It's my birthday today, and by way of celebration, I started the day in two pubs, firstly the "Black Swan" for a cider, and then crossed over the road to the "Bear Hotel" for yet another. It's not everyday you are 21 again! To the right is my glass of dark amber coloured "Thatcher's Autumn Gold" cider, my latest tipple, and very nice it is too. The other drinks belong to my friends who had popped in for lunch. The "Bear" Hotel is the smartest hotel in town, and an old coaching inn, first licenced to sell spirits and beer in 1559. It has an interesting history, and was once the home of Sir Thomas Lawrence, a child prodigy and portrait painter, who later became a member of the Royal Academy of Art. The hotel has a great atmosphere, and is a popular place for morning coffee, excellent lunches and evening dinner parties. It is always very busy and it's often difficult to find a table unless pre-booked. Traditional English afternoon tea can be ordered here, with two big scones, butter and strawberry jam, and all topped with lashings of clotted cream. Very tasty but absolutely disasterous for my waistline!
The lounge bar above has a spiral staircase leading to the guest rooms. Below can be seen the same bar, but looking down towards the "Bear Grill," a separate dining area, rather like a little bistro. Both these bars have warm open log fires.
The hotel was a popular stopping place for overnight stays and a place to change horses notably in the 18th and 19th century, when Bath became a popular place to take the waters. Among the more notable guests who stayed here were, George lll and Queen Charlotte who stayed in 1817, en route for Longleat, the Archduke and Duchess of Austria, and in 1893 Edward Vll, then Prince of Wales, together with Edward of Saxe-Coburg and Prince Arthur of Connaught. I like to imagine Jane Austen the writer, walking through the same main entrance that we all use today. She stayed here overnight on many occasions, when travelling from Kent to Bath. The ballroom with its magnificent chandeliers, was refurbished recently and is used as a wedding venue.