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Happening Towns: Bath, City of Artisans

Happening Towns: Bath, City of Artisans


All pics by Paola Ferla

Bath has been happening for an awfully long time, in fact from AD 60 when the Roman Baths were built, to the 7th century and the beginnings of Bath Abbey to the 17th century genteel Georgian crescents. It’s arguably one of the most sought after places to live in the UK – combining the perfect mix of bustling city life set within beautiful rolling Somerset countryside. Bursting with places to stay, eat, shop, be entertained, pampered and educated, Bath also has a new multi-arts festival in May as well as the renowned children’s literature festival in October. Writing a travel piece about this city is a bit like chewing never-ending gum. So instead we are focusing on one of Bath’s many strengths – its burgeoning independent business community and the people who have created and are championing it.

At its thriving centre is Silvana de Soissons, the proprietor of the much loved tearoom and homewares shop The Foodie Bugle in the heart of Abbey Street, nestled in the imposing shadow of the Abbey itself. Self-branded a bossy Italian mama, she has galvanised the city’s independent businesses into an artisan army standing tall amongst the big chain high street. Her passion and energy is hypnotic, the end of each sentence signalled with a vibrant ‘yay!’ as she shares inside knowledge on the places to go, history of the city and unflagging pride in the local community. Armed with her insight and Pixie – a new app that showcases local businesses with the ability to pay direct from your phone, earn loyalty points and benefit retailers – we explore.

But first coffee. And where else but the effortlessly brilliant Society Café. It is exactly what you want from a café, for a coffee hit, for a chat with a friend, a grabbed takeaway, a moment alone with the latest new publication (carefully selected and advised on by the expert team at magazine store Magalleria). Hard to remember where the coffee has been any better.

From there head to The Thoughtful Bread Company, an award-winning eco-artisan bakery with the buns to match. The brainchild of the charming and sustainably driven Duncan Glendinning, he has built his business with a little help from TV appearances and his book Bread Revolution. But mostly from his dedication and commitment to the art of artisan breadmaking itself. He had us at Doughnut Thursday.

bathbread

As a shopping destination, Bath is a complete joy with everything in walking distance, some of it on cobbled streets and down historic passages. Spend time in old favourites like the charming family owned department store Rossiters, the popular British homeware brand Brissi and Charlotte Brunswick chocolatiers. Impossible to miss due to the multi-coloured balloon sculpture trailing out of the door, make sure you pop into the excellent children’s shop Spotty Herberts, offering a mix of pocket money gifts, fashion and toys. For the lifestyle obsessed (us), get to The Fig Store, an exquisite interiors store set across 3 storeys of a Georgian townhouse with a lush hidden garden at the back. Objects cleverly sourced, curated and displayed, it’s the type of place you just want to move into.

Time for lunch. And the best vegetarian restaurant award from Country Calling (if we ever did awards) goes to Acorn Vegetarian Kitchen. Each plate so beautiful, clever and delicious. Fine dining without the fuss, the meat and the formality. Still dreaming of the smoked Winchester Agnoletti, king oyster mushroom in a rich mushroom emulsion with celeriac and monksbeard. Learning to cook like this is a true skill and one Rachel Demuth offers to teach you, round the corner at her light filled Vegetarian Cookery School with the best view of the Abbey.

bathacorn
More shopping with a visit to contemporary weaver Katherine Fraser’s boutique and workshop with several looms, where all the pieces, whether hers or sourced beyond are ethically produced and British made. Then on to the ‘curators of cool’, Found – a concept store that effortlessly combines fashion, homewares and gifts in an expansive, airy space which makes shopping a pleasure. We have already mentioned elsewhere our love for bookshop Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights and our deep devotion does not waver. A final doff of the cap has to go to One Two Five Gallery and a divine small stoneware ceramic pot we acquired by the resident maker Gary Wood. Feeding an obsession.

bathbooks

Staying in Bath depends on your pocket and preference and No.15 Great Pulteney is proving popular with its eclectic styling and afternoon cream teas. As well as the reassuringly old school guesthouse Three Abbey Green. Next on our list of places to stay will be the Berdoulat & Breakfast, a family run B&B where they offer a full Turkish breakfast (Neri, the host, grew up in Istanbul) as well as the traditional type. Because we will be back very soon. It is impossible to do this city justice in just one day. And we cannot miss Doughnut Thursday…

Pictured below: Silvania des Boissons opens up the doors to Bath's hidden gems

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