A Night Away at The Brooklands Hotel

I thought it was really funny how I had only been to the Surrey town once in my life until October when I visited twice for two different occasions.  The first was to see a dear friend of mine get married and the second time was a night away with mum at The Brooklands Hotel.

Mum and I booked a deal through Groupon and it was a good deal – one night for two people with afternoon tea, use of the spa facilities and breakfast.  We had such a good time.

Brooklands is famous for having the first racecourse and it is now a Mercedes Benz where you can test drive their cars on the track.

Although the beds here were sitting next to each other we did pull them apart (they were two singles).  Such comfy beds with squishy pillows.  We both had really good night’s sleep.

I have to mention the bathroom as it was excellent.  This is the second time this year I’ve stayed in a hotel with no bath, just the shower, and although we don’t have a bath at home and usually I love nothing more than having a bath, the shower at the hotel has had me dreaming of returning for another shower every time I’ve had a shower at home!

Off we went for our afternoon tea where we were seated in the bar area.  The staff were so polite and friendly.

And then it was off to the hot tub and spa.  Its a miracle that I’m actually here to type this post as I was tempted to take up lodgings in the spa.  Sitting in the hot tub and then coming indoors and wrapping up in a dressing gown with a blanket draped over me is my idea of heaven!

We had dinner in the restaurant where we did experience a few problems, namely a huge wait, but this was dealt with quickly by the manager and we were given complimentary drinks at the bar afterwards and money off the food bill.  I would visit the restaurant again for the food that did arrive was excellent.

This was the halloumi with roasted tomatoes:

Breakfast in the morning was great.  Fruit salad, cereals, yoghurt, continental (cheeses and hams), croissants and pastries and of course, a full English breakfast which set us up really well for our day ahead at Wisley Gardens (post coming soon).

~ Pru

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A Weekend in Paris

I went a bit mad last week.  On the Monday I booked a trip to Paris and on Friday lunchtime I had arrived in the capital of France.  I realised that week that I have lost my spontinaity, the ability to abandon thoughts of what a weekend may hold and throw things in a bag and go and explore.  I miss the old me.

But there was a great reason to visit Paris and I am so pleased that I went.  Having friends over from Australia for a holiday has seen me wanting to spend as much time with them and their two adorable children.  They hired an apartment in the 17th in Paris and I booked a hotel in the adjacent street -close enough, but not too close!

And I managed to do quite a bit on this jaunt – Arc de Triomphe, Sacre Couer (in the evening for the view of Paris), Eiffel Tower – arrive before it opens to avoid queuing for too long, bistro lunch, boat trip along the Seine, Notre Damme, Eiffel Tower at night for the light show, flea markets and the Luxembourg Gardens.  I could have done more but this was the perfect weekend for seeing things but relaxing a little too, and spending time as ‘Aunty Pru’ makes me very, very, happy!

This was my first time visiting Paris and I am still wondering why I hadn’t been before.  It takes just over two hours from London.  I will have to return, soon!

~ Pru

Review of The Cumberland Hotel

When mum and I took part in the Moonwalk last year we stayed up in town that night at the Cumberland Hotel at Marble Arch.  I barely mention the hotel in my post about that day.  The stay wasn’t great, we didn’t receive the room that I had booked and the service was pretty poor absolutely disgraceful.  Mum and I have a bit of a habit of not wanting to complain and ruin our trip away (happened when we were in New York too) but I did ask for us to be moved and they couldn’t and afterwards I reviewed the hotel on the Tripadvisor website. 

Fast forward a year, and after speaking with the manager about my previous complaint (which was not dealt with despite contacting the hotel), we struck a deal.  An executive twin room, including VAT and breakfast for £119 (the price of a standard twin minus, tax and breakfast). 

This stay was a lot better.  The room was huge, and it had a view Marble Arch (and a very big pink tent).

That bit of curtain hanging down really annoyed me. 

I assume I was blinded by the light – please excuse the blurry photo!

 The bathroom was wonderful and there is nothing better than starting the day under a power shower – I don’t think I have felt that squeaky clean for a very long time! 

This may show how many times mum and I stay in an executive room.  There was a bottle of chilled wine awaiting us in the room but we couldn’t work out if it was ours to drink for free or whether we would find a HUGE bill for room service.  So we asked, and it turned out that it was complimentary, and as I type this I’m drinking a large glass of the rose and it is very, very good. 

I didn’t take photos at breakfast, but let me tell you that a place that offers strong coffee, nearly every type of juice I can think of, yoghurt, fruit, cereal, toast, muffins, every item for an English breakfast (every type of egg, bacon, sausages, beans, tomatoes, mushrooms and hash browns), pancakes, omlettes and continental breakfast, gets my vote.  I confess to going up three times for breakfast, first for yoghurt with fruit (I was being virtuous), then for the English breakfast (I was hungry) and then for tiny pancakes with maple syrup (I saw this as dessert). 

We checked out early as we wanted to get home to enjoy the unexpected sunshine, but I could have happily stayed at the hotel for longer (maybe in the executive lounge where there were bottles of coke – and champagne – on tap). 

Would I stay here again?  Yes I would but I think I would still be slightly hesitant about full-heartedly suggesting that a friend stayed there.  I was worried after my first stay but everything was ironed out this time, and although I think the hotel is pretty expensive, it is fun for a treat (and we very much appreciated the free breakfast)!

~ Pru

My money.  My review.

Day Trip to the Coast

It shames me to tell you that I have only seen the sea twice this year, the first time was in March for a Hen Weekend.  I have withdrawl symptoms if I don’t hear the waves crashing in on a regular basis.  It was March when I last saw the sea and there is a good reason why I don’t see the coast more often – my dog Violet.  See, most beaches won’t allow you to take a dog on the beach from May to the end of September and so it makes it very difficult to find a nice day to venture down for the day.

But after a summer of bad weather this past Saturday was going to be nice (read: not wet) and I hunted for a beach to take Violet.  And of course I had criteria: I wanted sand, and somewhere to get something for lunch.  This website is wonderful for finding a suitable beach for a dog in the UK.

We chose Highcliffe on the south coast, and this was a lovely beach.  The sea was calm and it was quiet too.  It wasn’t the clearest of days but you can make out The Needles on the coast of the Isle of Wight.

A long walk along the promenade and up a zig-zaggy path and we stopped for tea and cake at Highcliffe Castle.  This is such a pretty 18th Century Castle and the next time we visit I want to spend more time exploring.

We went for a little drive to nowhere and then went to Mudeford which may be my favourite beach (although my heart will always belong to summer holidays as a kid at Burton Bradstock in Dorset).  Mudeford was busier than Highcliffe but not in an arcade and bucket and spade way.  There were beach huts (Mudeford is famous for selling a beach hut for £170,000) with couples sitting with cups of tea or Pimms and sunbathing, and a great little cafe where we had toasted sandwiches and chips.  The ice cream was also very, very good too.

This was a wonderful day out, and I didn’t take many photos as I was having too much fun!

~ Pru

Proms and Palaces

Following a wonderful day at the Paralympics on Friday, we continued the ‘P’ theme with mum and I attending Proms in the Park on Saturday night and then a tour of state rooms at Buckingham Palace on Sunday.

We were graced with gorgeous hot weather and enjoyed the Indian summer weekend (whilst I continued to slap on SPF50!)  First there was Proms in the Park in Hyde Park which I treated mum to for her birthday.  We picked up lots of picnic food and headed into the park with 40,000 people to enjoy a night of great music (Il Divo, Alfie Boe, Bjorn Again and the wonderful Kylie) before we went live to the Royal Albert Hall for the final songs of the Proms.  Mum and I loved every moment of the flag waving and dancing.  It was a fantastic celebration of Britain and there were videos from the Olympics and Paralympics and moments were we remembered the Queen’s jubilee.  I’m already thinking about getting tickets for next year.

And then today mum and I were up early and at Buckingham Palace for a state rooms visit of the palace.  I went about eight years ago with a friend and since then I have been suggesting that my parents attend.  The state rooms are stunning.  Merely the fact of walking around the palace and seeing where the Kate and William had arrived at the palace folowing their wedding, where people recieve Knighthoods and OBEs and the splendour of the palace I don’t think can be matched.  The great thing about the tour is that everyone wheres headphones with audio descriptions given in great detail of every room that you tour.  It is incredible.

Apple juice (from the Sandringham Estate) and cheesecake sitting in the Buckingham Palace tearoom after the tour was pretty special.

And the gardens were spectacular.  There are some places in London where its hard to remember that you are in the middle of a busy city, but this garden was one of those rare tranquil places.

Following the tour we walked up to Hyde Park Corner and looked at the new war memorial which commemorates the Bombers, and was a labour of love for the supporters who campaigned for years for this memorial.  It is beautiful, and although the largest war memorial I have seen, it is understated and blends in so well with its surroundings.  It was sad too though, as floral tributes had been left and continued to be left by families as we stood in awe at the monument.

Its been a busy weekend and most the time I’ve felt like a tourist in my own hometime, but it has been the best weekend too.

How was your weekend?

~ Pru

A day at the Paralympic Swimming

I hadn’t been that enthusiastic for the Olympics until about a week before when I realised that I had been mad not to apply for tickets. I hunted for tickets on the most annoying ticket website I’ve ever encountered and finally struck gold.

Today, mum, dad and I made the easy journey from home to the Olympic stadium for swimming heats. I cannot fault the day at all.

From the moment we stepped out at Stratford Station there were friendly helpers who are called GameMakers guiding us to the right places, giving advice and they were incredibly helpful.

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The Aquatics Centre was impressive and so much bigger than I had appreciated.

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We had lunch in the (barely there) shadow of The Orbit which I’ve decided I like after seeing it up close.

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And then we went for a wander. We walked to the Veledrome which is fitted with beautiful wood paneling and then we sat down on the grass and watched the basketball on the big screen.

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If it hadn’t been for needing to collect Violet then I’d still be there now. The security check was thorough but quick and we encountered no queues when purchasing drinks, although £10 for a bottle of sunscreen is extortionate.

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But I wouldn’t change today for anything. I was so proud of everyone there and of London for putting on a wonderful event day in, day out for weeks.

~ Pru

An early morning walk through Holland Park

THERE’S A GIVEAWAY THIS WEEK OF A CUSTOMISED LEATHER BRACELET – MAKE SURE YOU LEAVE A COMMENT ON THAT POST TO ENTER.  (GIVEAWAY ENDS 09/09/2012 AT 9AM UK TIME)

When I was at school and throughout college we didn’t have a computer at home.  I spent most of my lunchtimes in the computer room desperately trying to learn how to type and use a computer wisely.  During my year at college (I did a legal secretary course) we had Fridays off from college and I would head to Kensington to a computer cafe to type up my assignments.  Needless to say, that I have passed the gates to Holland Park countless times.  Heading through Kensington is my passageway from home into London.

With hot weather expected to last for the next week, an early start on Saturday morning seemed like the perfect time to venture out and get a walk done early in a park that I have been meaning to visit ever since seeing photos on the internet in the spring.  Holland Park turned out to be tranquil and still at 8am and although I think it would have been too much to handle by lunchtime, this is the perfect place to wander around and enjoy.  And I know that I missed some of the park so will have to head back in at another stage (maybe once autumn and cold brisk mornings arrive). 

I must start seeing more of the city I call home and that I love so much.  I could have kicked myself for not venturing through the gates to the park sooner, but I know that I will return with a coffee in hand and a cake from Ottolenghi to soak it all up again soon.

~ Pru