As recently admitted, I am a sucker for BritLit.
But there’s more; it’s not just BritLit.
There is a darker, stronger, strangely powerful force that drives me too.
This being said it was a triple joy to visit Bath during the holidays as Bath is not only a must see location for all Austen enthusiasts, but for all inclined to the cosy side of life. The town was bathing in sunshine and resembled a tiny Alpine skiing village: I don’t know where this connotation in my head came from, but others must have noticed it too, as there were little wooden chalets offering after-ski mulled wines with fake white fur covering the seats outside.
Bath’s most famous tourist attraction is, well, the Roman baths, but this little city has much more to offer. What drew my attention when walking on the streets in Bath was first, the architecture, second, the bookshops, and third, the coffee. Yes, this was a city I could imagine spending some productive months in, writing at my desk and keeping an eye on the modest buzz of people strolling around the cute city from one boutique to another.
Here follows The Crumb’s Coffee Guide to Bath!
Jacob’s Coffee House, 6 Abbey Street Location: opposite the Roman Baths and the Abbey
Very convenient by its location, Jacob’s Coffee seemed to be constantly busy during my few day visit. There were nice looking seats outside too, but as it was a bit frisky, they were not an option. During the summer season I assume that the coffee shop is even busier, as the outdoor seating area is probably one of the best spots in Bath to get into the Roman spirit while enjoying coffee: the Roman Baths are located on the other side of the boulevard.
I had a seat upstairs, first on a sofa in a corner, as it was packed, but moved to a window table later on. The view was spectacular: right opposite were the Baths, the sun was shining, and you could see the people enjoying themselves amongst the white tablecloths in a more plush establishment, The Pump Room.
I walked straight from the station to Jacob’s, and was only after a little treat: my orange and polenta cake was a perfect match for the cheery spirit of the arrival, and the coffee was a perfect match to the atmosphere of the place: easygoing and thoroughly enjoyable. When I left the coffee house I saw massive and delicious looking soup bowls being carried around and decided to return in a more convenient time.
Society Café, Kingsmead Square and 19 High Street (The Corridor) Location: The Corridor near the “Ponte Vecchio” of Bath
I happened to stumble upon a small Society’s outlet in The Corridor, High Street, while rambling around the city. As the sun had just set, and the freezing coldness kicked in, I decided to have some hot chocolate instead of coffee. The coffee shop has only one small room, with a bicycle on its wall, and is located near the city centre and the river Avon. There was an interesting looking coffee menu on the wall also, but luckily I stuck with my decision on having a soul warming cup of hot chocolate (for which there was a menu of its own!), and I’m very glad I did, as, without exaggerating, I can state that it was the best hot chocolate I have ever had, and have still occasional dreams of its 75% dark chocolate.
So, the next day I paid a visit to Society’s main outlet, by a little square just off the buzzing Baths. Here you didn’t see that many tourists anymore (I presume), and the atmosphere around the square was more village-like than in the rest of central Bath with its popular attractions.
Society is a typical modern day, urban coffee house with wooden floors and simple decór, and the clientele, I assume, is anyone who enjoys a good quality coffee. They have an inviting and clear coffee menu with origins and flavours clearly stated at the counter, so it was an interesting joy to taste the day’s espresso, which was of a nutty Brazilian variety. I sat, again, on a window seat and didn’t want my cup to end: sometimes, when visiting new places, it is nice to imagine what it would be like to live in the city, and look at your “new potential neighbours” passing by.
And I have to say: with coffee like this, I wouldn’t mind living in Bath, would not mind at all.
Colonna & Small’s, 6 Chapel Row Location: near Jane Austen Museum (don’t do it!), the Circus and Royal Crescent
I had just stepped out of the Jane Austen Museum and felt robbed to my guts. Seriously? Did I just spend 8 pounds for this – whatever it was –, never to mention the fifteen minutes the Museum took from me and could never return?
I am, naturally, a sucker for Austen, and was looking forward to the museum. After the brief talk of Austen (the girl dressed in Regency dress and a bonnet kept checking her watch, which was, if not anachronic, at least a touch irritating) in the beginning, there was a tiny display downstairs showcasing objects “from Jane Austen’s times”, such as a newspaper and a tea box. But did it have anything to do with Austen? I do not think so. In one room, you could also try writing with ink yourself (seriously?), and in another dress in a period dress – which some Korean tourists duly were doing. And did I mention that this was not even the house where Austen actually lived, but a similar one?
I guess that the lack of actual memorabilia from Austen can be explained by her sex: maybe women’s history really is the hidden and lost one, as the scholars sometimes remind us. You do get a better sense of Austen and her works just strolling around the streets of Bath, sitting in the parks, and letting your imagination flow.
But it wasn’t all a great loss, for just around the corner there is, and I will say it, the best coffee shop in Bath: Colonna & Small’s. It is a close call with the Society, but given the huge disappointment caused by Austen Museum, my mind was very acceptable for some uplifting.
As in the Society, also in Colonna & Small’s the coffee menu pleases The Crumb immensely, as I like to train my palate while enjoying – we Finns are a highly effective lot. I went for an Ethiopian variety with strong flavours and my eternal sidekick, aka the husband, got his native Brazilian brew with more subtle tastes. My Finnish palate has trained my mouth for harsher, stronger, more peppery and sour flavours, whereas M’s is more on the dolce side of life, but we ended up exchanging our cups, as against my initial assumption, I did prefer the Brazilian and vice versa – also, my Ethiopian was going down quicker, so this exchange of coffee cups worked to my advantage.
Colonna & Small’s wiped away my austenian disappointment and served as the perfect end point for my visit to Bath: I could, one day, easily see myself living here, strolling the streets of Bath, enjoying a bath or two at the Spa, popping into the bookshops, saying hullo to my new neighbours, and enjoy a nice and cosy cuppa or two in the city’s coffee shops.