If ever you get an opportunity to go and review a place, then go. Having experienced this, I can now say for certain, that I know where I am meant to be in life! Within minutes of arriving in my car (I had to leave the helicopter behind) a member of staff was there to carry my bags and check me in. I met the Activities Manager and we had a most pleasant afternoon tea, whilst we chatted about what was going to happen during my stay. I had a few minutes to settle into my room, before being led on an idyllic walk along the banks of the River Wye. In fact the weather was so good, we were out walking for over two and half hours! When I returned, it felt fitting to test out the bathroom facilities.
Owned by the Laura Ashley family, each room is individually decorated and very comfortable. My room had a very comfortable double bed, with armchairs, LCD television, Victorian double wardrobes along with writing desk and hotel paper and envelopes.
The bathroom had a triple aspect, which meant that I had a choice of three views whilst soaking in the bath, and the view overlooking the Black Mountains was probably the best.
Of course, I had to get dressed once again for dinner, which was a most unusual experience, if only from the fact that I was the only one at dinner that evening. There were a handful of guests in the hotel that night, who decided on eating in their rooms. This did of course mean that I had all the attention from the waiting staff.
I began with a selection of canapes and found I enjoyed the Crayfish, Quail's Egg and Caviar the most. This was followed by my starter of Salmon. Once I had - delicately - devoured this, the waiter brought me a Mandarin Sorbet before my main course, which was a Duo of Welsh Lamb. This was very tasty!
Whilst allowing myself to digest the evening's first three courses, the waiter told me about some of the guests that he'd had the pleasure of serving here. Being only a few miles down the road from Hay on Wye, many of the literature festival's speakers have stayed here, including Salman Rushdie, Sting and his wife, and Cerys Matthews. For dessert, I finished with a Lemon Tart, before retreating to the lounge with some tea and after dinner chocolates, whilst the pianist played a little light music in the background.
Yesterday was the main event - a walk up Pen y Fan, the highest mountain in south Wales at 2,907 feet. Unfortunately it's high altitude meant that we (a selection of walkers from the local walking club, a press photographer, the hotel manager, activities manager and the Head Ranger from the Brecon Beacons National Park) spent all day in thick cloud. Thick cloud gets very wet, particularly when you're walking in it for over three and a half hours, and I must say it's been a long time since I've been soaked through to the skin like I was, on a walk. Still, it didn't matter did it - not when I had that bathroom to look forward to! One of the best things about getting drenched on a walk is the long, hot, steaming, bubble bath you have when you get back! Whilst we didn't see the views from the top of Pen y Fan, it was actually, a really enjoyable day's walk.
Afternoon tea was served upon our return - well we'd climbed nearly 3,000 feet and walked over 7 miles - we deserved it. Hot scones, hot Welsh tea cakes, homemade biscuits and cakes were the order of the day.
For those of you who are now salivating, last night's meal comprised:
- another selection of canapes,
- Seared King Scallops on a bed of Cauliflower sauce,
- Melon sorbet,
- Welsh Black Beef with Bubble and Squeak
- Chocolate fondant and vanilla ice cream
- Tea and after dinner mints
But it's helped me to set a few more goals for myself. When I get asked to attend the Hay on Wye Literary festival as a guest speaker - I now know where I want the organisers to find a bed for the night for me!
In all seriousness though, from a writing point of view it's been quite a challenge. I have pages and pages and pages of notes taken during the event to draw upon, and unfortunately the bad weather climbing Pen y Fan meant I couldn't get any photos, which is a serious drawback. If I'm writing about a walking activity break, pictures of walkers climbing a mountain underneath blue skies and sunshine would have been brilliant, and under a grey sky would still have been acceptable. No pictures though is a problem.
But life is worth these little extra challenges, if it throws a few of these associated experiences with it. So if ever you get an opportunity to be part of a press pack, then give it a go. It may feel very daunting at times, but it'll be an amazing experience.
Now if you'll excuse, there's something I have to do. I'd like a cup of tea and I keep clicking my fingers, but no one seems to come running. I suppose I'll have to do it myself. Ooh it makes me shudder at the mere thought - having to turn a tap on oneself. I really must get some staff in.