‘You’ve missed a vista,’ mentioned my Mr Smith as we sank into the green bowl within which Bath squats. Spinning round, I captured another rare, precious moment on camera. Having abandoned our three children, we were intent on celebrating our twentieth wedding anniversary – with the first child-free weekend in ten of those years. Drawing up outside the honey-stone terrace, where this boutique hotel in Bath cunningly occupies three of the golden, flat-fronted Georgian houses, he suggested that in true Smith style we should really be arriving separately – and that having a single suitcase with our clothes pressed together was a bit, well, married and uncool. Frankly after all these years, we probably share a single immune system – never mind luggage.
The adaptation for intrigue at this lovely Bath hotel was immediately apparent. The décor is pale and discreet, with original features in the public areas. There are sitting rooms, notably unoccupied, but no bumping-into-hello-how-are-you-embarrassment zones. There’s no pressure to be sociable, no bar to make chums in – and everyone is ever so slightly evasive; eyes are lowered as you creep past. The reception area is so squirreled away that you could check in alone, whilst your partner in marital crime rushed past up the stairs, no problem. Even if the most famous illicit couple rocked up here, no one would take the slightest bit of notice. This is a hotel where doors close softly.
We scuttled furtively up the pretty double staircase to our room on the first floor feeling happy and anonymous – and slightly wicked; you don’t go away on a child-free weekend for nothing. The room, a perfect cube having been lightly trimmed to accommodate a bathroom, was painted the kind of grey you get when a storm is coming; modern, but not out of place with the period of the room. The cornice, thick with ancient whitewash, had been replaced along the top of the new wall with a crisp copy. Technology was discreet – a flatscreen television hovering on the wall and a digital radio blended into the background of polished period-furniture pieces.
We didn’t loiter at the hotel for long as we had an appointment at the Thermae Bath Spa. But before immersing ourselves in Bath’s famous hot waters, we stopped for lunch at Same, Same But Different – a little tapas café we discovered lurking in a passage just off George Street. Fuelling us with frosted San Miguel, a delicious goats cheese salad and what they claim is the best freshly-brewed Java in Bath, we drifted on down the hill to the spa – full, but ready to float.
Bath’s naturally hot springs bubble over several floors of a modern building built within an ancient one. Designed by Sir Nicholas Grimshaw, the New Royal Bath is made of glass and reflects the golden sandstone of the surrounding buildings. For about £20 you can spend several blissful hours, starting in the open roof-top pool, bathing in healthful minerals to your heart’s content. Maybe it was an illusion, but the minerals seemed to make us float effortlessly – perhaps the tensions of 18 years of child-rearing had simply been soaked out of us. Mr Smith carried me around through the water from bubbling spa to bubbling spa, like a plank under his arm. Shutting my eyes and letting him hold me up in the water was terribly romantic, like the kind of trust game you try on management courses – only without the worry of being ‘caught’ by Gareth from Accounts.
Stepping into a Calvin Klein black linen dress from my honeymoon, that evening we headed down to the Olive Tree restaurant in the hotel’s basement. There, in a room occupied by a desperately young – but highly civilized – hen party, dressed in a mixed metaphor of red feathery wings and halos, we settled down to eat asparagus and ravioli of chicken and mushroom, red mullet and some small fillets of brill. All good and rather delicate. We drank wine by the glass so we could try several bottles, I had a fresh mint tea – and then came the highlight of the gustatory experience: the best fudge I have ever eaten, rendered even more divine after a dipping in sea-salt crystals. Then we simply had to go upstairs to our sheets with a thread-count so high that you couldn’t see the threads – we suspect White Company’s finest, as that’s where the delicious toiletries hailed from.
The novelty of a small tousled person not appearing at 5am was even more relaxing and romantic than flopping around in hot mineral water. This is not a hotel where you breakfast in the dining room – I imagine you’d catch staff on the hop, they must be so used to couples making the most of their room. Croissants with butter, jam, coffee and fruit were delivered to our bed, whereupon we almost felt moved to re-enact the seminal scene from Richard Curtis’ first film, The Tall Guy – where Emma Thompson gets her shapely behind plastered with butter while having riotous sex with the divine Jeff Goldblum… Only, it was their first time – and our – oh goodness I don’t know. So we promptly moved the butter to one side in our tidy, irritating, married sort of way.
Packing up and checking out later that morning, we were back to being parents again – infinitely refreshed by being Mr & Mrs Smith just for one night at this Bath boutique hotel. So are we tempted to get another adults-only break in the diary? Absolutely. Only we're determined not to leave it another ten years before escaping again, that’s for sure.