On our way back from the wedding festivities in Oxford, John had booked us all in for a night at the gorgeous Tylney Hall Hotel in Hampshire, which was somewhat on the way back to London. After negotiating some single-track country roads, we arrived to the edge of the Hall's 66-acres of parkland (yes, you read that right), where adorable rabbits nibbled away at the grass, without a care in the world about the car creeping up behind them.
As you can see from the photo above, the rooms are nothing short of luxurious (and filled with my favorite Molton Brown products, might I add. Ahem). My parents and brother were set up in a suite overlooking the Italian garden, which is magnificent in its own right. It was then that I realized that John and I are pretty spoiled by the number of visits we've made to hotels similar to Tylney Hall; my family had never experienced anything like it (mostly because everything in the US is so modern and we don't quite have the same sprawling, English countryside!) but for us, we plan mini-breaks every couple of months or so in similar surroundings. I think a lot of people can be put off by the price tag, but to be honest, most of these hotels have really reasonable weekend or low-season rates, and if not, there are plenty of websites like hotels.com or booking.com that have terrific last minute deals, which is how I usually book my short trips.
After an amazing dinner in the formal dining room and drinks in the wood-paneled drawing room, we all had a good night's sleep in the most deliciously comfortable beds ever. If I could choose between two beds to sleep in for the rest of my life, it would have to be the one at Tylney Hall or Tuddenham Mill (which I'll blog about later). Heavenly.
The next morning, we had terrific weather, so we borrowed bikes from the concierge and explored the woodlands around the hotel, which also featured an abandoned World War II bunker - a bit creepy but cool to walk through for the WWII enthusiast in me (those of you who know me will know that I'm a huge fan of Spitfires and fascinated by the Battle of Britain).
The hotel also organized activities like archery and clay pigeon shooting (at an additional price), so I decided to book a session of clay pigeon shooting for John and Justin, because I knew they'd love it.
This is Justin in action with Brian, the instructor, who was so funny and kind - he was dressed like the quintessential country gentleman, complete with a tie that was decorated with a hunter motif and of course, a tweed cap! My mom and I were the cheerleaders, while my dad did some quick freehand sketches (his favorite activity while on vacation). The sun shone brilliantly for the first 20 minutes or so but then it poured; we all took shelter under the trees until it dried up and cheered every time the boys got a shot (Justin did especially well and beat John in the end!).
It was such a memorable mini-stay, though I wish we could have had just another day there to relax and soak up the atmosphere. I love taking my family to new places when they're visiting from the US and Tylney Hall is one that I'll never forget.