Sunday, 13 December 2009

A night in Henley

I had forgotten how enchanting England can be. I know it sounds melodramatic as I do live in England, after all. But I had - really. London, you see, doesn't feel like England but rather like a country of its own. Not just because it is diverse, but because it lacks that quintessential English quality: sweet little shops, period property, footpaths... I can't put my hand on it. That lovely Englishness that Henley embodies. I know that not all of England is like this, but it was nevertheless lovely to be immersed in it for a short while.

When I lived in Oxford I revelled in the fact that I could cycle everywhere. I loved the little pubs and shops, the river, the accessibility to the countryside. I loved it all so much that on my last cycle ride in Oxford after my finals, coming down the passage behind New College towards Magdalen Bridge, I had tears in my eyes. Yet life has moved on and, typically, I've hardly been back since.

So when Marc said he'd booked us a night in Henley (which is in Buckinghamshire, not Oxfordshire, but is close) I was really excited. I knew that it would bring me back to the Oxford days which I loved so much, to scenic cycle rides, to being able to walk all over the city, knowing every nook and cranny.

We were only in Henley for the evening: we arrived at 6.30 and it was pitch black. We walked around the pretty town - it's so small! Then we went for dinner at a wonderful French restaurant. We ate three delectable courses there... and remembered how it is possible for eating out to be an experience rather than just a means to an end. There is more time outside London. At home when we go out for dinner it is 'to eat' not 'to dine'. And there lies the difference.

The following morning we took another little walk and saw the beautiful river. We had a yummy breakfast at Maison Blanc and off we went, back to London.

It was a short break but a lovely one. I would like to make more trips in England. I hardly ever do, we always go on holiday abroad, but so many special places are literally on our doorstep that it's a shame not to. So there's one New Year's resolution to add to the list!

Our hotel

Look at the river!
I loved this antique chair, and Marc refused to be photographed...
Henley at night - look how dark it was in the early evening
The hotel had used this tiny space as somewhere to sit. Can you think of a better word than 'enchanting'?


Rachel said...

if mark refuses to be photographed again, might i suggest a little more pestering and persistence till he finally gives in....

Nadia said...

Sounds like such a sweet trip! I lived in Exeter for a few years and every time I would go into London I loved it because it was such a big city compared to rural Exeter. But as soon as I would get back to Exeter I loved the smallness of it. I loved how easy it was to take the footpath down to the high street and all the cute little shops down by the Quay. So, I totally get what you mean. Its nice to revisit what you miss.

Esme said...

What a darling hotel-I am not familiar with Nigel Slater-I will have to look him up. ALso happy Hanukkah.

emlizalmo said...

Enchanting seems the perfect word. SOMEDAY I will visit wonderful London. :)