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Out of Kensington: Hartwell Hotel & Spa

Sitting in 90 acres of sweeping fields, landscaped gardens, ha ha’s and a lake is the beautiful Hartwell House – an Historic House Hotel, one of only three in the UK, owned by the National Trust.

Just an hours car journey from London this historic house, built in the seventeenth century, now provides a true respite from the rush of London life. In the past carriages would have bought you to the huge wooden front door via the mile long avenue of Lime trees. Today you approach via a sweeping drive to be met by a statue of Frederick, Prince of Wales. The door opens and you are immediately in the Jacobean Great Hall – where high ceilings, works of art, antiques, traditional furnishings and a large wood burning fire place greet you.

Over the years, various architectural additions have been made resulting in architectural styles such as Jacobean, Gothic revival, Victorian and Georgian interiors. The gardens, in the style of Capability Brown, have also received various designs. As an example, and in addition to the ha ha’s, there are statues, gazeebos, follies – and the mid-section of the bridge originally formed part of Kew Bridge.

Leading to the rooms in the main house is a fine example of a Jacobean staircase complete with statues. Rooms are large with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the countryside and gardens. Our room, The Queen’s Bedroom comes complete with four poster bed, his and hers walk-in wardrobe, floor to ceiling windows, artwork, antiques, multiple sofas and armchairs. This room originally belonged to Queen Josephine when she and King Louis where exciled from France and lived at Hartwell House from 1809 – 1814.

Hartwell House is clearly a popular destination for both residents and non-residents – many were enjoying formal Afternoon Tea, and the restaurant at dinner was full with couples, groups and those attending a corporate event. Chef Daniel Richardson is locally known as the chef who bought Aylesbury Duck back on the menu – traditionally quite a difficult bird to cook and one which takes skill, especially as it is quite a fatty bird. Sadly, not being in season on our visit, we were still able to chose from an extensive menu: Pan friend scallops with apple and fennel salad, accompanied by cauliflower and lime leaves; Veloute and pan friend fillet of Hallibut with crushed potatoes, artichokes, saute leeks and crab sauce or Beetroot macaroon with goats cheese mouse as examples. Deserts were equally exotically named.

Walking around the grounds on a beautiful Autumn’s afternoon is a real treat. If walking does not give you enough excerise, there are tennis courts and a croquet lawn. The converted former stables provide elegant space for a gymnasium, large swimming pool, together with sauna, spa and beauty rooms. Again non-residents are very welcome with day spa packages being popular and a smart cafe/restaurant is on-site overlooking the pool area.

Hartwell House is well situated being close to London and Oxford and is ideal for overnight or longer stays, combining with other attractions in the area. It provides a relaxing break from London in old traditional surroundings, comfortable and classy with no bling in sight!
Lucy and Stephen were guests of Hartwell House

Hartwell House Hotel & Spa, Oxford Road, Nr Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire HP17 8NR
www.hartwell-house.com 01296 747444

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Images: Copyright:  Lucy Elliott www.lucyelliottphotography.com

Jazzing it up in Paris!

I am never quite sure why people fly to Paris, when Eurostar is so convenient, not least to mention quick, especially from Kensington. Premium Standard offers wide seats, snack meal accompanied by wine, tea and coffee. The fields of England and France pass by in a jiffy and within 2.25 hours you are in Paris.

Once you have arrived, and taken a short metro trip is the 5* Hotel La Tremoille situated in the ‘Golden Triangle’ between Avenue George V, the Champs Elysees and Avenue Montaigne, where, in addition to the top end retailers, are also many restaurants – modern, traditional (Belle Epoque style), expensive and otherwise.

The hotel, built in the Haussmann style in 1883 originally as a private home is an architecturally grand building. In the 1960s both Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington stayed there, placing the hotel in the centre of Jazz life in Paris, where every June/July the Paris Jazz Festival is held.

It well known that hotel rooms in Paris are characteristically small (indeed some are tiny). We
were lucky enough to have a room at the top of the hotel, overlooking the Golden Triangle complete with two ceiling height French windows leading onto an original wrought iron balcony and from which, armed with Gin and Tonics at night, we could see the sun going down. One unusual feature of the room was that it had its own service hatch, so breakfast could be sent to the room without staff intruding. Although the hotel is so centrally placed it sits in a quiet street and also offers a spa and wellness centre.

The restaurant, ‘Louis’, on a Monday evening, was (as befalls most hotel restaurants) rather quiet, which was a shame as the tuna tartar with avocado mousse was excellent, as was the risotto and guinea fowl breast.

So what’s to do in Paris? Well being so central – only a few minutes walk from the Champs Elysees and hence the Metro it is easy to be anywhere within a short space of time. Shopping is an obvious pastime, a boat trip down the Seine affords an excellent way to see the highlights of Paris from the river frontage and learn about its history. A particular recommendation and
despite having visited Paris many times previously, we had never visited, was the Ile St Louis – a delightful, authentic village built in the 17th and 18th centuries. Comprising narrow one way streets, two bus stops and no metro, it is a residential village with beautiful traditional architecture and small shops (mostly selling ice cream or home made chocolates).

With the speed of Eurostar and the centrality of the hotel, even a short break in Paris can seem like a true holiday.

Lucy and Stephen were guests of Eurostar and Hotel La Tremoille

Travel Information:
La Trémoille, 14, rue de la Trémoille, 75008 Paris,
Rates start from €360 (£256) per room per night including a continental breakfast and wi-fi. For further information or to book visit www.hotel-tremoille.com or call +33 156521400.

Eurostar operates up to 18 daily services from London St Pancras International to Paris Gare Du Nord with return fares from £69.
www.eurostar.com/ or 03432 186186

Fast and convenient check-in – passengers are requested to arrive only 30 minutes before departure

The extra baggage allowance you get on Eurostar vs planes (Eurostar offers each person 2 bags/suitcases and 1 piece hand luggage)

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