One For The Yank Bank: The Francis Hotel, Bath
Americans. They always talk and talk and say “lemme tell ya somethin’”, etc. This week: ‘Opulence’.
The great and the good have been luxuriating in Bath for two thousand years. Mindful of the town’s long tradition of stately relaxation, the Francis Hotel has turned aristocratic indulgence into an art form.
Since Bath is among the most popular British destinations for Americans, we thought it would be a good idea to get an American viewpoint. Fortunately, your LUSSO correspondent has an American partner on hand to do the viewing. The combination of Regency grandeur and modern cues is a perfectly played hand. You’ll be left feeling like you’re taking a bath in decadence juice (whatever that is! – Ed) from the moment you arrive. Everything from the decoration to the beds to the bathroom fixtures is placed strategically to give a feeling of frankly unnecessary levels of comfort. It’s historical.
Occupying an entire block built by John Wood the Elder (the architect chiefly responsible for Bath’s internationally renowned aesthetic delicacy), the Francis Hotel is clearly proud of its Regency heritage. In fact, it’s smug about it. Each of the seven original houses is peppered with blue plaques detailing the hordes of famous former residents and points of historical interest. It’s educational, in that traditionally British “whether-you-want-it-or-not” fashion.
The pedigree is matched by design, which echoes Regency sensibilities of elaborate decoration. But this doesn’t mean the Francis is trapped in the past: The Regency style is twinned with a bold modern approach, with each of the seven original houses decorated with distinct and vivid two-tone colour schemes that give them all a unique feel. The historical richness of the hotel served as an interesting distraction for both of us. Americans seem to like anything significantly older than their own country and the attention to authentic detail appeals greatly to the natural British ambition of feudal overlordship. It’s nice to feel like you’re learning something on holiday and the Francis is kind enough to let you learn about the Regency by practical demonstration.
This approach to confident and bold opulence was enthusiastically received by our American test-case. It’s a welcome departure from the more utilitarian design approach of American hotels. After all, it isn’t every day you get to feel like Georgian nobility. I particularly enjoyed the bar, where I was able to read Der Spiegel (with the International Herald Tribune for the American, naturally) and feel like I was a statesman of old, brushing up on the great affairs of nations. Each of the hotel’s 98 rooms is individually styled, bringing another level of unique and charming eccentricity to the experience. And making the place extremely difficult to review in general terms. So thanks for that, guys.
Our room (in Wood the Elder’s own house) sported a fabulous view of Queen Square, an English architectural triumph of which the Francis forms a full quarter. Interior wonderful, shower amazing, bed apparently crafted from a cumulonimbus and the downy feathers of archangels, naturally. One thing we could’ve done without was the oddly sloping floor, though it can’t be easy to iron a Grade 1 listed building. The feeling of perfectly sculpted overindulgence extends to the food and drink on offer. Breakfast (which can, of course, be taken in bed) is a gastronomic extravaganza, incorporating about a dozen completely separate meals (another accurate reflection of Regency decadence). Our American attaché was impressed by this, having previously abandoned their quest for genuine choice in Britain. The presence of a continental breakfast that was actually good was also a pleasant surprise to both of us.
For the more romantically inclined of you, the Francis (as part of the MGallery Collection’s series of “Memorable Moments”) offers guests an intimate, private horse-drawn carriage tour of Bath. Our American friend, who bears a rich appreciation for both Jane Austen and horses, was entirely captivated by the experience. Personally, I’m allergic to horses. Definitely romantic, but perhaps bring along a small dispensary of antihistamine. A unique and opulently comfortable experience, regardless of which side of the Atlantic you call home. Regency grandeur blends perfectly with modern design to give the Francis a distinct and lively character without sacrificing hospitality. Its position overlooking Queen Square makes it an excellent base from which to explore the unique history of Bath, or simply to absorb the restorative properties of the hot springs that have kept this tiny jewel of a town on the map since 54 BC.
The Francis Hotel, Bath, is part of the MGallery collection of hotels, none of which conforms to the norm and all of which promise a journey of discovery both within their charming and remarkable walls and beyond. Visit www.francishotel.com for details.