… ok, the French Royal, King Louis XVIII!
How’s your comfort zone doing? Oh, you zip lined. Oh, I see, you’ve skydived before. So you’ve challenged your ‘physical’ comfort zone. Well, how about you challenge your ‘self-belief’ comfort zone and have a bloody good weekend at the same time!
I can’t lie. As we pulled up to Hartwell House’s human-manned front gate, my guard began to shimmer as though almost ready for full-scale panic attack. “Don’t be silly” I told myself. “People are just people, be yourself and it’ll be fine. You are likeable and belong anywhere”. I’m very rarely intimidated.
Little did I realise that David at the gate was the least of my worries. I had never seen Hartwell House before so when we pulled up in our normal persons car wearing our normal persons clothes and woolly bobble hats I immediately went into survival mode!
Fake it till you make it. Remain calm. You belong here. These people do not think you’re a pleb. We’re all human beings. I am not a pleb, I’m just out of my comfort zone (and wearing a massive, mustard, woolly fucking hat with an obnoxious bobble on it and a Captain America T-shirt with a denim bloody skirt!).
Just be nice. Smile. I mean, I’ve experienced 5-star more than not because I love the finer things. I enjoy spending more money for better service and upgraded quality. But this… is… insane.
After a walk up to our bedroom guided by John (David’s brother) with a mini-tour on the way, I had a word with myself in the loo. I was being stupid. Everyone we’d met so far was absolutely gorgeous. Friendly, professional, but really friendly. It was actually all in my head.
This place though is insane.
This is the type of place you’d pay £25 each to the National Trust for a walk around and a look at all of the old stuff. It is so beautifully preserved with much of the furniture remaining, having found its way back via recent auctions following a previous clear out.
Hartwell House was once the home of King Louis XVIII when he was exiled from France. It was here, in the library, that he signed his declaration back to the throne and returned. Real, genuine royal history and we stayed in that main house.
When you arrive you are greeted by an open fire in the high ceilinged, vast lounge. Get comfortable, order a cocktail, snuggle… but don’t talk more than a whisper. And don’t attempt to speak to other patrons. It seems the place to be for a weekend escape to read the paper by the fire. It’s nice and quiet.
Dinner, on the other hand, is practically choral, with a pianist close by to provide your dinner time soundtrack, staff that come and go like ghosts, and the atmosphere of a wonderfully populated occasion.
Dinner was exquisite. Candlelit, red wine drenched and delicious beyond belief. We both choose the steak which was perfectly cooked rare and a wildly theatrical desert which was simply named ‘chocolate’. I’ve never had ‘chocolate’ that looked and tasted quite like this.
I have to say, we were not disappointed by the portions, so with full bellies and hearts in our eyes, we retreated to the bedroom… and watched Goodfellas to sleep!
Staying here feels magical. Our stay felt like we’d been taken to a different time. Given a different title. Or a special pass to a different world. The drive to Buckinghamshire from Leeds was more than worth it for the feeling.
We spent the next day wandering the grounds. I felt like we were inside the fabled secret garden. There are 90 acres to roam. Everything you ask for is included. A bridge to appear wistful on. A lake to watch the ducks go about their daily life. Swans! There are statues, random buildings, fairy-tale like paths, a strange gatehouse and a church. Our Autumn stroll was just beautiful, and upon finding a rope swing in one of the trees, my weekend was made.
I’d book Hartwell House if you have a special family occasion. Or if you and your partner want to just completely switch off for the weekend.
It’s not at all what I expected, the staff were lovely and not at all judgemental (I am covered in tattoos and have facial piercings- I know how that sounds). I was not a fish out of water. I was just in a different lake. A very, very posh one!