Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Bath time

I've been spending every waking sunny hour in the garden, digging up nettles before they get going -- most years they're eight feet high before you can blink. We've managed to clear two squares of (potential) vegetable patch and our prospective asparagus bed, so that's rather fine. The sun has now gone in again, so I'm working on the Cambridge NCT magazine -- fifty pages every quarter, which I design in Quark XPress. It's been fun up till now, but just today feels a bit of a slog.

Anyway, I've been meaning for ages to write about our weekend in Bath, back in January. We booked the train tickets and the hotel online. Both sites gave confirmation screens; neither actually put through the purchase. Rotten usability. Luckily I was suspicious that thetrainline.com hadn't emailed me, so I phoned them. And fortuitously, the hotel had a small room that was obviously kept for emergencies, so we weren't thrown onto the streets.

We had a few interesting meals. First was lunch in the Hole in the Wall, which according to A has been around for ever. This was pretty good but not stunning. the service was odd: it seemed to be communal, with everyone in charge of everything, which in practice meant nobody noticed if you'd been sitting with the menu for twenty minutes. In contrast, the Olive Tree had a rigid hierarchy, with one person in charge of lots of powerless minions, some of whom didn't speak English. She was rushed off her feet, so the end effect was much the same. Fabulous food, though, even the trad Sunday roast -- and it's unusual to get a special Sunday lunch menu.

For dinner, we'd tried the trendy new Marlborough Arms but couldn't get in, though they were very nice about this: none of the nuances of tone that some people can get into the question "Have you booked?". So we ended up at Bistro Papillon, which was delightful. Very French, so the food was robustly lovely, the wine was excellent and the staff were completely charming: everyone with complete autonomy to be nice to you -- and they were really sweet to Sasha. I meant to write a glowing review of the food there but by now only have the haziest memories.

Oh -- and take no notice of the woman in Tourist Information who thinks it's only seven miles along the towpath to the next village. She is sooo wrong. We walked for hours, and it was lovely but eventually dark and cold. Still, we got that immensely smug feeling particular to an English climate that we'd made the most of a sunny day and didn't have to mind the next day being vile.

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