What you really want when you get to the Georgian architectural extravaganza that is Bath, is a hotel that really lets you live the dream. The Francis is one of just a handful in this elegant town which lives up to the promise, but has been rather delightfully reinterpreted with a touch of je ne sais quoi by the French.
One of Bath's very first hotels, the Francis sits on Queen Square in the Upper Town, a perfectly preserved example of 18th century town planning. Queen Square was where the Regency building boom started, long before Bath's Royal Crescent and Circus were on the drawing board, and the man with the original vision was John Wood the Elder.
Records dating back to 1734 show Wood lived at no.9 in a house which is now the entrance of this hotel made up of seven Regency properties. It was named for Solomon Francis, who opened the first hotel on the premises in 1858, and one would never guess that it suffered two direct hits during World War II.
Perhaps partial demolition actually helped transform the Francis, a Grade I listed property, into a luxury hotel replete with 21st century mod cons, although it has lost none of its graciousness. The 98 bedrooms have a modern vibrancy which shows a distinctly gallic touch. We enjoyed touches of bright purple and bold black and white Regency stripes in the decor and a bathroom wittily wallpapered with a giant image of the nearby 2,000-year old Roman baths which are a jewel in the city's crown. The addition of a Nespresso machine in Superior rooms brings these rooms bang up to date.
Breakfast was superb; the Accor group has made a point of perfectly interpreting the Great British Breakfast in all its higher-end UK properties offering dishes such as eggs Benedict at no extra cost, and the hotel also specialises in afternoon tea, albeit with those Gallic additions of macaroons and a glass of Champagne. There is also a Brasserie Blanc on the premises for a French-accented lunch or dinner - not out of keeping with Bath's history, where a touch of continental elegance was all the rage during Regency times.
Just up the road is the Circus, a second triumphal square - perhaps that should be circle - designed by Wood, followed by the nearby Royal Crescent drawn up by John Wood the Younger.
Add the Pump Room, Fashion and Building of Bath museums, the baths, magnificent abbey and Pulteney Bridge, and Bath remains the greatest must-see attraction for visitors to the UK outside London. And it would be hard to find a more fitting place to stay offering better value than the Francis.