Jane Austen’s sometime home….
A UNESCO World Heritage Site….
Home to Britain’s only natural thermal spa, the Roman Baths….
A popular country retreat for the country’s elite during the Georgian era….
This is how most people know Bath, the small city just 100 miles west of London. I discovered this and so much more during my 48 hour visit.
I wrapped up Friday at work and hopped on the train at Paddington Station. Less than two hours later, I arrived in Bath with just enough time to grab a late dinner of pizza and chicken at Rotisserie Chicken, just off the main street.
At 9pm, the city was mostly dead, leaving only us to wander the streets.
Two hours later when we emerged from dinner, we were met with a completely different scene as the streets were flooded with young 20-somethings popping from pub to pub. I’m making my own conclusions that Bath must be the “going out” area for local towns.
We called it a night and woke up bright and early to a breakfast spread of soft-boiled eggs, croissants, jams and a full schedule ahead.
First up? The famous Roman Baths.
The self-guided tour took just under an hour and was very eye-opening….
The Baths were created around 60 AD during Roman occupation and were used for the follwing three centures as a full-on spa - hot baths, warm baths, cold baths, steam rooms.
Following the tour, I snuck into the Pump Room for a hot second to see it in all it’s glory.
They’re famous for regency-era afternoon tea, although known more-so for their ambiance than the actual tea and goodies.
It was just beautiful.
For lunch, we ventured through the Mendip Hills to the Somerset countryside…
To scope out The Pig, the recently opened country estate that’s part of the well-known Pig hotel series.
When we arrived, my inner Jane Austen fan girl was jumping for joy as it felt like walking into the pages of her book.
In reality, The Pig is nothing like the stuffiness of traditional English Estates. Although it’s a grand, stately home, modern updates contribute to their “home grown” theme and the whole place exudes a very welcoming, calm, relaxed vibe, as if you were spending the weekend with a family friend, not the Duke and Duchess.
The staff greeted us very warmly in their soft pink shirts and welcomed us passed the rows of Wellies…
Through to the library for drinks and Piggy Bits, bite-sized noshes influenced by pigs, of course.
While brainstorming future business ideas, Joel and I sipped on The Pigs’ Bloody Mary, which might very well be the best I’ve ever had thanks to the perfect balance of tomato and spicy, not too thick, not too thin consistency, and their rosemary-infused vodka, plucked straight from their garden.
We ventured down the hallway through to their dining room, a Victorian greenhouse.
Although The Pig is a hotel, they actually consider themselves “really a restaurant with rooms.”
As their website states, everything is driven by the gardener, forager and chef in the kitchen garden and their micro seasonal menu takes “local” to a hole other level, similar to Blue Hill in New York (read about my experience here and here.)
What can’t be grown in their gardens, such as fish, must come from within a 25 mile radius.
Simply put, everything we ate was perfect, but instead of posting hundreds of photos of our four course lunch, I’ll share the highlights…
A Scotch Egg elevated with quail eggs and tender pork.
Kentucky Fried Wild Rabbit - just like KFC, but better….much, much better.
Piping hot rice pudding with blackberry compote.
All washed down with a bottle of rose and views of Spring about to bloom.
Once our bellies were full, we were curious to learn more about the “local” aspects of our meal.
Tom gave us a tour (ask for him - he’s wonderful) of the gardens, greenhouse, smoke house, fruit cages, wild flower orchards, and the lovely animals.
As The Pig only opened in March and they began planting last summer, the produce are all at different levels of growth, a true demonstration and transparency of their efforts.
Tom encouraged us to not only explore with our eyes, but to use all our senses.
We tasted this baby cauliflower…
And I oh so elegantly stuffed herbs into my mouth.
Then it was time to meet the main crew at The Pig…..the pigs, Darcy and Truffle.
P.S. Only in Bath would a pig be named Darcy. So thoughtful.
These two are the estate pets, not food, a notion the duo fully understand as was evidence when trotted up to us, eager for pets and snuggles.
My desire for a pet piggy has now sky rocketed.
The chickens, just like Darcy and Truffles, believe they’re pets, and begged for attention, something I’ve never experienced previously with poultry.
Remember that Scotch Quail Egg from earlier? We saw them being laid in action right before our very eyes.
To describe the Pig’s deer park in one word would be…
Nature really captures this city girl’s heart.
Following our adventures, we retreated back into the library and cozied up on the velvet sofa for a late afternoon drink and cuddle, desperately not wanting to leave the Pig’s country oasis and already plotting a return stay.
But alas, it was time to venture back into town…
For an early evening exploration, scoping out the tiny street and sweet shops of Bath, this time with Lady in tow.
Still suffering from the best kind of food coma and country adventure, we called it a night. I was so tuckered out, I passed on dinner and was sound asleep by 8pm.
Sunday morning kicked off with croissants and pain au chocolat in bed.
I was simply making up for the previous night’s lack of dinner.
We moseyed toward the center of town for an al fresco caffeine pick me up at Society Cafe, which a local friend dubbed “the best coffee in Bath”.
The morning was all about seeing The Royal Crescent, a sweeping row of terraced houses and one of the most famous examples of Georgian architecture in the UK.
Lady fit right in, no?
She wasn’t in a “take in all the beauty” mood.
She preferred a good old-fashioned race.
Continuing west, we arrived at Royal Victoria Park, or “Vicky Park” as I overheard a couple people say, spending hours getting lost and making new four-legged friends in the botanical gardens.
We met our first long-haired basset hound - it was love at first sight.
We refuelled at Marlborough Tavern, a quintessential English pub with an outdoor patio made for spring days.
Lady befriended more locals, as she does.
As we sunk our teeth into a Sunday Roast with all the trimmings. The parsnips and cabbage were particularly tasty.
Fate found us that afternoon strolling by the Jane Austen museum. As much of a fan that I am, I didn’t feel the need to subject Joel to such torture.
The Gift Shop was a whole other story.
I left Joel and Lady outside and popped in for a quick peek.
As the sun began to set on this Georgian paradise, our 48 hours in Bath came to a close…
In true form, we hopped on the train back to London and spent the next two hours planning our next adventure.
Originally, 72 hours in Switzerland was meant to be filled with Spring skiing in Verbier.
But alas, it was not meant to be.
First there was a spike in temperature, followed by a customs mishap with our ski gear….
We took the hint and made it a Geneva weekend instead thanks to our thoughtful hosts, Ashley and Bo.
We arrived Thursday evening and filled up with pizzas at Luigia, my dream pizza come to life. It wasn’t too thick or too thin….it was just right.
The next morning, I knocked out as much work as possible from Bo + Ashley’s flat in the Eaux-Vives neighborhood.
The view didn’t hurt.
By lunch, it was time for an adventure.
We picked up a couple baguettes sandwiches to eat on top of Mont Salève, but once we arrived at the base, we weren’t allowed up.
Instead, we made our way to Lake Geneva to chow down by the water.
Followed by a walk up to the Old Town…
Where we could easily view The Alps’ bleak ski conditions.
We circled our way through the tiny streets, steep stairs, and hidden courtyards in Old Town, taking in all of the medieval beauty.
Although the hike never happened, we covered significant Geneva terrain that afternoon and rewarded ourselves with a little afternoon delight in the form of crepes and rose.
Some initial thoughts from that first day…
The Dr. Seuss looking trees with stubby branches are around every corner. They’re one part unique, one part creepy, and will end up looking beautifully manicured when they’re in full bloom.
One thing you must know before going to Switzerland is that the regions are very different depending on if they’re closer to the French, German, or Italian borders. Due to it’s proximity to France, Geneva is very much a French city in language, culture, and personality. Parfait!
Public transportation works on the honor code. This means that you don’t scan a ticket to ride the bus, but in the very off moment that the police come on board and check tickets (which they didn’t for any of the 5 or so times we rode the bus), you’ll need to show proof of purchase or pay a fine.
Ashley and Bo selected a phenomenal spot for Friday night’s dinner: La Crise. Although it’s an exceptionally lively and quirky restaurant, the food is classic French and dishes change frequently.
And the wine flows very freely. Something we learned the hard way and had me doing hand stands later in the evening.
I ended up losing all my photos. So there’s that.
Saturday we arose ready to see the Swiss countryside.
Montreux, situated an hour and change north at the tip of Lake Geneva at the foot of The Alps.
There was a bit of a Spring explosion along the water…
And the fog misted from the mountains.
Then it was castle time.
We spent a couple hours exploring Chateau de Chillon. It’s hard to imagine a more perfect setting, what with the lake and the mountains…
Felt a bit like the Little Mermaid castle.
It’s quite a deceptive castle. There were two or three times when I thought we had seen it all, only to be surprised by another secret passageway or back staircase that took us to more hidden rooms.
We made a quick stop in the town of Laussane for…McDonalds.
I can’t even believe I’m typing these words, but it was the nicest McDonalds experience of my life.
Sudden hunger hit us hard en route back to Geneva and we had heard such great stories about their McDonalds being so different, so good, so….je ne sais quoi.
So we went for it and ended up spending 5x the amount we would have in the states for what is apparently locally sourced, “high end” McDonalds.
I’m still shaking my head with guilt.
It must’ve hit our stomachs hard because we fell into a food coma on the train fairly quickly, missing out on all the beautiful sights.
Following some brief R&R in Geneva, it was time to hit the town.
As this was our first trip to Switzerland, Joel and I had one requirement: fondue.
Once again, our hosts hit the nail on the head with the very traditionally Swiss Restaurant Les Amures, one of the oldest in Geneva.
We didn’t stray from restaurant’s theme - it was a super Swiss evening.
Naturally, there was wine, but there was also cured meats and raclette, a Swiss dish based on heating cheese and scraping off the melted part onto potatoes.
Then it was on to the main event…
I could barely contain my excitement for all the cheese.
When the fondue is almost all gone, you’re greeted with “religieuse”, the crusty cheese that remains at the bottom of the pot. I learned that this is the real deal, the creme de la creme, the big cheese, if you will.
With our bellies full of cheese, we called it a night.
On Sunday, most of Geneva shuts down.
Sure, everyone is out and about at the lake, in the park, or at the market, but shops and restaurants take the day off.
We found one of the handful of cafes that is actually open, Le Coupe de Giraffe, and tucked in for the most simply perfect breakfast “assiette”, include a hardboiled egg, quiche, toast, orange juice, jam, butter, and brownie.
Sunday’s weather was the best of the trip, so we did what we do best….we walked.
And walked some more.
First up? Lake Geneva because, well, when in Geneva….
We spent time reading and people watching in the park (fun fact: did you know Geneva is called “the city of parks”?)
The park was filled with families..
And people who were minutes away from making families of their own.
Then we simply explored the neighborhoods.
It’s so funny how different all the buildings looked with the shining sun and blue sky….how vibrant they seemed.
We also went to the farmer’s market and stocked up for what was an epic dinner.
We made out pretty well.
Sunday night wound down in the best possible way with a beautifully prepared meal by Bo, some mindless TV, and a good night’s sleep before an early wake up call to return to London.
Sure, I didn’t get a chance to check off skiing in The Alps from my bucket list, but our first trip to Switzerland was a wonderful entree filled with new friends, new memories, and an excitement to return soon.
Plus, the Alps will still be there next winter!
Five of the past eight weeks have been spent on the go. It’s been a wonderful whirlwind and to avoid crashing, I’ve tapped into my inner energizer bunny, pushed fatigue to the side, and tried to seize every opportunity.
When I’m not catching up on my Zzz’s, I…..
Attended March Book Club at Kelly’s gorgeous flat in South Kensington. I actually hosted February’s Book Club, but famously forgot to take photos.
Indulged my craving for Saturday morning dim sum at Jia.
The price and the taste were just right.
Explored Hampstead Heath, nicknamed “Country in the CIty” and it’s classic manor, Kenwood House, one of my favorite spots in London. Me thinks Lady agrees.
Speaking of Lady, she’s been coming to work with me almost every day.
It’s all about the work/paw balance.
Went for a run with Joel for the first time in…wait for it…five years. That last 1/4 mile was rough.
And finally, met baby girl Sienna. Just a couple weeks ago we were toasting her mummy and here she is….
"What if we moved to London and could spend the weekends in Paris….?"
I uttered these words around this time last year. How surreal it is when dreams become reality….
And even more surreal when you can share this reality with loved ones.
After visiting us in London for a couple days, Sarah and Dean (friends from New York) joined us for a weekend in Paris.
They set the bar exceptionally high two years ago when they hosted us for a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Crete, Greece.
The pressure was on to return the favor and ensure their first trip to the city of lights was filled with unlimited “joie de vivre”.
Here’s how we spent our 48 hours in Paris…
"But Paris was a very old city and we were young." - Hemingway
After a quick snooze on the Eurostar, we arrived in Paris ready to eat and drink our way through the city.
With not a minute to spare, we dropped off bags at our classically Parisian (albeit with a splash of modern art) Airbnb apartment in Saint Germain. The five flights of winding stairs made our thighs tremble, but the views (and the calories we burned) were worth it.
First agenda item? Lunch.
We took the Metro north to the Marais and wandered down the side streets away from the busier, central restaurants and opted instead for Chez Camille, an unpretentious cafe serving very classic fare. A plate of steak frites and a couple glasses of Bordeaux and rose later, it was time to explore.
The streets of the Marais were packed, as was Place des Vosges, and rightfully so - you couldn’t have ordered better weather.
After an hour or so of people watching and a quick trip around Bastille, we refueled on Nutella crepes…
Before making our way back west for a cafe crawl of sorts.
For every sight we saw, we rewarded ourselves with some vino.
Hotel de Ville?
Ile St. Louis?
Another cafe visit…
By the time we arrived at the Louvre, we picked up our own bottle of wine for some on-the-go refreshments.
Very American of us.
Just before sunset we took a stroll across Pont des Arts.
Where Dean and Sarah added a lock of their own.
Joel and I reminisced about the last time we were in the same exact spot almost three years ago.
I dug up the photo for memory’s sake :)
With throbbing feet and perhaps one too many glasses of wine, we bid adieu to the musicians and returned to the Left Bank for a much needed nap.
As night fell, we gussied up for dinner in the Latin Quarter at Le Coupe Chou.
This was everyone’s all around favorite meal of the weekend.
The restaurant is tucked away on a quiet street and is separated into several small, intimate stone rooms as if you were dining at someone’s house. The service was very warm, helpful, and attentive and the food was impeccable.
Boeuf Bourguignon, Marget de Canard, Lamb Chops - it was classic French to a T.
As if a grand-mere made it.
Typically, I’d finish a meal like that by immediately getting horizontal in bed.
But it was almost midnight in Paris….
So we took our dancing shoes to Hotel Costes to hear their renowned DJ.
I admittedly don’t know a thing about “cool DJs” and end up feeling like the lamest person in the room at sceney places, but I had so much fun on Saturday night jumping to my feet and dancing to the oldie remixes.
Oh, and the people watching itself was worth the trip.
Somehow we managed to make our way back up those winding stairs (without falling) and caught a couple hours of sleep before the alarm shocked us awake at 9am.
We kicked off the day the best way we knew how - with croissants, pain au chocolates, and multiple cafe cremes at the brasserie across the street from our apartment.
True story - as soon as we left, we swung by boulangerie to pick up another croissant each.
Thankfully, we had an active day ahead of us and spent the next five hours cruising by some of the biggest city sights.
With such limited time in Paris, we focused our experience on seeing as much as possible without actually standing in the lines and going inside. Naturally, a bike is the best way to do this.
We stopped for a quick lunch in Tuileries Gardens, which were bursting with color.
Curious what we ordered?
Let me give you a hint…
There was baguette. Cheese. And more wine.
After a full day of sightseeing, we patted ourselves on the back and rewarded each other for a job well done with…..more wine.
The laissez faire cafe lifestyle was high on our priority list, but this time we experienced it left bank-style in Saint Germain.
Clearly, the wine went down very smoothly.
Sunday night dinner was at Le Comptoir du Relais.
While the food and atmosphere was on par with the previous evening’s meal, our waiter hated us (or simply acted like it).
No matter - we didn’t let it affect our evening.
Escargots, filet, cote du rhone….it was all so good.
The cafe crawl didn’t stop there.
We wrapped things up at Cafe Bonaparte, where our waiter (pictured above) more than made up for the previous waiter’s antics and even challenged Dean to a coaster throw.
It was midnight in Paris and it was perfect….
Only to be topped by a swift walk back to the Seine for a final view of the illuminated Eiffel Tower.
I woke up Monday morning and knocked out a couple hours of work on our terrace before jumping back on the train.
Two hours+ later, I was back in London, happy to be home.
Happy to be reunited with Lady.
And happy to finally feel like London is home.
There is not much more I love than a night in with friends…
Sharing food and memories….
Laughter to the point of tears….
And lots of Heads Up.
On her last night in London, I asked my Mom what she enjoyed the most about her visit in London.
She rallied off a list of things that impressed and surprised her…
-The Tube system is so much cleaner, more efficient, and easier to navigate than the NYC Subway
-People are so warm, friendly, and helpful
-It’s just so beautiful! So much history!
-“I can easily see why you’d want to stay here.”
But her hands down favorite part of London was….
Nothing brings my Mom more joy than the experience of food, so I was in no way surprised that Borough Market, a gourmet sensory overload, was her favorite.
She literally tasted her way from end to end.
Beginning with coffee…
Followed by a tour of the veggies.
With a special meet and greet with her favorite, rhubarb.
There was many a cheese tasting (this was cheese stand one of 1,000).
Washed down with freshly squeezed apple and strawberry juice.
We had to stop and smell the truffles because, as you do…
And savor every sample we came across.
In case you were wondering, this is the face of food euphoria.
A crispy pork sandwich was devoured…
As was mama’s first raclette.
And we capped off the food tour with a walk across Tower Bridge, because, when in London…
But Mom - guess what? London is brimming with so many more amazing food markets, so we’ll have to simply visit them all on your next visit. We’ll start with Maltby Market.
Borough Market. (Read about my first experience at Borough Market here.)