By Fiona Sims
I suffer from PTT - pre-holiday travel tension. I’m not talking about the work trips I do (about three months a year travelling), where the itinerary is already sorted for you. I already have a bag packed for that, and it’s always hand luggage, most of which is specially selected for crease-resistance and can see me through from early morning vineyard visits to Michelin-starred restaurants for dinner.
I’m talking about the stress that builds before taking a holiday, from clearing your desk (no laptop allowed on holidays, insists husband) to knowing what to pack for a larger check-in bag, to the early morning sweaty schlepp to the airport on rail and tube, and rubbery airport croissant for breakfast, to worrying whether the hotel/villa/tent will live up to my exacting standards.
So when five-star luxury Mayfair hotel The Connaught asked me whether I wanted to try out its newly launched ‘The Night Before’ package I jumped, of course.
It starts with a limo ride. Chauffeur Dennis, who hails from Brixton, kept us entertained with stories of his childhood, while weaving us through the south London back streets to the plush Mayfair mansions, and The Connaught.
I’m familiar with its star chef, Hélène Darroze, who rules the roost in her eponymous restaurant, and I’ve enjoyed an excellent martini or two in The Connaught Bar – the World’s Best International Hotel Bar, according to the 16th Spirited Awards, but beyond that I was ignorant.
We’re shown up to The Connaught Suite – an upgrade with bells on, occupying two huge rooms and a bathroom overlooking Mount Street. A couple of Burberry trenches hang expectantly in the wardrobe for guests’ use in case of rain, but the sun is belting out the rays so that novelty escapes us.
A lady butler arrives offering to iron everything and re-pack for us. But the walking gear for our impending Austrian Alps trip doesn’t need it, so she offers to show us the way to the spa instead.
The Aman Spa is the first for Europe and located deep on the bowels of the hotel. As part of the package we’re each offered the signature ‘holistic’ massage, a combination of techniques with a focus on stress-relieving pressure points. So far, so rested. Even the faint rumble of the London Underground below doesn’t detract.
A light supper can be taken in the room (not included in the package) but we opt for simple grilled fish and salad and a single glass of vino in the hotel’s more casual Espelette restaurant to ease our bodies into a refreshing night’s sleep.
Our flight isn’t super-early so instead of the early morning cup of tea and take-away breakfast box prepared for the car (included), we opt for the ‘Wellness Breakfast’ in Espelette, with its egg white omelette and green juice, before sliding into the limo.
We arrive at Heathrow’s Terminal 3 feeling like superstars, thinking that £1060 (the starting rate for ‘The Night Before’ package, based on two sharing a Deluxe Room), while not exactly a bargain, is something gloriously indulgent to do that just fast forwards to a state of relaxation that would probably take another few days of unwinding to achieve – a thing to cherish in this time-strapped age.
It’s difficult. We sympathise. Despite being an entirely different shape and size we have an uncanny ability to turn up in the same outfit (usually black) and order the same dishes. We both wear glasses, swathe ourselves in scarves and fancy Daniel Craig.
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© 2015 Fiona Beckett & Fiona Sims (the2fionas.com), photography © Gary Latham, website by Scend