Bath, The Cotswolds and Stratford upon Avon

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by Carlos Melia

I have just return to the United States, after three amazing weeks touring around Europe, which included a week and a half in England. London being the epicenter of my stay, to later explore the rural areas of Bath, The Cotswolds and Stratford upon Avon. A journey back in time to romantic fiction, ancient bath, temples, castles and royalty tales, set in lovely green landscapes and rolling hills.ӬӬ

There was not much I knew about these regions before heading their way. Heard their names multiple times, but for some reason, they were never in my list of places to visit when in England. Being away from London, for more than 3 days, always sounded wrong to me, so in the past I only took day trips to Brighton, but that was about it.

This time, invited by Visit Britain prior to the celebrations of the World Pride 2012 in London (see videos and photos below) , we set in a journey guided by the romantic fiction of Jane Austen and iconic plays of Shakespeare to the rural areas of Bath, The Cotswolds and Stratford upon Avon. “¨”¨

(video) World Pride 2012 London
(flickr photo gallery) World Pride 2012 London
(more) ҬWorld Pride 2012 London by Carlos Melia

BATH
Known as the Roman city, full of vibrant heritage. UNESCO World Heritage Site, boasting fine Georgian architecture. This world-famous city has originated and developed around its hot spring waters discovered by the Romans over 2,000 years ago, and the famous Roman Baths remain to this day. A thriving and vibrant city, Bath combines its fascinating history with a diversity of museums, galleries, gardens and tourist attractions, making it a beautiful, exciting and unique city to visit. (suggested stay in Bath 02 nights)ӬӬ

How to get there: The best way is to take the train, which will take you in less than 2 hours to Bath Spa station. The cost of the single economy class ticket is 15 pounds.

Stay: We stayed at the lovely Francis Hotel by M Gallery Collection. Housed within a classic Georgian-style structure. The hotel is charming and located just across the street of Queen Square. But you may also want to try The Royal Crescent Hotel by Relais & Chateaux.

(video) My Room at Francis Hotel

Restaurants: We enjoyed diners at the following, Brasserie Blanc by chef Raymond Blanc’s Brasserie Blanc, where the food served is reminiscent of high quality, informal French cooking.  The Circus Cafe seasonal, locally sourced, freshly-cooked food with a British bias to their menus which change every month. But my favorite, was The Pump Room at the Roman Bath.

At night make sure to stop at one of the local bars/taverns and enjoy the time with locals, while sipping through cider or beers and the local tunes. Or if you feel like a gay night out, you should try the Mandalyns Bar, Bath’s number one gay and lesbian venue.”¨”¨

(video) Bars of Bath

The top MUST do while in Bath are: Here is my list of MUST Do while in Bath. We were lucky enough to see and enjoy Bath through the eyes of our local guide Thomas, an 18th century historian, whom at our own pace, will share stories of Bath. Experience Bath 

Roman Bath & Pump Room
Unfortunately this baths are close to the public to bathe, so you wont be able to enjoy them as Romans used to. But you will be able to tour around, and learn more about one of the finest ancient monuments in Europe and Britain’s only hot spring. Visit the Temple, one of only two truly classical temples known from Roman Britain. It was the place where the cult statue of the goddess Sulis Minerva was housed. Deity of healing powers. My favorite spot was the Sacred Spring, where hot water at a temperature of 46°C rises here at the rate of 240,000 gallons every day and has been doing this for thousands of years. Visit or have lunch, tea or diner at the stunning Pump Room Restaurant. At the end of the tour, try the waters right from the hot springs, the myth is that the have healing powers by the goddess Sulis Minerva. Website

(video) Roman Bath at Bath
(video) Carlos Melia at Roman Bath at Bath

Thermae Bath Spa
Have your chance to take the waters as the old Romans used to over 2000 years ago. Thermae Bath Spa is a day spa where you can bathe in the warm, natural mineral-rich waters and choose from a range of spa treatments designed to ease the body and soothe the mind. A treat is the rooftop pool with panoramic views of Bath. The treatments, well I must be honest, not the best I have had in my life, so you might as well skip this part. Website

Royal Crescent and Circus
A residential road of 30 houses laid out in a crescent. A crescent is an architectural structure where a number of houses are laid out in an arc form. One of the greatest examples of Georgian architecture to be found in the United Kingdom by architect John Wood the Younger. The Royal adjective was added later at the end of the 18th century after Pride Frederik, Duke of York and Albany had lived there. Visit house No. 1 Royal Crescent for the full experience, and to see the original states and views over the Royal Victoria Park.

The Circus, also an example of Georgian architecture, is divided into three segments of equal length, it is a circular space surrounded by large townhouses. Each of the curved segments faces one of the three entrances, ensuring that whichever way a visitor enters there is a classical facade straight ahead.ӬӬ

Pulteney Bridge
The Pulteney Bridge is the local version of Ponte Vecchio (Florence) and Ponte di Rialto (Venice). Unique all three of them, on its kind in the world, for being the only bridges in the world with stores built on it. This one in particular built on top of the River Avon by Robert Adam

Bath Abbey
Visit to admire their magnificent architecture, to enjoy their wonderful choral music or for a quiet moment of contemplation. Website

Jane Austen Center
Located at 40 Gay Street in Bath is a permanent exhibition. It tells the story of Jane’s Bath experience – the effect that living here had on her and her writing. Jane Austen is perhaps the best known and best loved of Bath’s many famous residents and visitors. She paid two long visits here towards the end of the eighteenth century, and from 1801 to 1806 Bath was her home. Jane Austen was the author of romantic fiction like Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. Website

Narrowboats Sail and Lunch
Sail along the canals and locks of Bath and enjoy the lovely scenery and quiet lifestyle of the locals. England and all Europe is interconnected by this series of canals, so if you let yourself away, you might wake up the following day in London. We had a typical British lunch over sandwiches and scones with clotted cream and jam.ӬӬ

(video) Narrowboats Sail and Lunch

THE COTSWOLDS
The Cotswolds are a range of hills in southwestern and west-central England, an area 25 miles across and 90 miles long, known for its outstanding natural beauty. Quintessential England, with rolling green hills, manor houses, charming churches and grey stone walls pubs. The natural transition between the vicinities of Bath and Stratford upon Avon.

There are many noteworthy historical structures in this area, and we visited one, hosted by a very special person, Sudeley Castle by the owner herself Lady Ashcombe, with whom we shared a traditional English Tea time.

Geologically the Cotswolds is a limestone mass stretching 100 miles from the south-west to the north east, with Bath to the south and Chipping Campden to the north, mainly within Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Worcestershire, Warwickshire.

No visit to The Cotswolds is complete with a short visit to the town of Cheltenham in Gloucestershire. Cheltenham , like nearby Bath, spring waters first made Cheltenham’s name but it took an ailing monarch’s visit to truly put the place on the map. George III ‘took the waters’ here in 1788, and his patronage meant it soon became a must-visit destination for the smart-set of the day. (suggested stay in The Cotswolds 01 night)”¨”¨

Stay: We stayed at the MANOR House Hotel, a four-star Manor House, located in Moreton-in-Marsh, is an enchanting 16th century Cotswold retreat where you can revel in comfort, indulge yourself with fine food and drink and relax in a homely and friendly atmosphere. This is a place where you can feel at home.

Sudeley Castle and Tea Time with Lady Ashcombe
Set against the backdrop of the beautiful Cotswold Hills, Sudeley Castle is steeped in history. With royal connections spanning a thousand years, it has played an important role in the turbulent and changing times of England’s past. The Castle was once home to Queen Katherine Parr, the last and surviving wife of King Henry VIII. Looking to have a true Tudor style fun day, exploring a working castle? Then you must come to Sudeley Castle. Visit the 9 magnificent gardens which sweep around the Castle and grounds. Visit the west wing of the Castle; formerly the kitchen range, then the stables and coach house and finally the banqueting hall, a number of fascinating exhibitions. And who knows, maybe you are lucky “¨enough to be hosted for a cup of tea by herself, Lady Ashcombe, like I did. She along with her two children, are the current owners of the Castle. A dream venue to plan your wedding in full Royal style. Website

(video) Carlos Melia visits Sudeley Castle invited by Lady Ashcombe

STRATFORD UPON AVON
Our final stop before heading back to London. We reached Stratford, after a short drive from The Cotswolds. Stratford upon Avon is synonymous of William Shakespeare, the greatest poet and playwright of England, being the place of his birth. Situated upon the River Avon in the heart of England, 800 years of history, containing not only many building that survive today and would have been familiar to Shakespeare, but also offering a more current variety of leisure.

(video) Carlos Melia introduces Stratford right from River Avon

Stay: We stayed where else, than the Shakespeare Hotel by Mercure over Chapel Street, only blocks away from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and the Royal Shakespeare Company. A four star Tudor style hotel. Now if you ask me, where will I stay for my next visit, well most probably I will at The Arden Hotel, elegant and sophisticated with a chic Waterside Brasserie, stylish Champagne Bar and spacious suites with fabulous views over the River Avon, providing an inspirational backdrop for your trip, whetherӬӬ

(video) My Room at the Shakespeare Hotel in Stratford

We were here only for one night, thus I concentrated my visit mainly and only to the figure of Shakespeare. During the day I visited his birthplace at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, which was very interesting indeed. House where William Shakespeare grew up and played. Shakespeare also spent the first five years of married life in this house with his new wife, Anne Hathaway. The house is literally a shrine. Tantalising glimpse into Shakespeare’s early world. It’s a special place that everyone should see at least once in their lifetime. Stay at the end of the tour, to enjoy some of his most renown plays being recited with great emoting and pride, by local actors.

(video) Carlos Melia at Shakespeare birthplace in Stratford upon Avon
(video) Girls reciting Shakespeare’s plays at the gardens of his own birthplace

But the final treat of this visit was our visit to the Royal Shakespeare Company to presence a modern version of “Julius Cesar”. The RSC is one of the world’s best known theatre companies, a mix of Shakespearean performance, history and biography that’s unique. It’s their job to connect people with Shakespeare and produce bold, ambitious work with living writers, actors and artists. During my stay in England I saw two plays by Shakespeare, “Julius Cesar” and “MidSummer Night Dream”, and I must say that the work they are doing to bring Shakespeare to the common people is amazing, with modern interpretations that take the classics to the everyday life occurrences. “¨”¨

I would like to thank Visit Britain, for introducing me to these, to me, new regions of England, which I have very much enjoyed and look forward to return one day soon, happy to share them all with you.

Unfortunately the trip is over, and after a 5 days stay in London, which is always lovely, I have returned to New York City. Missing the rain… well not really ha ha ha, but what is England withouth rain right. Now, planning my next adventures around the world, which I will be sharing soon with all of you, so stay tuned. Till next week in full luxury. Carlos Melia

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Carlos Melia is a Travel Expert, Blogger, Niche Marketing Consultant, Jetsetter, and Bon Vivant, who travels around the world discovering what’s new and cool in Luxury Travel and Hospitality. His reviews on hotels, restaurants, destinations, and attractions, based on his own experiences as an OUT Gay Traveler can be found at www.carlosmeliablog.com

About The Author

Carlos Melia Travel Agent Luxury Travel Curator & Blogger Wedding Planner Public Relations & Marketing CarlosMeliaBlog.com http://www.carlosmeliablog.com CM by Carlos Melia http://www.carlosmelia.com Haute Experiences http://www.hauteexperiences.com MLGTPP http://www.MLGTPP.wordpress.com Twiitter http://www.twitter.com/carlosmelia YouTube http://www.youtube.com/user/meliacarlos Pinterest http://pinterest.com/carlosmeliablog/ Shameless BIO Carlos Melia (38) Bespoke and Luxury Gay Travel Expert, Blogger and Tourism/Hospitality Niche Marketing Consultant. For the past 20 years, I have been an independent travel agent with my own company CM by Carlos Melia - www.carlosmelia.com - and have travelled and lived extensively all over the world. I have international travel experience, both as a traveler and professional, specializing into Luxury and Bespoke Gay Travel worldwide. Experiential travel perfected is my mojo. My firm commitment to you, and main reason of my following is - Been There Done That. All travel services and products to be offered and featured, have previously been experienced, tested and approved personally by me. At CarlosMeliaBlog - www.carlosmeliablog.com - I speak Gay, but I am also fluent in Straight. Everyone is welcome, everyone. There you will find reviews, tips and information on hotels, restaurants, tours, destinations, among other travel related services and products. Former Mr Gay International 2008, and member of the Board of Directors at Mr Gay World, I work along the main LGBT organizations worldwide, in pro of our rights and to assure everyone, that indeed It will be Better. I have partnered along the leading lifestyle, travel and hospitality PR firms, media groups and corporations, implementing creative and effective targeted outreach to the LGBT community. Narrowing the existing gap in between mainstream travel/hospitality services and the LGBT community worldwide. Been called, awarded and recognized, by peers, press, and customers, as a gay travel guru, jetsetter, influencer, broadcaster and globe trotter, with known as the little Marco Polo. Bachelor degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management, tree times around the world, going for the forth, more destinations, air miles and room nights that I can keep track of and recently have added gay wedding planner to my curriculum. Regardless of your sexual orientation or preference, travel should always be a memorable, unique and unforgettable experience, and not just a destination. For this, I work closely with clients and suppliers to assure that this happens. Hope you enjoy the ride, and look forward hearing your feedback and comments. Sincerely, Carlos Melia (*) Proud and active member of two of the most relevant and influential organizations within the Travel and Hospitality Industry, which are IGLTA – International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association, TZELL Travel Group and Signature Travel Network.

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