Country house bliss

Friday 11 September 2015

A weekend away in Britain for me is usually full of adventure – we'll set off by train for somewhere we haven't visited before and try to cram as much as we possibly can into 48 hours or less, until it's time to return to the city again. This time was different though. On a Saturday morning in August, we boarded the train from London's Paddington Station – we were off on another adventure, but this adventure was full of a different promise. No rushing around, no shopping, no long hikes, no bucket list to tick off. Instead, this was a chance to relax, unwind and actually do as little as possible.

Hartwell House The magnificent Hartwell House, which was once home to Louis XVIII, the exiled King of France, is just a 7-minute taxi ride from Aylesbury train station in Buckinghamshire. As we swept along the long curving driveway surrounded by Hartwell’s immense grounds, I really did feel we were in for a treat. Coming round the corner, we saw the impressive house in front of us; something you'd be forgiven if you thought you'd seen before in Downton Abbey maybe. And opposite, on the lawn, sat a helicopter. I wondered if that’s how guests usually arrive around here. Through a heavy wooden door, check in was swift and we were led through huge rooms where guests were enjoying afternoon tea, to our bedroom. Well, if you can call it that. It was bigger than our flat back home. The suite had a huge lounge, a huge bedroom and not 1, but 2 bathrooms. Hartwell House view It was just as you’d expect for a country house with a history stretching back almost 1,000 years. Imagine muted colours, heavy, patterned curtains, armchairs that you sink into, and glossy magazines to lining the wooden coffee tables and sideboards. The view from our room was magnificent, overlooking the gardens below. I immediately plonked myself into the window seat, imagining what it might have been like to live here once. For the next 24 hours we didn’t leave Hartwell House – we didn’t need to. We spent our time indulging heavily in some of life’s luxuries. Saturday night started with a glass of bubbly, followed by a delicious 3-course meal to the soundtrack of a pianist playing just outside the dining room, finished off with coffee and petit fours in the library. I was so full I couldn’t keep my eyes open and just about managed to make it up the stairs to crash on the giant bed. Hartwell House grounds Sunday promised even more ‘us’ time. After breakfast, we strolled through Hartwell’s beautiful gardens. We passed cows in a neighbouring field, crossed a cute bridge over a stream and wandered through woodland. We had no idea where we were going and we didn’t mind not knowing. It was fun and time had no meaning. Plus, the sun was beaming, evaporating the morning dew off the grass. Hartwell House Swimming pool Now it was time to check out the spa. Situated in a barn just next to the house, we passed through flower-adorned arches and felt like we were transported into another world. The essence of aromatherapy oils hit me and I’d long forgotten the busyness of the city I’d left behind. After our spa treatments, and a spell in the outdoor Jacuzzi, I set myself down beside the pristine pool to work my way through a stack of glossy magazines. Bliss.   Hartwell House is available to book all year round.

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