There aren’t many hotels that I’ve stayed in for one night and wished that I could stay for a whole week. But that’s exactly how I felt as we left Woolley Grange in Wiltshire a few weeks ago. We had spent just 20 hours there, and I could easily have stayed for days.
In a nutshell, Woolley Grange is all low ceilings, wooden beams and log fires. There’s a friendly warmth as you walk into the reception area and in the lounge, elderly couples having afternoon tea mix well with toddlers stomping through in wellies, carrying sticks and other treasures they’ve discovered outside.
We stayed in the John Baskerville room, which is on the first floor and is split level – you walk into a living area (with single camp bed for the four-year-old) and go upstairs to a bedroom and large bathroom. It was ideal, as the little one enjoyed having her ‘own room’ and it meant we could have our own space too. In our bedroom, the four-year-old found a small chair in the corner, and declared it ‘her chair’ before promptly plonking herself on it with the iPad to watch CBeebies.
As soon as we arrived, we realised we’d left the four-year-old’s suitcase at home (OOPS) but the reception staff were really helpful in directing me to a nearby Sainsbury’s where I could buy her some clothes, PJs and toothbrush. While I drove there (through Bradford Upon Avon which is TOTALLY BEAUTIFUL by the way, especially in the purple twilight) Mr P took the four-year-old swimming. Continue reading
Regular readers will know I’m a huge fan of me-time. Every now and then, my best mate and I arrange a Day Of Fun. We take the day off work and organise a nice lunch somewhere, maybe visit a beauty salon or even see a show. A couple of years ago, we went for cocktails at the Covent Garden Hotel and then went to see Priscilla Queen Of The Desert. Best. Day. Ever.
Last week, we decided it was time for another Day Of Fun. We met for lunch at No.11 Pimlico Road – a gorgeous bistro-come-pub a short walk away from Sloane Square and Victoria Station. Over a carafe of Marlborough Savingnon Blanc and some lunch, we caught up on the gossip.
We loved No.11 Pimlico Road – gorgeous mid-century decor, a massive Christmas tree and fantastic service and food. I had a steak with Béarnaise sauce, fries and a side of mac & cheese. Then we shared a cheese board instead of having dessert, which rocked. It would be a great place for a huge crowd (they’ve got a lovely private space upstairs) or a brunch or Sunday roast. I always think a good test of a place is going when it’s not that busy – what’s the atmosphere like? When we went to No.11 Pimlico Road, there were a few other groups but not many, and the place was still buzzing.
When it comes to most things, I’m not a snob. I love buying clothes in supermarkets… a rummage in Wilko’s or the pound shop makes me feel a bit excited (not like that, you pervs) and buying £1 cushions in Ikea is just the most fun ever.
But the one thing I’ll admit to being a snob over? Burgers.
There’s a real hierarchy of burgers, in my mind, and it goes something like this:
You may disagree with this, but it’s how my hierarchy is formed, and I’m sticking with it. There are some places I just won’t buy a burger (burger van) and some where I will rarely order a burger (chain pub) and from then on up, I buy burgers depending on my mood, but I never ever enjoy a burger like I do when I’m in a ‘proper’ burger joint like MeatLiquor or Shake Shack. I’m not even a huge fan of Five Guys, if I’m honest. But give me a medium cooked burger on a brioche bun and I’m happy. Continue reading
This week, my family and I are on a short break in Cornwall. Right now, as I type, I’m sitting on a plush red sofa, drinking tea, log burning stove roaring next to me, and I’m looking out onto the choppy English Channel. The sea and sky have a purpley hazy glow to them and Mr P and the four-year-old are off swimming in the hotel pool while I’m catching up on a bit of blogging. If it wasn’t for Status Quo music playing in the background, it would feel pretty perfect.
Our break has got me thinking a bit about what makes the perfect holiday – for me, it’s about going somewhere that has something for everyone. So a hotel that offers swimming for the little ones, a kick-ass crèche, and fun outdoor play areas alongside a spa for me, gorgeous chill out areas, ooh and nice wine please – is pretty much the dream.
That way, you ALL get to have fun and relax – aren’t those the two magical ingredients to a holiday? Time to switch off from deadlines and housework and – well, basically everything a bit boring and rubbish in life. Time to just sit and do a puzzle with your child. Or splash around in the pool. Or eat ice cream every day. Time to recharge the batteries and get some perspective on life. Make memories to store away and recall when you’re back home… cleaning the cooker. These are some of my favourite family memories from the past year…
But for me, a dream holiday should also have an air of predictability to it – there’s something special about having holiday traditions as a family (when I grew up, it wasn’t a holiday if we didn’t take a pack of cards for endless games of Rummy.)
So with this in mind, I’ve created a game – Family Holiday Bingo.
I love a day trip. Not to the sea side or a stately home. I love getting on a plane and going to a different country, just for the day. Back when my best mate turned 30, a group of us went to Dublin for the day. A couple of years ago, I took Mr P to Paris for the day on his birthday. Recently, I flew to Edinburgh to visit my mum for the day. It’s such a brilliant way to spend a few hours in a fab city, perhaps see some faraway friends or family, and then be back in time for bed. No expensive hotels, no need to take more days off work. Win win, right?
Last week, I discovered a new day trip destination: Palma. I know, I can hear you say “Palma? As in Majorca?” but stick with me. It’s a totally overlooked city break destination. Before last week, I’d only ever thought of it as the airport you fly into when you’re going to a beach holiday elsewhere on the island. But it’s a really beautiful city worth visiting. Even for the day…
Which is lucky because Thomson invited me and a group of bloggers and journalists to Palma for lunch. We flew out there on a 787 Dreamliner (which, I admit, I’d never heard of before the trip. Mr P, however, was very excited when he heard which plane we’d be flying on) and even better, the plane was flown by the MD of Thomson Airlines, Captain John Murphy. Before we took off, they filled us in on some company news – things that if I’m totally honest changed my view of Thomson and First Choice. I don’t think I’ve ever gone on a holiday with them, and I’m not really a fan of a standard package holiday, but after listening to the team and hearing about how they operate, I was left very impressed.
It was the attention to detail like the airline crew having iPads which they use to help you do anything from book a brilliant restaurant local to your hotel, to telling you what the weather will be for the next few days, to the football results of your favourite team. They’re also trying to move away from the welcome meeting when you arrive at your hotel, shifting all of that information to the flight and your in-seat TV. And I loved the sound of the family booth style seating planned for future planes. They just seem to genuinely care about the customer’s experience and starting your holiday off in the best possible way.
After a gorgeous Spanish breakfast onboard the plane and an ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ at the Dreamliner lightshow (a feature designed especially for the company – nicknamed the TUI Wave) we landed in Palma to glorious sunshine – which was just amazing after leaving a very wet and stormy London.