At book club we eat lots of those seemingly bottomless tubs of chocolatey bites from M&S, slurp the odd glass of mid -week wine, go for the occasional dinner, talk about life, oh and we read books and then talk about them. Although one time we actually forgot to talk about the book.
Turns out we also like to take trips too.
Before going to Bath to stay in Jane Austen’s ACTUAL HOUSE I didn’t rate her very highly (I’m so sorry Jane, please forgive me) and I couldn’t understand all the hype about Bath.
Whenever you tell someone that you’re going to the Bath their eyes glaze over and they spend ages telling you how their parents go there ever year and that it has an amazing spa and the people are just so nice and the architecture is to die for, “it just has an amazing vibe,” etc. etc. Naturally this over enthusiasm made me suspicious.
Alas, Bath indeedily has got it going on and after learning all about Jane and getting to know her work a little better, I’ve realised that she’s clearly a bit of a legend too.
We flew to Bristol from Glasgow and then got a taxi to Bath through Agatha Raisin style county lanes that were beautiful but bendy so by the time we pulled up outside our home for the weekend we were all green. The nausea was soon replaced by giddy excitement as we were staying in Jane Austen’s Apartments and had afternoon tea with fizz waiting for us.
The, ahem, luxury apartments comprise of 4 apartments in Jane’s old gaff. Well, one of Jane’s old gaffs. Turns out poor Jane had a pretty rough time of it all in all and didn’t spend an enormous amount of time in this fancy Georgian townhouse because her father popped his clogs and didn’t leave much money behind.
We took over two apartments, Emma’s Garden Apartment and Cassandra’s First Floor Apartment, with five of us downstairs and four upstairs. A lovely lady met us on arrival and made sure we absolutely were not a hen party and then showed us about our pads, which felt very plush thanks to careful attention to detail – locally ground coffee, fluffy towels, Cowshed products in the bathrooms and tasteful furnishings I’m looking at you.
Can we just take a moment to appreciate the afternoon tea.
Before we demolished our tea and snaffled our beds we went out for a trot around Bath and stumbled upon a little indoor market. A stall packed with glistening costume jewellery that could be seen twinkling from Mars immediately made my heart sing. I bought two turquoise silver bracelets for a total of £11. Joy.
It’s a great place to wonder around thanks to the stunning architecture and cute shops such as Fudge Factory selling, you guessed it, ridiculously delicious fudge (that we all bought, hence the cheesy pic below,) excellent vintage shops, non – vintage shops (oh Anthropologie, why are you so divine and so expensive?! ) and a tourist information centre selling quirky Jane Austen gifts, way nicer than the usual tourist tat. The locals are impeccably dressed and really friendly and all seem to own dogs – a good sign in my book.
We got very excited walking past The Pump Room, which features as the stage for flirtations ,whispering behind fans and gettin’ dirty on the dance floor in a few of Janes books.
After scoffing a light lunch at an old school tea room and then going to Waitrose for some essentials ( beer, wine and crisps) it was back to the apartments to swan around like Jane for a while and eat cake before getting ready for dinner.
Dinner was booked at the Bathwick Boatman, which was just a short walk from the apartments and perfect for a girly dinner, not too formal but a lovely atmosphere and beautifully lit with stunning views of the river.
Family run, their shtick is, ‘rustic food that won’t cost a fortune,’ and we really enjoy it plus the service was fantastic. I went for sirloin steak and chips with garlic butter and a side of pepper sauce, washed down with a couple of glasses of red and then shared a warm chocolate brownie with with chocolate sauce and coconut ice cream , it was heavenly.
Calories don’t count when you’re away for the weekend – everybody knows that.
It was then into a taxi and onto the bright lights of central Bath. Our fabulous trip organiser had scouted out a bar dedicated to all things gin and so it was on to the Canary Gin and Wine Bar for a few Darceys and Wichkam Mules.
Snug, with eccentric decor, good looking drinkers and interesting gin cocktails, this place is definitely well worth a visit. We enjoyed a couple of drinks and then realised that we were knackered from a day of travelling and eating.
Coaches and then home.
The following morning we awoke with the promise of a free breakfast at local eaterie The Blue Quails Deli. Part of our stay included breakfast here both days and admission to the spa, but more on that later.
A 5 minute walk into town and we were at what is now one of my all time favourite places to eat breakfast, largely down to the owners who make their own granola and generally rock.
On day one I went for the healthier option having eaten like a queen the night before and enjoyed the granola laced with fresh fruit and a croissant on the side, washed down with a flat white. On Day 2 I went for the eggs benedict with bacon, obviously.
Along with a solid breakfast menu they also lots of lush looking salads and fritatas going on behind a glass counter – so another place to add to the list if you visit Bath.
We were all rather excited as next on the agenda was a visit to the Jane Austen Centre, where they give you period costume so you can dress up like Jane.
I really enjoyed the other stuff too, including a walk around the museum, a talk about Jane, given by a rather talented lady dressed up like her and video about Jane’s life – narrated by none other than Mr Wickham in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.
There’s not a whole lot of things to see when it comes to Jane as upon her death she instructed her sister to burn everything. We don’t even know what Jane really looked like but I imagine a young Cher.
As we departed I felt full of love for Jane, who in a way was a gal after my own heart with her passion for writing. Publishing however wasn’t seen as ladylike trait and she had to remain anonymous, although she received acclaim for some of her works published while she was alive.
Despite the love stories that she wrote, Jane never enjoyed a great romance of her own and died at 42.
On a lighter note, having tried on all the clothes in the Jane Austen Center and taken about a million photos we went for a walk in the sun and popped into a farmers market to sample some cider and sausage rolls.
After a mandatory pint in a quintessential English pub it was back to the apartments to collect our cossies and then make our way to the spa.
Thermae Bath Spa is one of Bath’s main attractions and you can tell by the massive queue snaking around the front of it at most times of the day. We went late afternoon, which wasn’t too busy so I’d recommend going as late as you can.
Here you’ll find Britain’s only natural thermal waters, once enjoyed by the Romans a mere 2000 years ago -but dated this place ain’t.
Wearing an electronic tag on our wrists that opened our lockers and allowed us to pay for extras, changing in pods and padding around in identikit robes, it felt a bit like being in the future.
The spa has quite a luxury feel and is super clean and modern, with lots of glass and shiny surfaces.
If this is what the future looks like I’m definitely in.
We began in the rooftop pool, which was busy but worth it for the views and wonderful bracing feeling of cold air on your face while you float around in warm water. We had to avert our eyes a few times as despite spa rules, there was a heck of a lot of bumping and grinding going on – must be all that tight fabric and bare flesh.
From here it was downstairs for a sweaty blast in the aromatic steam rooms and then onto the Minerva Pools for a float around in more thermal waters with water jets and a lazy river.
Feeling properly blissed out after 2 hours of spa time we stocked up on snacks and oven pizzas and had a night of Jane Austen movies back at the apartment including Becoming Jane (sobs!) and Mansfield Park.
Sunday was our last day and so before catching our flight we went for breakfast and then a final stroll around Bath and up to Royal Crescent, which is a stunning piece of Georgian architecture. Cue lots of photos.
If you’re in a book club and you like your fellow clubbers enough to go away with them,then I highly recommend a Jane Austen themed trip to Bath. Not only did we all have a blast but it felt special learning so much about Jane and retracing her steps – as far as even staying in her house.
If you’re not in a book club I still recommend a trip to Bath and I also recommend that you join a book club.
Oh look, my eyes have glazed over.
Happy book clubbing Bitches! xx