As eldest teen was raving it up at Reading Rock Festival and Husband was accompanying his elderly father on their annual pilgrimage to the Swiss Alps , I decided to take myself and youngest teen off for a two night mini break. Being on crutches and unable to drive any distance, the location had to be nearby and so this was how I hit upon a local Hilton Hotel about 3 miles down the road in the grounds of the very lovely Syon Park House.
Once you've climbed out of the car and lugged your bags up to your room, the location doesn't actually matter and as it peed permanently with rain for the 48 hours we were there , thank goodness we didn't opt for the seaside or, in fact, anywhere further than the ten minute drive it took.
I wasn't sure what to expect when we arrived to find an impossibly long Hummer limo parked at the entrance, a Full Monty Indian wedding complete with Bangra drummers in full swing and a large sign reading ' Jehovas Witness Convention in Session' taking pride of place in Reception ... oh and Fulham Football team expected at any moment. You really couldn't make it up.
The rather churlish man at the Reception desk took great delight in telling us that they were exceptionally busy, as if to inject a slight note of doom into our expectations and that we'd have to wait for our bags to be taken up to our room ... there are some bonus points to being on crutches and portering is at least one of them.
We decided to have a light (but very expensive) bite in the bar area, bizarrely called the Peacock Lounge which was incongruously furnished with pale blue (nice) and lurid purple (not so nice but I guess this was the peacock bit) upholstery, peppered with neon Andy Warhol prints and a smattering of arty farty art books.
A quick trip to the Spa followed, which although dark and underground, this barely mattered as it was chucking it down outside and we needed no reminder of the typical onslaught of Bank Holiday weather that blights this August weekend every year. More plush purple. I think Lawrence Llewelyn Bowen must have been let loose with a purple paint chart on the place. Every item of furniture was silver lacquered and mirrored to within an inch of its life.
Nice pool (a bit on the cool side), nice enough jacuzzi but also open to children which you don't expect at a Spa. I was hoping for more Papmpering than Pontins but hey. Incidentally why do all children scream these days or am I just getting older ? The stray band-aid poolside was a bit of a turn-off and left me wondering what fungal foot infection I might contract by the end of our stay.
I'd booked a pedicure and a facial. The former was OK but took too long and I didn't expect a wedge of loo roll stuffed between my toes to separate them - don't they have those foam rubber things for that ? No quick dry spray or top coat either, so the therapist suggested I wait another half an hour for my tootsies to dry - no thanks - too much of the LLB ( see named designer above ) factor is NOT a sight for sore eyes.
I also had a facial. Now I just don't get facials I'm SO not a spa bunny but every few years I think I might have changed and give it a go. Why would anyone want to lie prone under a ghastly purple velvet throw and have layer upon layer of lardy gunk smeared over their face by a complete stranger ? The back started to ache after the first half hour and I feared I might be captive for another hour (judging by the painfully slow pedicure experience) with that brain-numbing endless loop of Manuel and his Inca Pan Pipes music oozing out of the purple metallic wallpaper. Worse was to come as the pan pipes segued seamlessly into Amazonian Rainforest sound effects which only served to remind me that it was pissing down with rain outside and that I was bursting for the loo.
I'm hoping that another decade will pass before I'm tempted to try another spa by which time I'll have eradicated the whole athlete's foot , noodling whale song, plush purple palace decor experience and give it another go.
Dinner was eagerly anticipated and did not disappoint but at a price. It was called the Marco Pierre White Steakhouse, so one felt obliged to eat steak but how mean to charge a piddling extra sum for a blob of Bernaise Sauce on the side. I hate that kind of thing. The restaurant walls were emblazoned with black and white photographic portraits of the moody chef in case you were left wondering who he was. A signed chef's jacket was encased in glass which made me giggle, as if he were a premiership football idol. In fact this prompted an impromptu game of spot the MPW portrait game and by the end of the evening we had counted no less than 37 ( also to be found in the lifts, toilets and every glass case on every landing). I half expected to find a pair of his underpants preserved in formaldehyde, Damien Hirst style , amongst the displays.
We asked for hot chocolate to end the meal but were told they had 'run out'. How bizarre, the same had happened at lunchtime when I'd ordered a glass of cider with lunch. Had the hotel been invaded by a plague of hot chocolate cider guzzling addicts the day before ? Never mind although after waiting twenty minutes to be told this, after my son had gone to bed, they offered to send up some hot milk to his room as I'd be unable to carry it myself being on crutches. This was unlikely to cut the mustard for my chocaholic boy but I accepted their offer. How galling therefore to find that £11 had been added to our bill for the privilege.
I feel guilty speaking badly of the place especially as most of the staff were friendly and cheerful, with the exception of the surly man in Reception. This grumpy individual also delighted in telling us that no we would not be able to access the in-room computer as promised in the blurb before we'd booked as there were no keyboards available. Try persuading a 15 year old teenager to come away for the weekend with his Mum to a hotel that has - YIKES - NO INTERNET !!! Apparently all the Jehovas Witnesses had nabbed them ... obviously contacting God's Kingdon via the Wi-Fi. No. he couldn't tell us if any of the 40 out on loan would be returned before our departure and no their IT chap was on holiday so couldn't advise. Wished we'd brought our own laptop but then when the Hilton Hotel tells you something is available, you tend to believe them.
I could bang on for another few pages and it must sound as if we had a ghastly time but actually it was still fun and restful despite the wall to wall MPW portrait gallery, the purple overkill, the absence of hot chocolate ( a heinous crime actually ) and My Grumpy on Reception, which just goes to show how tolerant and polite we are and determined to enjoy ourselves ... at any price.
Postscript : Having slept on it, I've now realised what the true meaning of a holiday, however short, actually is. It's so that we appreciate what we have in our own homes all along, a comfy bed, hot chocolate on tap and no sour faced man on Reception ,well, with the exception of husband of course.