Last week in my Tuesday Chats Post I mentioned I was going away for a night with one of my friends to Oxford and let me tell you, it was something I have never experienced before. I don’t think anything else I did for the rest of the week compared, (unless you all want to hear about the stomach bug I got at the weekend…. yeah didn’t think so lol) so I am going to tell you about my night away!

Our nights stay was at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxford. It’s a manor house created by Chef, Raymond Blanc OBE. The whole place is beyond stunning. It’s just picture perfect from the moment you enter the grounds. The manor is surrounded by lawns and flower borders, and with only a short stroll through them lawns you find yourself in acres of orchids, herb gardens, vegetable patches and so much more. I was in awe the whole time we were there because of its beauty and that is no exaggeration. Along with the stunning gardens, the manor runs a cookery school on a daily basis. Using the freshly grown produce from their own garden. If this wasn’t enough to get you intrigued, the restaurant has received two Michelin stars. I know, this place just gets better and better.

Before going I had obviously googled it and had a look, the pictures are amazing but let me tell you, experiencing this sort of luxury first hand, is just incredible. Myself and Esther started our Wednesday having some lunch in a local pub to us before we hit the road. It’s not a long journey but we didn’t want to go hungry, you know how it is!! When we set off, we both talked about our expectations from the stay and discussing what we thought the food would be like.

We arrived around 3:30pm and from the moment we drove through the entrance gates, we were treated like queens. Our bags taken from the car for us as we were led to the reception area. In reception some more friendly staff to greet us and tell us about our stay. As we were shown to our room, we just took in our surroundings, giggling away because it’s far more posh that we would ever be! I mean it was like pinch me, is this real? Wow am I staying here?

We were led up a private path and walked into what we thought was a shared courtyard, oh no… It was our own private courtyard. I think that’s when me and Esther both left our jaws on the floor for the first time. We were staying in the L’Orangerie. It was spectacular. Through the courtyard we went and into our living room where champagne on ice awaited us along with some fruit. Through some double doors we found ourselves about to pounce on the four poster bed that looked like something from a movie. Every part of this ‘room’ (which was nearly as big as my whole apartment) was so beautifully designed and the scents through the room had the most magnificent aroma.

Once we unpacked for the night we cracked open the bottle of champ’s because, WHY NOT!! We sat outside and enjoyed the drink before meeting up with all of Esther’s work colleagues who were also on the trip. I had met most of them previously because Esther also took me on the trip she won last year. I know, how lucky am I! We had a quick catch up and drink, we then went back to our rooms to get ready for the evening. We all gathered in a private area of the manor before dinner for some champagne and canapes. Once we were called to dinner, we took our seats and awaited the first course. Along with each course, we had paired wines which was delicious. I’m not a wine expect so getting to taste different types was definitely an amazing touch.

The food tasted fantastic. I am not lying, all the flavours in each dish just complimented one another. My only comment is, I could have ate double what we got. I know… I know this is what fancy restaurants are like, it’s their thing, but as a gannet for food I can’t help but like bigger portions. It’s who I am, don’t judge me!
After dinner we moved back into a private bar to have some drinks. Everyone chatted and headed off to bed when they wanted.

Thursday morning myself and Esther woke bright and early so we wouldn’t miss a minute of hanging out in our cool pad! lol. We had tea, coffee and Orange juice arrive to our room for 8am so we could have sit on the courtyard before we headed in to breakfast. We could have had breakfast to our room but we wanted to see the main part of the manor and the breakfast set up.

After our breakfast it was time to start our activities for the day. We were split into different groups so we all got a chance to get everything done. First up for us was the garden tour. I can’t say I knew what to expect from this at all. I am no green fingers (I would like to be but i don’t have a garden) so I wan’t sure I would enjoy it or rather, if my hayfever would let me enjoy it. OH MY DAYS, I was blown away. The gardens are just spectacular. They are so well kept all the time and our guide for the morning had such a wealth of knowledge, it was fascinating. It was a perfect start to a morning. We learnt about all the veg and herbs they grow and how they utilise everything in the kitchen. We also heard their plans to expand their gardens and when they do, it will be even better if thats possible. After our garden tour, we went on to birds of prey. Another activity I was a little skeptical about but thoroughly enjoyed.

We sat to a buffet style salad lunch at 1pm and everyone caught up on what they had been doing. There was a buzz in the room, everyone couldn’t wait for the next activity. I really have to compliment the staff on all this as everyone who guided us that day spoke with such passion and love for their jobs. It was a breath of fresh air. Once lunch was finished it was on to our last art of the day. The cooking demonstration. This I couldn’t wait for. Although we couldn’t cook ourselves due to time restrictions, we all came away with a couple of recipes to whip out even now and then. It was brilliant, absolutely brilliant. It has only made me want to go to a cooking school even more. As a food lover, what better than learning some new tricks in the kitchen.

The day flew by in an instant and honestly when the cooking school finished I did not want to leave. We were allowed to stay and roam the grounds for as long as we wanted but because I had a football match in Watford that evening we had to leave earlier than I wanted. If you ever get the opportunity to go, please do. It’s out of my normal price range thats for sure but 100% its something I would save for and go again. I mean I had the best stay and did not want to leave.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my night away!

Louise. X

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