If I could travel back in time to any point in history, most people who know me would assume I’d plump for the sixteenth century and pop in to the court of Henry VIII, maybe worship at his first wife’s feet for a bit, watch a couple of jousts, eat a few curious meats, job done. They’re probably right; this is the first thing I would think to do. And I wish I could write about this and tell you all about the sound of sword on sword, the smell of a horse’s sweat, the taste of cockatrice, and the sumptuousness of Katharine of Aragon’s furs, but the fact is that when I went time travelling this weekend, I ended up in the 18th century. I’d packed 36 outfits and was still missing a gown and bonnet.
Which was probably just as well because, if we’re going to get technical, I ended up in Holme Lacy House in Hereford in February of 2017. But it was so unbelievably Regency that despite stomping around in leather pants which not even Lydia Bennet would be seen doing, I felt as though hardly any time had passed since the original owners were ambling around the walled gardens.
So I had a romantic little getaway with my boyfriend, L, which included several delicious extras like complimentary apple and cinnamon cookies, a three course meal and cooked breakfast, and that most divine of freebies – the towelled robe. So, having the latter hanging in the wardrobe, did I spend Saturday evening in the gym working off the cocktail calories that come with the Wales/England match? Did I hell. (Though, obviously, I wanted to spend as much time with L as I could so I get a pass for this one, right? Right?)
Let’s start at the very beginning because, as Julie Andrews once sang, it’s a very good place to start. We arrived at around lunchtime and unpacked. So far so good. Except this is the moment I discover complimentary extras one and three. L asks would I like a biscuit. You’re damn right I would like a biscuit. Oh, they taste like apple pie? No, don’t bother unwrapping it, honey, just sock it to my veins.
However, once unpacked, we’re both a bit peckish so we nip down only two floors not via the stairs, but in the lift. This is my level of lazy this weekend. I’m not too bad once I’m browsing the menu though – what I fancy, what I really fancy – is a salad. Even if that salad comes swimming in creamy Caesar dressing and covered in crispy fried croutons, washed down with white wine, it’s still a salad.
(And to be fair, it was delicious. But look at it. See what I mean?)
The good news is that this is followed by a walking tour of the gardens which an old friend is leading. It’s raining and misty and if Holme Lacy House looks like Pemberley, this is the scene in which Elizabeth is traipsing across the fields of mud to visit Jane. Excellent, I think, wishing I had brought my coat, at least I will be burning calories trying to keep warm and dry. Biscuits? What biscuits? Burned off, mate.
Not quite. You see, the walking tour is very quick and I am very lazy. Happily, L, with his infinite patience, is not irritated by being dragged out here in the rain only for me to take artsy shots of trees and wander around walled gardens like we’re Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. I’m now ambling around the grounds at a speed usually seen on snails and the rain has dampened my cardigan so much that we go back to the room, eat a couple more cookies, and lie on the bed, reading the room service menu. And when I say “we”… L is watching Ireland v Italy and drinking the hot chocolate we made to warm me up. Already, my “virtuous” choice of a calorific salad is looking like it will be my last.
And then my old friend arrives. Having worked here for a while, he now leads us on a tour of the hotel, pointing out interesting rooms, paintings, staircases, secret passageways, and the odd gift shop along the way. The tour ends at the bar when Wales v England is about to kick off. L asks what I’d like to drink and instead of opting for a spirit and diet mixer, I find myself replying “Long Island Iced Tea, please” and sipping an enormous cocktail.
Shortly afterwards, it’s time for dinner and, not realising that it was only served until a certain time, I ate the majority of that salad only four hours ago and I’m not very hungry. Does this stop me wolfing down a three course meal? I doubt we’d be here if it did. So the starter’s not too bad – tomato and mozzarella salad – but the main is a thick and creamy Stilton sauce heaped over a vast pile of pasta. And then they bring out the dessert menu and I spot a sticky toffee pudding, which is (excepting ice cream) my favourite. So naturally, even though I can barely move, I order it.
And you know what, it wasn’t the best I’ve ever had, but I don’t regret a mouthful.
There’s a lot more, including an enormous breakfast I couldn’t even finish and the most humiliating game of Scrabble I have ever played, but I’m not sure I’m ready to talk about this epic defeat just yet.
I suppose the conclusion of this piece ought to be damning. I ought to give myself a stern talking-to and promise not to be so lax ever again, but I had one of the best weekends of my life. I don’t regret a thing. Am I going to beat myself up over it? No. I don’t eat like this every day. I don’t live like this every day as if I’m Nero – though God knows, I’d love a toga.
Ultimately, let’s say that time travel is possible and I get to revisit last weekend. I wouldn’t change a thing. (Except I might make room for that towelled robe in my travel bag.)