Friday, 20 May 2016

Stay in Bath for Bath International Music Festival 2016

So today is the first day of Bath’s International Music Festival which will see the city filled with amazing music of all kinds from today, Friday 20th May, to Sunday 29th May. Ten days of concerts and recitals and dancing! We’ve really been looking forward to it. If you’re coming to stay in Bath for Bath International Music Festival, or you already live nearby, or have only just found out it’s happening and are now planning on coming to the city to be a part of it; these are some of our top recommendations for the days ahead.  

Jay Rayner, perhaps best known as the One Show’s food expert, will be largely leaving his critic’s hat at home and coming to Bath with his jazz hat on on this occasion. He’ll be performing at the Guildhall from 3:00pm – 5:15pm on Saturday 21st, and in the first half he will also be telling a few stories of his restaurant exploits. 

On Sunday 22nd from 7:30pm-8:45pm at the beautiful Assembly Rooms of Bath will be Canzoniere Grecanico Salentico. The Guardian described Canzoniere as “an exhilarating reworking of the tarantella, the hypnotic percussive dance said to cure the bite of the tarantula”, and the paper chose their last album as one of their top five albums of the year.

Not a performance but still very much a highlight event, on Wednesday 25th  there’s a walking tour of the city called Lost Pleasures, which will, over the course of three hours (3pm-6pm), explore the lost pleasure gardens of Bath. It will also visit some of the lesser-known corners of Bath, which hold stories of they city’s more dubious past delights… 

Later on on Wednesday at the Bath Forum from 7:30pm until 9:00pm, will be An Evening of Opera, during which favourites from Carmen, Samson and Delilah, Turandot, Aida, and many others will be performed by Bath Philharmonia and three top-class opera singers. The tenor, Hector Sandovai, sings major roles in some of Europe’s best opera houses. 

A rising star is set to sing at Komedia on Thursday 26th. Lera Lynn’s style is noir alternative country (the festival really does cover all styles of music) and is utterly compelling. Her original songs have already featured on the HBO series True Detective.

For folk fans, on Friday 27th at the Old Theatre Royal at Bath Masonic Hall, Andy Cutting, who was named as Musician of the Year at the 2016 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, will be performing alongside fellow folk favourite Alasdair Roberts. Their mix of melodeon, guitar and Scottish influences is a treat not to be missed. 

There are many more performers on throughout the festival; usually at least five each day, but these were a few of the ones that caught our eye. We recommend browsing for the full programme. And then, biased as we are, getting on the first train/plane to Bath to come and treat your ears and feed your soul.

Friday, 13 May 2016

Stay in Bath for the Bath International Music Festival – Party in the City

Next weekend sees the start of the 2016 Bath International Music Festival. Performers of all kinds from across the world will be coming to Bath to perform in venues around the city. There will be jazz, choirs, drumming, opera, rock – every genre of music you care to think of will be represented, and possibility even a few you never knew existed. But before we get carried away with ourselves, in this blog we want to have a look at a few highlights that will be part of the big festival opener on Friday 20th. 

Each year the festival starts with a bang, and this year is no exception. “Party in the City” is a free event which will see over 30 venues come alive with folk, rock, swing and more. A bonus this year however is that for the first time there will be two live open-air stages;  one at the Parade Gardens and one at Queens Square, along with local food and drink stalls.

With so many venues and the main party due to run from 5:30pm until late, there’s no way you can see everything on offer. So here are a few of the shows that we think look too good to miss:

-     --      If you can get a ticket (they’re free but numbers are limited) then you can relax in the thermal waters of the historic Cross Bath while enjoying a live jazz rendition of the old classics. Plus, if you can get a 4 o’clock ticket there’ll be plenty of time to dry off and get changed before the main party starts.  
-       The first band to take to the Parade Garden stage at 6pm will be Eastpole Orchestra, who mix Balkan music with psychedelic rock and swing. A good one to watch to get in the party mood.
-       At 6:50 Project Zulu; 24 amazing children from South Africa, will treat Bath Abbey to traditional Zulu songs and dances.
-       If you’re a classical music devotee then Lucis, who’ll be at St Swithins Church from 7:10 until 7:30, may be for you. They will be performing excerpts from Rutter’s Requiem.  
-       Then when you get hungry try heading to The Boater. They have amazing food and will have Barry Lane & The Fridge Mechanics performing from 7:50-8:30 (think Paul Simon or Ralph McTell) who you can enjoy listening to while you eat.   
-       Next, in Queens Square from 9pm-10pm will be The Blues Others. A thirteen-piece band who’re the South West’s top Blues Brothers tribute act. 
-       Then round the night off at Komedia with Swingersband who start their set at 10 and will play late into the night. They’ve got rock show attitude and blend an incredible electro swing sound with wonderful vintage remixes. Definitely one to dance the night away with!

Thursday, 5 May 2016

The 2016 Golf Croquet World Championships Visit Bath

The good weather has finally come to visit Bath. Over the past few days we’ve had glorious sun here and the temperatures have been so high that the parks and the al fresco dining areas all around the city have been filled with people enjoying the heat in strappy dresses and shorts. Understandably we’re very happy that the temperatures look set to stay in the twenties as we make our way into the weekend. This is certainly making us very optimistic that the weather will be just as good, if not better, when the Golf Croquet World Championships come to visit Bath next weekend. 

From the 15th-20th of May Bath’s Recreation Ground (which is almost next to Dukes Hotel) will be playing host to the 2016 Golf Croquet World Championships. Competing will be teams from Australia, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Latvia, Spain, Scotland and Switzerland. Play will begin at 9:30 each morning and continue through the day, and during this time you are able to go and watch the play for free. Even better, you can also try your hand at playing it yourself. 

Given that Bath is a city with a definite atmosphere of refined British gentility, it seems only fitting that such a gentile and traditional sport such as golf croquet should be coming to Bath. If you’re also coming to Bath while the championships are here it really is a must try activity. Or perhaps you’re coming especially for the championships themselves. In which case you are probably fairly familiar with the rules of the game. But if you, like us, are fairly new to golf croquet, here’s some idea of what you can expect to see… 

The game is played by striking a ball with a diameter of 92mm with a long wooden mallet which ends at about hip height. Each team has between three and six players who typically dress in uniforms that look quite similar to cricket whites. These players may compete in either doubles games, with four players, or singles games, which need two players.  

In doubles, one side of two players plays with blue and black balls and the other side with red and yellow, each player playing only one colour. In singles each player plays both balls of the side. The object of the game is for each side to cause either ball of its side to run through the small metal hoops which are hammered into the croquet lawn in a specified order (a croquet lawn is about 25 x 32 metres).  A point is scored for the side whose ball first runs through the hoop. When that hoop has been scored by any ball, either side may score only by going through the next hoop in the order.  

It’s a lovely game that was a favourite among the landed gentry and English upper classes in years gone by – especially as a precursor to afternoon tea; and happily the 2016 Golf Croquet World Championships will also have refreshments available throughout the days of play. So if you’re in Bath between the 15th and 20th of May we certainly recommend going and having a go! 

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Stay in Bath and Visit the Little Theatre

When you stay in Bath it can be a little bit like escaping for a few days to a by-gone era. Life in Bath is slower - more relaxed. If someone bumps into you in Bath they will stop and apologise profusely. Bath is just that kind of city – elegant and gentile in vibe and in architecture.  This is perfect for anyone wishing for a city break with added R&R.  And what’s better for this (apart from a massage at the Thermae Spa) than a trip to the cinema? So keeping on our theme of talking about the year-round gems of Bath, we had a look at the Little Theatre Cinema in Bath. 

If you haven’t been to this cinema you’re missing a trick. Tucked away on St Michael’s Place near the Theatre Royal, the Little Theatre Cinema is a three-screen art house cinema which specilises in showing films that deserve to be shown much more widely than they are. If you’re a fan of beautiful animations (think moving artwork rather than computer graphics), or watching recordings of live opera on the big screen then this is the cinema for you.

But it’s not just films they show that make this one of our favourite places to go for an evening in Bath - it’s the atmosphere. This is one of the few cinemas left in the UK that retains the old romance that used to come with going to the pictures. It has the tiered velvet seating, the balcony space, long curtains before the screen, an enclosed ticket booth on the door, and upstairs it has a small intimate screen that is one of the most cosy we’ve had the pleasure of sitting in.

Keen to go back soon and see a film ourselves, we had a look at their upcoming films.

The Little Theatre regularly screens new stage productions of classic Shakespeare plays. In June this will be Hamlet, and on Thursday 7th July and Monday 11th July they’ll be showing Kenneth Branagh’s production of Romeo and Juliet, which will be starring the wonderful trio of Richard Madden, Lily James and Sir Derek Jacobi.

On Sunday 15th May they’ll be showing the award-winning Cinema Paradiso –a foreign film told largely in flashback. It follows the protagonist Salvatore's growing infatuation with his village cinema, and his friendship with its projectionist. It's a lament for the joyous movie-going experience of days gone by, so rather appropriate for this cinema.   

The Little Theatre is also just beginning its season of Studio Ghibli showings. So if you’re a fan keep an eye out for those. And if you’re yet to see a Studio Ghibli film, now is your chance - beautiful films with equally beautiful messages. We really can’t recommend enough coming to stay in Bath and visiting the cinema that time forgot.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Stay in Bath and Visit Bath Skyline

Recently in our Stay in Bath blogs we’ve been looking at some of the upcoming festivals that Bath will soon be hosting, so we thought it was about time that we looked at some of the wonderful things that you can do in Bath that, perhaps because they are not a one-night/one-week only attraction, don’t always get the recognition that they deserve. This week it’s the turn of Bath Skyline.

Bath Skyline is a beautiful area of Bath largely owned by the National Trust. It includes an Iron Age hill fort, hidden valleys, wildlife rich woodland and meadows, and an 18th-century folly. The best way to experience it is via a round-route walk which covers six miles and provides some of the best views of Bath and the hills beyond that we’ve ever seen. Strolling through the streets of Bath you can really appreciate the architectural details on all of the buildings and can admire the rooftop statues and carved pediments, but the views across the whole city which the Bath Skyline walk provides are something else entirely. Impressive doesn’t cover it.

On their website the National Trust estimates that the full six mile walk, if walked at a leisurely ambling pace, should take between three and a half to four hours; which makes it an excellent length for an afternoon outing, but if you stop off along the way it can also be a fantastic day out. Some of the places that we recommend visiting on the trail are:

·      The American Museum at Claverton Down - where you can learn about the birth of the United States, read about the lives of the Native Americans and see samples of their folk art, and, if you present your printed skyline map, be treated to a free cookie and coffee in their tea shop along with your admission fee. The American Museum also puts on events throughout the year which are listed here. 

·      Sham Castle – a Grade II listed folly built in 1762 for Ralph Allen, Mayor of Bath between 1742 and 1769, “to improve the prospect” from his town house. At night the castle is now illuminated.

·      Prior Park Landscape Gardens – also owned by the National Trust, these gardens were designed in the early 18th century by the famous gardener Capability Brown. The garden’s are home to a Palladian bridge (one of only four bridges which are left of this design), a serpentine lake, pools with curtain wall cascades, a Gothic temple and, as you’d expect from the National Trust, a lovely tea room.  

So, why not take a picnic with you, or stop at the American Museum or Prior Park for lunch, and have a wonderful day viewing Bath from above. Details of the Bath Skyline walk, including a map and route plan, can be found here.

(And, for anyone who doesn’t fancy doing the whole six miles, a map for a shorter two-mile, family-friendly route can be found here.)

Thursday, 14 April 2016

How To Have A Relaxing Weekend in Bath

Bath is a beautiful city, and one with just the balance between a relaxed pace of life, and having lots of great things to do. For those reasons Bath is one of the top cities to visit when you need a relaxing weekend away. 

The thing is that planning a weekend break can, in itself, be a massive undertaking, and undertaking to do hours of research can somewhat take the therapeutic shine off from your nice break. As such, we at Dukes Hotel in Bath have tried to come up with our top suggestions for what to do in Bath when you need to wind down and chill out. Let us help you to easily plan your ideal relaxing weekend in Bath. 

If you need to de-stress one of the things that you definitely have to do when you come to Bath is to visit the incredible Thermae Spa. It has aromatic steam rooms and different pools, offers facials, massages and treatments especially for mums to be, and it provides views across the entire city thanks to its rooftop pool, which is particularly wonderful on mild spring and summer evenings.   

Next we suggest taking a tour of Bath’s Royal Victoria Park. It has it’s own small botanical gardens, runs adjacent to the Royal Crescent, and has a pretty neat crazy golf course if you feel so inclined. On a dry day it makes for a wonderful stroll.

If you’d like to see some more of the city but don’t fancy a long walk then, for a change from the big red tourist buses which you can hop-on and hop-off, try booking a horse and carriage tour. The carriage can be open top, or covered in bad weather, and the horses hooves are incredibly relaxing. It reminded us of slower, simpler times when we went and was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon.

As for a nice cup of tea (because what’s more relaxing than a good cup of tea and a piece of cake) visit Bea’s Vintage Tea Rooms on Saville Row near the Assembly Rooms. It has a great range of light lunches, delicious cakes (we particularly recommend the raspberry and coconut cake) and different teas. The atmosphere is perfect for relaxing in; it has lovely big windows and a quaint and homely 1940s feel to it. 

When it comes to a good evening atmosphere one of our top recommendations is the Ivy Cocktail Bar and Restaurant. It’s a bit out of the way – down a small stone flight of steps near Pulteney Bridge – but this means that it’s an excellent escape and not overcrowded. It has an outside seating area too, which is great for soaking up the evening sun and watching the weir which it overlooks. 

We hope these suggestions might prove helpful, and if you have any queries about Bath or we can help in any way then please do let us know. We at Dukes Hotel hope to welcome you to Bath for a relaxing weekend soon!