I haven’t really wanted to write for the last few weeks. Every day brings more awful news and no words I have can do the events justice, so I have done the sensible thing and remained quiet. However, Lulu and I did have a lovely little mini break a short while ago and I wanted to write about that, particularly now as it brings me very happy memories.
As a single mum I am the one that makes Lu do all the boring unfun things like homework, and going to bed and brushing her tangled hair. She witnesses the mundanity of domestic life on the weekend , when we can spend time together, as I work full-time the week nights are pretty much, homework, bath, bed. However she recently asked if we could go away to a hotel, just her and me. I have no idea where the thought came from but it sounded like a great plan, a mini break for us both. Away from the distractions of boring home life.
I needed somewhere close by so the drive didn’t exhaust me, also as I won’t drive when I have taken my painkillers so I was limited distance wise. I was originally quite taken with the Cotswolds, about an hour and half from our home. Cute little villages, just right for a stroll, a place that did good food so we didn’t have to fend for ourselves but as my online search continued I came across the The Great House at Sonning in Berkshire and the plan changed. It was perfect, on the river, beautiful looking rooms, lovely restaurant menu, a bar with loads of sofas for pre dinner cocktails and a luscious looking deck chair strewn lawn leading down to the river. I managed to nab the last room on the Saturday night I wanted and opted for the more expensive river view room (£180) as a treat for us. It is also worth noting that at the moment there is no two night minimum stay at the weekend which makes it a much more affordable option for a jaunt away. I also requested that a bouquet of flowers be left in the room for Lulu as it was our first mini break together and I wanted to spoil her, the lady on the end of the phone was incredibly helpful and indeed the bouquet from Sonning Flowers (£30) that we arrived to was perfect for a 6-year-old girl. I booked dinner for the evening and breakfast the next morning, having discussed my Coeliacs disease requirements (gluten free food). The lady I spoke with was completely unfazed by my food requirements and that is always a good sign, much better than the ‘you’re what?’. An immediate anxiety attack follows that comment.
I dropped the mini sausage dog off with my partner, dogs are allowed – woohoo – but I wanted to give Lulu my undivided attention, and he gave us a lift to the hotel as I was flagging a bit. We arrived for check it at about 3.30pm, the weather was picture perfect, sunny and blue skies. Check in was painless and we took our bags up to our room which was just as lovely as the website photos and the best bit? A fan in the room. Lu was thrilled, a massive bed, the big tv, a lovely spinning desk chair, a shiny bathroom with a shower so big that lu could lie on the bottom and present to swim. There were also jars of sweets, biscuits and fresh milk in the fridge.
Lu is as impatient as I am and after admiring the room and opening the windows off we went to explore the bar. At this point I must say that out room was over what turned out to be the resultant and outside dining terrace so there wasn’t much of a river view, save a sliver in the distance if you stood up tall, and the noise of the customers kept me awake during the night as it was so hot I kept the windows open, however I was so disturbed that eventually I relented and closed them. I did mention this to reception when I checked out so do be mindful where your room is. The other half of the building over looked a second beautiful lawn leading down to the river that is used for private functions though you may run the risk of being kept awake by the tradition wedding disco.
The bar and restaurant is called the Coppa Club and seems to manage to be all thing to all men very well. A lovely chrome bar with stools and an amazing cocktail and wine list. Comfy sofas for lounging and there are beautiful old paper backs scattered around for you to browse. As Lu and I sat at the bar drinking lemonade and drawing in her colouring book the rest of the bar consisted of ladies lunching, people working on laptops, families and couples drinking Pimms. Lu decided we needed to move to the beautiful velvet sofas and I took the opportunity to confirm our dinner booking and my gluten free status. After a while we ventured out onto the lawn with our drinks and relaxed in the deck chairs, listening to the music playing at just the right volume for me, people watching and admiring all the dogs in attendance. There was a bar outside which had a BBQ going should you be minded. Lu was not a fan of the deck chairs and made us move twice. I add that the place was packed, we were lucky to get seats. There was also a wedding reception taking place on the next lawn, the bride was having photos taken by the river and she looked gorgeous. Lu loves a bride, I think she is quite taken with the ‘princess’ concept. So we admired her for a while and then decided to get dinner early. The restaurant staff were utterly charming. We were seated by the open doors to the terrace with was perfect as it was still so warm. Our waitress talked me though the menu and Lu got her own menu. We both opted for streak and chips. I had a crab linguine to start, Lu went off kids menu and had broad bean and feta humus – not a hit with her. However our mains more than made up for it, they were absolutely delicious. Mine came with huge grilled mushrooms and Lu and I cleared our plates. She drank a coke, which she had been looking forward to since I had made the booking, such treat for her (mean mummy) and I had a Seedlip and Fentimans tonic. Seedlip is a delicious non alcoholic spirit, a bit like gin. It was delicious, icy cold and refreshing. A fantastic substitute for alcohol, I gave up drinking over 3 years ago, but there is only so may elderflower presses that a gal can drink.
Pudding for Lu was ice cream and for me a butterscotch pot with salted caramel. It was sensational, Lu and I were literally fighting over the empty shot glass it had come in. I shall be asking for the recipe. Then Lu wanted a cuddle so clearly it was time to go to bed. We had a fabulous shower, with the most enormous rain shower head I have ever seen. Then into bed to watch Over the Hedge on the iPad.
After a less than restful sleep – see note above about room location – but superbly comfortable bed we awoke to the horrible news about the Tower Bridge and Borough Market attacks. I made a few phone calls to ensure that everyone I knew in the area was ok and since it was plastered across the TV and had the great pleasure of explaining to Lu, in language that will not terrify a six-year-old, that again, after the Manchester Area ‘fire’ some people have done some very bad things and some people had been hurt. We then called nanny, who live in Greenwich to make sure she was ok and for Lu to tell her all about the incident.
The sun was blazing so we had breakfast on the terrace. There was no porridge which Lu had been looking forward to – though she never eats it at home – so being my child she ordered a plate of bacon and a fresh strawberry cocktail. I had a salad of watermelon with yoghurt, lime and coconut which was fantastic, and of course – coffee. The terrace was extremely comfortable, cushions, throws, anything you could want. We had let time get way from us while we were watching the news and so packed up quickly after breakfast and lazed around on the lawn again, this time on bench which Lu much preferred and waited until we were collected and whisked off of a lovely family lunch.
The other slight disappointment, apart from the noisy room, was that the hotels website picture gallery showed children river swimming and Lu and I were rather excited by this, we even brought our swim suits. However, when I asked at reception they said they hadn’t heard of anyone swimming in the river, I had to bring up their website on my phone to show then the photos but still nothing.
As a complete aside, and by a very strange coincidence, I have actually been to that hotel twice before when it was in its old form, both times with my ex husband, for a huge family birthday party and then for a family wake. It had not occurred to me it was the same place until we turned not the car park, small world huh?
The Great House underwent a huge refurbishment last year and looks nothing like it did.
Lulu and I had a wonderful time, all the staff were simply delightful and made us feel so welcome, we even go smiles and waves as we left the car park. I would go back and stay in a heartbeat. I am very envious of the locals, they get to pop in whoever they want. However, it does seem to be a great place to hold a wedding……