Once upon a time…

Before computers, phones, TV and even radio all we had to entertain ourselves with stories were books. Those magical little things that remain shut on a shelf just waiting to be opened and transport us to another realm, time or life. Books have gone through a period of transformation over the last 100 or so years and at a point felt like they might cease to exist. Lucky for you and I however, this is not the case and more people are starting to turn to books as a way to escape from our busy and non-stop lifestyles we have for some reason created for ourselves in the last century. 

Over the weekend Jon and I took a trip to the Chilterns for a bit of an explore. Since moving back to Oxfordshire I have wanted to get the most out of it by jumping in Maisie our little blue beetle to visit places new to us! 

On Saturday our trip to us to the magical home of Lady Irving and Lady Brunner who, at different times, grew up in Greys Court Oxfordshire. Greys Court is part of an original Tudor house that was at various points of history inhabited by only five families!

Greys Court has appeared in some well known films and TV shows over the years such as Downton Abbey, Agatha Christies Poirot and of course Midsummer Murders (where in Oxford hasn’t there been a murder on that show?). It was such a magical house filled with history and culture and I can only imagine how wonderful it must have been to have grown up in such a fantasy driven family.

Screen Shot 2018-09-04 at 21.15.42We spent the late morning walking around the estate, climbing over Japanese bridges, peeking in ice houses and picking blackberries in the forest!
After a walk round the grounds and visiting the house we took a walk into the secret garden. Across from the house the walled gardens have been created out of an incredible medieval ruins complete with a huge tower (that at first looked like a church). In one section of the walled garden (called the white garden) there is an adorable pond full of lily pads and home to great crested newts.
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 I have a vague memory of seeing them as a child and not appreciating how rare and wonderful they are. Great crested newts remind me of dinosaurs and look almost prehistoric with their yellow spotty tummies and spiked backs. I spent a good half an hour with Jon sat by the pond looking for them, but sadly didn’t see any… I am still pretty sure they were there and watching us, but it was quite a hot and busy day so it makes sense they were hiding in the shade.

After our lovely late morning stroll round Greys Court, we set off on a two and a half mile drive to Henley-On-Thames where we had planned to stop for lunch and have a mooch round the shops. 

When I worked for the BBC back as a student, I visited Henley on a VOX POP (interviewing the public on political matters) and fell absolutely in love with the place. It’s a wonderful town in a great location and every year hosts some amazing events such as the regatta, festivals and literary events!

img_5298The town itself is an absolute joy, it is filled with independent shops such as AsquithsThe Bell Bookshop and one of my favourite small chains of shops Vinegar Hill. Basically, this town is so crazy perfect; if anyone fancies helping us out with a deposit for a riverside house we would be more than grateful, ha! 

Since Henley is a stones throw from London it makes a great weekend getaway and I really couldn’t think of anywhere better to stay, or pop in for lunch than the  The Hotel Du Vin set right next to the river. With wonderful attentive staff and a bar manager that knows his way round a tea menu, I really cannot think of anywhere better to indulge. Jon and I were invited along for afternoon tea after our busy day exploring and felt instantly at home stepping through the door thanks to the organisation and professionalism the staff showed. Since I am vegetarian and can be awkward and times when it comes to food, I always try to phone ahead and give the staff a heads up, especially when I know the food is being cooked fresh to order. 

Jon and I sat down at our table inside on swishy comfortable sofas and tucked into what we both genuinely said was the most unique and yummiest afternoon tea we had both had.

The Hotel Du Vin give a unique twist to the classic afternoon tea by adding in a few cheeky extras such as apple candy floss and a G&T sorbet – talk about Instagram worthy? Upon arrival we were given menus with our champagne whilst we waited for our savoury treats to arrive.

The menu started with a little story taking me back in time (again that day) and ending with:

“We welcome you to join us in this ritual celebration of tea and its theatre, accompanied by delicate, charming treats of sandwiches, savouries, cakes and scones, all created and presented to excite the taste buds and gladden the eye”

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Asides from the obvious beauty that the pastry chefs go to to create this marvellous Alice In Wonderland worthy tea, it actually tasted incredible. There wasn’t one thing on there we didn’t like and could fault and we went away feeling full and happy knowing we would return again soon only with our friends and families to show off this awesome tea!

To accompany our sweet treats Jon and I chose two different teas that complimented our personalities and were successfully chosen by ourselves after a chat with the bar manager. Jon went for Elderflower and Darjeeling and I opted for the the Moroccan Rose.

We had a wonderful weekend and I would highly recommend visiting Greys Court and treating yourself or loved ones to afternoon tea at the Hotel Du Vin as it will most certainly be a talking point for weeks to come. 

Speak to you all soon, 

Lucy X

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