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Before Elfie came along Will and I didn’t really take much time to enjoy time as a couple. It had been just the two of us for over six years so there seemed no need to make a special effort having ‘us time’. But this time around spending time as a couple before the new arrival gets here has been much more of a priority and we’ve made a big effort to go out to dinner and do things we enjoy together. At the top of this list is sleeping and eating, and with this in mind we headed for Cheltenham’s The Montpellier Chapter hotel this weekend to enjoy a ‘babymoon’.
A babymoon is a new breed of short break to give parents-to-be the opportunity to enjoy each other’s company in those final precious weeks before their new bundle of joy arrives. I say it’s an excellent excuse to eat good food and nap to excess.
Cheltenham is a destination that’s pretty familiar to me as I grew up in the area and have been back a couple of times since I moved away. It’s a beautiful town to visit (with a million and one festivals including Jazz and Literature if you are that way inclined, as well as the famous racecourse) and in particular the Montpellier District where the hotel is located is lovely – lots of independent shops, cafes and bars. Cheltenham is a quick 2 hour hop from Paddington and is a super base to explore the rest of the Cotswolds.
When we arrived at at midday on a drizzly Sunday I was a little bit taken aback at the grandness of the hotel and wished I was wearing something a bit smarter than the Converse I was so proud to have done up myself. The reception and lounge areas were buzzing with guests which I definitely wasn’t expecting for a Sunday and our luggage was whisked away by some very helpful staff. Our room wasn’t going to be ready until 2 so we had a coffee, read the papers and browsed the hotel’s extensive library of books. Will commented on the quality, content and volume of the music which apparently was pretty spot on: being married to someone who works in the music biz means that wherever we go he has an opinion on the background noise (I barely notice it) and apparently here it was nearing perfection. The common areas had Bose speakers dotted throughout and he reckoned there would’ve been a sub-woofer thing concealed somewhere, hence the quality of the sound. Zzzzz… I recognized a couple of Lykke Li songs and that was my contribution to the conversation. We headed out to lunch at The Royal Well Tavern just around the corner (more on this place to follow later).
We returned to the hotel after lunch and were speeded through a very painless paperless check-in system by a lovely receptionist before being given the key to our room, where our luggage was waiting. Here’s what we found:
Our ground floor feature room was bright and airy with an in-room bath (which was HUGE) and brilliant rainforest shower. A little intimate you might think so you’d want to make sure you were on good naked terms with your room-mate (being in a relationship for 9 years takes care of that one) but if not there are privacy screens you can use. The room was spotless and modern with furniture that had been designed specifically for the hotel and there were two huge wardrobes which is where our luggage was stashed. When I stay in hotels I often find that there isn’t a place with a large mirror, power points and decent lighting but there were none of those issues here; a well-lit sink area and desk/vanity space provided ample space for me to put my makeup on and do my hair.
There was also a free minibar in the room (another massive plus from me and thumbs up from Will who enjoyed chugging his gratis beer in the bath later that day) with fresh milk (yay! Down with UHT) and another bonus: a pod coffee machine. These gadgets are brilliant and are a great source of entertainment, needless to say Will was pretty wired on coffee pods by check-out the next day.
One thing I loved about our room at The Montpellier Chapter was the technology. These days I feel a bit put-out to pay £150+ a night for a hotel room and not be able to plug in my own source of music (Hope Street Hotel and your crackly TV/radio service take note) but the facilities for a tech-head like me were perfect here. All room info was housed on the room’s iPod which included live bill information (and it was live… I checked as soon as we’d had dinner), spa and restaurant and room service information. Very impressed. A flap in the desk opened to reveal the media centre where you could plug in a plethora of cables to connect to the room’s soundsystem. After a big snooze I used it to plug in my iPhone to listen to my own music whilst I wallowed in the bath with my minibar treat of Coca-Cola.
Another aspect of the hotel I really like were the cubbies either side of the bed where you could stash the bits you need; I’ve lost so many pairs of earrings via hotel bedside tables and I thought these were a great feature. I am easily pleased, I know.
In-room toiletries were full-size Aromatherapy Associates (great, although because I am a freebie hound I prefer smaller bottles you can continue to sample and take home with you, I’ve discovered some lovely products this way) and a bathrobe and big fluffy towels are provided. On the downside there were no slippers but that’s really nothing to deduct points over. I would have also said that the room can look a bit cold and a padded headboard or little bit of artwork may have been a nice addition but again, this is me being hyper critical. The art in the rest of the hotel is a real feature and worth a special mention; there are over 100 pieces and each room contains an art directory by way of a guide to them all.
We ate dinner that night in the hotel’s restaurant which is led by Consultant Chef Simon Hopkinson (once declared ‘The Best Cook In Britain’) and Head Chef Tom Rains. It was so spectacular that it warrants a post in its own right, and on the night we dined it was pleasing to note a couple with a sleeping baby in a pram by the side of their table. Baby friendliness equals top marks from me.
After a nightcap in the bar which was selected from the extensive cocktail (and mocktail) list we retired to our room to catch up on Homeland and sleep some more. I can pretty much sleep anywhere, Will is the bed connoisseur in our family, and he loved this one. Just the right amount of firmness, a decent mattress topper and Egyptian cotton sheets – perfect.
We woke at 8 the next morning to the welcome knock on the door of a delicious room service breakfast (would give a solid 7/10) and newspaper and then after discussing what to do with our day we decided to make the most of our time off and go back to sleep. It was brilliant.
As we know the area quite well we decided against a mooch round the shops and instead stopped off at Bicester Shopping Village (40 mins drive away) on the way home for lunch and a quick trip to Mulberry. It was a lovely end to a wonderfully relaxing 24 hours away from real life and aside from being very happy to see Elfie again I was pretty gutted it was all over.
Will and I, we are very critical when we eat out or stay away in hotels. Our spare time is precious and we choose to spend our money relaxing in hotels and eating and drinking when we can. The Montpellier Chapter is one of the first locations in a long time that completely exceeded our expectations; the whole experience was flawless and I will genuinely look forward to returning for another break very soon and will be sure to take in the Spa, too. We will also be on the waiting list to try out the next hotel in the group’s portfolio, The Magdalen Chapter in Exeter.
If you are looking for a relaxing weekend or night away in a hotel that values friendly and informal service, stylish surroundings and beautiful food and drink then look no further and book here. Just don’t tell me about it – I’ll be very jealous.
The Montpellier Chapter, Bayshill Road, Montpellier, Cheltenham, GL50 3AS
Find out more about The Montpellier Chapter’s Babymoon (and other) packages here.
Will and I were guests of The Montpellier Chapter, but if we’d had a crap time I would have told you so.