floor of the house enabled clerks to pass paperwork down to the cannel boats as they passed through the tunnel. Having enjoyed a leisurely promenade in Sydney Gardens, you may walk out with just a sideways glance to a luxury Bath hotel of great stature and head off back down Great Pulteney Street to your more humble Bath accommodation. Of the Bath boutique hotels, Dukes would seek to simply be a warm, welcoming and restful destination to be enjoyed by those visiting Bath for a weekend break, honeymoon or simple indulgent treat. But what of the evening?  A little entertainment perhaps?

Who is afraid of Virginia Woolf?

One of the great plays to have been written in post-war America will be performed at the Theatre Royal in Bath. Audiences on Broadway in the US, were introduced to this Edward Albee masterpiece in 1962. The drama won the Tony and Critics’ Circle awards for best new play. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton starred in the 1966 film adaptation, winning five Oscars.

The play explores the deterioration of the marriage of a middle aged American couple. George is an associate professor of history and Martha his wife is the daughter of the president of the college. Following a university party Martha invites a young couple, Nick and Honey back to their apartment for a late evening drink. Over the course of three scenes we become embroiled in the bitter and frustrated collapse of their relationship. Alcohol, friendship and fertility are explored within an awkward and raw script. Sharpness and jealousy, spite and deception draw us in closer and closer to the failing relationship. As the play draws to a climax, George strikes Martha terminal blows with four simple, though concluding, words. With the finality of these four words, Edward Albee is deemed to have defined the darker side of truth that he claimed the all American dream so casually ignored.

For those who simply seek a fun and relaxing Bath weekend, summer is a wonderful time to visit. For those who enjoy spectator sports and having an ongoing event around which you may build your own day, give a moment’s thought to the annual event that so characterises our memories of long, hot summer holidays in France.

Boules Bath

Every summer in the square that lies in front of the Francis Hotel, Bath embraces a little bit of French culture, this year is no different. Join in the fun with Bath Boules , a charity event staged in Queens Square. Bask in the early evening summer sun on Friday 21st of June and wind down for the weekend with the Badger Ales Charity Party. Enjoy a complimentary glass of Badger Ale soaked up with large hunks of Thoughtful Bread and a range of cheeses served up by the Fine Cheese Co. For those requiring a little more sustenance, Brasserie Blanc will be on hand to set the Gallic tone with a menu of French gastronomic specialities.

Saturday morning and the event start promptly at 9:30am. A succession of 5 heats, quarter finals, semi-finals and finals will determine the team with the greatest Francophile skills. After a timely early morning start, and a day of professional competition and gamesmanship, the 2014 Bath Boules winner presentation is scheduled for 6:30pm. A glass or two in celebration will see the 2014 event draw to a close later in the evening. For those who wish to continue the Gallic theme, Bath is home to one of the finest French restaurants in the South West – Casanis. A restaurant whose name pays homage to a famous brand of  Pastis, an aniseed aperitif from Marseille in the south of France created in 1925.


One of the small treasures Bath is able to conjure up for you is Casanis,  a French CafĂ© Bistro restaurant. Widely recognised as one of the finest French restaurants in the UK, Casanis is located up a narrow pedestrian pavement as one of a terrace of independent shops and cafes on Saville Row.

Casanis is owned by the chef Laurent Couveur who was trained on cote d’Azure, was head chef at Chez Jaqueleine in New York, and most recently head Chef at the Ritz Club in London.  Laurent, with his wife Jill, have created a destination restaurant, warm with the charms of Gallic France. Casanis wanders over two floors offering authentic French food in tucked away Georgian houses on Saville Row. Just off George Street, at the head of Milsom Street, Saville Row is surely one of the prettiest lanes in Bath.

Not surprisingly, Casanis has won a pearl string of awards; listed in The Good Food Guide, this friendly restaurant has won press coverage in the Sunday Times, The Telegraph and numerous glossy magazines and foodie guides.

Dukes boutique bed and breakfast - Click here to book your luxury weekend in Bath

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