I recently visited the Queens Hotel in Cheltenham and wrote a blog about their latest initiative to match the scent of their rooms to three specially designed olfactive (i.e pertaining to the sense of smell) concoctions that demonstrated some of the history of the iconic hotel.
When I pointed out how great the afternoon tea was as an option for Cheltenham Mums but that they would be unlikely to book a night away from home in their own town the staff at The Queens suggested their sister hotel, The Francis, in beautiful Bath as the perfect destination for a weekend away ‘sans enfants.’
Now I needed no convincing of the fact that Bath is the perfect destination for a night or two away. Just over an hour away from Cheltenham, packed with some fantastic high street and boutique shops, some really amazing man creches that serve fantastic local ales and show a wide selection of dreaded sport on their big screen TVs; for Mums like me, it’s the perfect compromise of child free daytime activities.
However I’d never laid eyes on The Francis Hotel. Having sampled the culinary side of the ‘Sensory Storytelling’ experience at The Queens Hotel I was really excited to see how the Francis’ version differed and also how the other half of the package (i.e the room and sleep side of things) measured up.
I’m not sure we could have chosen a better weekend. Apart from causing an early challenge for my January nutrition resolutions the first weekend in January was pretty spot on. Completely exhausted by the chaos of the festive season and then further assaulted by that first week in January when the relentless routine (that you had somehow come to miss) kicks back in it’s a great time to get away and catch up on some desperately needed sleep. The city of Bath was also really quiet and there were still a lot of bargains to be had in the shops.
Now don’t get me wrong. It takes a LOT of effort to get away from three children, two dogs and seven tonnes of laundry for one precious night away and it’s easy to question whether it’s worth it. We’re not mean enough to ask any of the grandparents to look after three children between the ages of 14 and 0 which means we had to combine availability of not just the hotel and ourselves but the kennels and two sets of grandparents in a different part of the country. Spontaneity is a very distant memory. Anyone remember those days when you grabbed your purse, packed a clean pair of knickers and your toothbrush and off you zoomed without a care in the world? Me neither!
But mountains were moved and at the hotel we did arrive though a last minute bout of separation anxiety (mine not hers) (give me bloody strength I hear you say) meant that the Bébé ended up gatecrashing so the only kind of filth that accompanied our trip was of the nappy variety.
It’s a beautiful building sitting proudly on Queen’s Square in Regency Bath. Seeped in history and for the most part having originated from the 1730s (one half of the hotel was decimated by world war bombers) it’s packed with period features and the deep carpets and perfectly chosen wallpapers really meant the interior was seriously comfortable and sumptuous.
First up in the sensory journey is choosing the scent for your room. Each of the Sofitel MGallery hotels (The Queens, The Francis and The Castle in Windsor) have three signature scents. Patchouli and Orange Blossom feature heavily as Bath’s options but I plumped for Negus (which was a drink that would have been served in Regency Bath consisting of sherry, nutmeg and lemon) as it had a rich wintry scent that suited the misty weekend we arrived on.
A quick dash around the shops meant that the second stop in our story of the senses, afternoon tea, was enjoyed next to a sleeping baby (though later on she roused in time to try a cucumber sandwich and a fruit scone.) By the time we finished making our way through the three tiers of delights it was 5.30pm. Sun was down and it seemed right to dive head first in to the final part of the sensory package – the signature cocktail. It did NOT disappoint. In Cheltenham it had been a sweet drink, rose featured heavily and I was worried that Bath’s offering might not be up the Papa’s street. I was wrong. Turns out champagne, Grand Marnier, Campari with a twist of crystallised orange is right up his street.
The late nap even meant that the Bébé allowed us to have a stroll in the dark and one more cocktail at one of the abundance of bars/restaurants in town. Not quite the night on the town we remember from our days pre children but perfect nonetheless.
Back at the hotel a huge bed and striking (as well as hot water and pressure plentiful) shower room was a really welcome surprise. A Nespresso machine and mini fridge meant that the fact we would be spending most of the night trying not to wake a sleeping tiny one wasn’t an issue as we could enjoy gins in tins and caffeine hits whilst reading, TV watching and just chilling. We are officially the boring old grown ups we’ve fought so hard these last fifteen years not to be. #sorrynotsorry.
Would you believe she even let us sleep all night? Well until 6am when she howled the place down as we tried to figure out how to get the TV to work. But work it did and she didn’t miss her morning dose of Rah Rah the twitting Lion, though by that point we were both wide awake so no hope of dozing through it.
So aside from the sensory package and the really excellent room the very best thing about this hotel is that you don’t have to checkout until midday. I always hate having a night away and the morning being a mad rush of showers, breakfast, packing and getting out. Not quite ready for a massive brekkie at 8am we decided to venture out into the mist and walk. I was so glad we did as this city has so much to offer aside from it’s shops and sometimes it takes them being inaccessible for me to open my eyes to what else is around me. We walked along the river, along Great Poulteney Street, The Circus and Royal Crescent and I came home with more Instagrammable shots than you could need in one lifetime.
3 miles (and some good uphill buggy pushes) complete we headed back for brekkie. We picked up the papers on the way in. Obviously that was a total waste of time and while we necked some good coffee and enjoyed some tasty cooked offerings we were also catching bits of rogue sausage and rejected pear from the petite mademoiselle who insisted on waving at the poor waitress every time she walked past. Sweet and funny the first three times………
Twenty four hours done it was time to leave. A momentary gasp of chore free air did leave us feeling refreshed and was worth the planning effort. So do it. Get child free if you can and if like me you’re a fool or childcare logistics are just impossible you can still get away. Valentines is just around the corner…