Very definitely don't mix. The husband and I decided to take up a Keynoir offer at Down Hall in Hertfordshire after a particularly difficult few weeks for him at work, but also as a precursor to my birthday celebrations next week. We drove up Friday afternoon after I picked him up in town, it was a reasonably easy journey there driving through the lovely Essex and Hertfordshire countryside passing fields of cows and horses. Essex is much maligned county, though I admit I'm slightly biased as the Husband is from there and we are thinking of moving to North Essex, just on the Cambridgeshire border. Nevertheless there are plenty of picture postcard villages and beautiful rolling countryside to explore, it's not all white handbags, high heels and false nails I'll have you know!
Down Hall is a four star country house hotel, which is approached by a long winding driveway past a small lake with the requisite idyllic ducks paddling about. At the end of the drive stands the rather lovely Italianate House surrounded by gorgeous summer flowers. We unpacked our picnic and headed for the extensive quiet grounds, beautifully kept too. Matilda loved the giant Garden Chess set and spent a great deal of time moving the pieces around. We had great fun running around, then we went for a splash about in the small but perfectly pleasant heated pool. it really felt like we had the place to ourselves until we came out of the pool house ready to hit the bar for a pre dinner cocktail. Suddenly we were overcome by a rather loud and rather out of tune band, ruining our favourite Stevie Wonder song!! There was a Wedding party in the house! It WAS the Wedding Singer from hell. Did the Bride and Groom not listen to their Cd before booking them? Even Matilda flinched each time the female singer opened her mouth. Anyway they took over the terrace and main bar area which made us mere guests feel a little uncomfortable. So very Three's a crowd... One couple we met who'd come to the hotel with their young baby to indulge in a relaxing High Tea, asked for their money back as the music and the wedding guests were quite simply too overwhelming, to which the hotel politely agreed.
That aside, the hotel is rather lovely in a faded, was once grandiose kind of way. One receptionist informed me they were in the process of renovating the hotel starting with the rooms in the main house, they do desperately need a little money spending on them. Having said that the view from our room overlooking the main gardens and fountain was quite perfect as you can see below, it was a good sized room with a comfortable bed.
We escaped the wedding party, for a rest in our room before we dressed up for dinner. I hadn't put heels on for months so as it was only a short walk to restaurant I decided to wear my Silver wedding Louboutin shoes that still look good! With a toddler in tow and working from home do not make for heel wearing these days.
Perhaps it was a little ambitious to expect our girl to behave well at a restaurant when it really should have been her bed time, but we thought we'd give it a go. She too put on her best frock accessorised by her party necklace and happily went running down to the restaurant. Well we managed a glass of wine and a starter before she really started getting over tired and running around bothering the other guests. Then when we tried to reason with her to return to the table and the lovely big velvet red cushion that was awaiting her on the adult chair, she went into meltdown. The waitress very sweetly came over and asked us if we'd rather take dinner in our room, as our little girl seemed to be quite tired. So with our tail between our legs, off we went and our dinner followed us. As soon as we arrived back in the room she was fine, happy she was once again allowed to roam free. She refused her own cotbed so for all our sake's we let her in the bed with us but there was no going to sleep. What ensued was a night of huge tantrums that no amount of cuddles, milk and even TV could control. All night I kept thinking we'd get a knock on the door from the Night porter asking us to leave. Our idea of tiring her out by letting her run around the gardens backfired monstrously, so none of us got any real sleep at all. She's not the best at not sleeping in her own bed, but this was the worst we'd ever seen her. So sadly, we won't be repeating the experience in too much of hurry. Staying home or Self catering weekends away are definitely the way forward with our little girl and for our own peace of mind.
The following morning we gulped down our breakfast, half expecting one of the guests to come and complain to us for keeping them awake. Luckily no one did so we legged it out the door as soon as we could...