A Lady of Leisure

News, reviews and opinions on everything to do with leisure, from hotels and holidays to food and fitness, by national newspaper journalist and author Sarah Bridge.



Speed and saunas in a day at the Mercedes driving experience at Brooklands

Driving full-pelt towards a solid-looking wall is both terrifying and exhilarating but that’s exactly what you get from a day at the Mercedes driving experience at Brooklands in Surrey.

map of racing circuit at Brooklands Surrey
A map showing what you can expect from trying the Mercedes-Benz experience at the world-famous motor-racing circuit at Brooklands, Surrey

With my pedal to the floor I could see the speedometer sweep up past 60, 65, 70 miles per hour and yet my instructor was yet to tell me to brake. What was he waiting for? Just as it seemed we were about to slam into the wall and end our lesson – and lives – prematurely – he finally said: ‘Brake!’ and I slammed on the brakes with all my force. The car immediately – and it seemed, magically –  slowed to a halt with none of the screeching, fishtailing or general chaos I was expecting and in plenty of time to drive smoothly around the wall obstacle. What had I been so terrified of?

‘Let’s do it again!’ I shouted, giddy with adrenaline. So we did. Continue reading Speed and saunas in a day at the Mercedes driving experience at Brooklands

My stay in a chateau in France: relaxing in Le Mans at La Groirie chateau

I’ve always wanted to stay in a chateau in France and to my good fortune I had the chance to while visiting Pays de la Loire this summer. Hotels in France are as varied as anywhere in the world but a stay in a French chateau promises something special: a tranquil retreat far away from hectic modern life, and so it proved at La Groirie.

La Groirie hotel next to a French chateau
The view of La Groirie chateau from the boutique hotel next door

La Groirie chateau is just a few miles from the historic city of Le Mans and the property dates back to the 15th century, although the current chateau was built in the 17th century. The chateau itself, a large impressive building awaiting you at the end of a  long gravel drive, is still home to the Lepine family which owns it, and the hotel itself is just to one side, housed in what used to be the guests’ wing and now completely renovated and redesigned. Continue reading My stay in a chateau in France: relaxing in Le Mans at La Groirie chateau

A most relaxing spa break at Ragdale Hall in Leicestershire

There are some hotels with spas and there are some hotels which ARE spas. Ragdale Hall health spa in Leicestershire most definitely falls into the latter camp, making a spa break at Ragdale Hall a must for any spa fans. The moment you arrive you are greeted by the sight of guests walking around dressed in white fluffy dressing gowns (people wear these even at mealtimes) and the whole set-up is spa spa spa break all the way.

Aerial shot of Ragdale Hall
A spa break at Ragdale Hall is set in acres of beautiful countryside

If you are a spa lover you will love Ragdale Hall – it’s one of the best spas in Leicestershire and will certainly make the list of best spas in the country – and if you are not a spa fan then, well, what on earth are you doing here?

Exterior of Ragdale Hall spa
Ragdale Hall spa and hotel is an award-winning spa in Leicestershire
Continue reading A most relaxing spa break at Ragdale Hall in Leicestershire

Trying out Park House hotel’s new Germaine de Capuccini spa treatments

Fans of Germaine de Capuccini who are wondering where to get Germaine de Capuccini spa treatments in the UK, will be delighted to hear that award-winning hotel Park House hotel and spa in West Sussex is the latest hotel to offer the skin care specialist products.

Park House hotel West Sussex
Park House hotel is a charming country house hotel set in the West Sussex countryside

Founded in Spain in 1964, Germaine de Capuccini offers beauty and spa treatments suitable for cancer patients and people on intensive medication – which might lead to skin-related side effects – as well as anyone in need of a de-stressing spa experience.

indoor swimming pool Park House hotel and spa
The award-winning spa at Park House hotel has two swimming pools – one indoor, one outdoor – as well as a hot tub and plenty of places in which to relax
Germaine de Capuccini treatments in the UK

Continue reading Trying out Park House hotel’s new Germaine de Capuccini spa treatments

My stay at Cliveden House luxury hotel (favourite of poets, players and princesses)

Throughout my own stay at Cliveden House luxury hotel, there was one question which I found almost impossible to answer. Would Cliveden still be as fabulous if it wasn’t, well, Cliveden? Would it seem as special if it were just a very nice luxury country house hotel in Berkshire in which Winston Churchill and Noel Coward hadn’t stayed, for example? Would its beautiful National Trust gardens still be as pretty if you weren’t thinking that Lady Astor had strolled these acres with George Bernard Shaw and Charlie Chaplin?

And would the hotel’s beautiful outdoor swimming pool in the walled garden still be quite as marvellous to swim in if – well, you get the idea. Now that it is even more famous as the answer to ‘where did Meghan Markle stay the night before the Royal Wedding?’ then a whole new generation of celebrity fairy dust has been sprinkled over Cliveden.

Cliveden Meghan Markle Royal Wedding
This is the first sight of Cliveden and its bell tower as you come up the lengthy driveway
Cliveden’s impressive history

Continue reading My stay at Cliveden House luxury hotel (favourite of poets, players and princesses)

Arranging a hotel and parking at Gatwick airport: testing the APH offer

Arranging a hotel and parking at Gatwick airport – or indeed  Heathrow, Luton or Stansted as well, I travel frequently from all of them – is always a major headache. This could be to do with the fact I usually leave it to the very last minute, pretty much just before I set off,  or sometimes the night before if I’m particularly organised. Either way, it’s usually a case of panic-Googling until I find something that looks not too expensive or too cheap (you read horror stories of cars being dumped in a field or driven for miles while the owner is away) and then just going for it.

airport parking
You won’t be short of choices when it comes to airport parking, but that could make it hard to know which option to go for
Organising airport parking

Continue reading Arranging a hotel and parking at Gatwick airport: testing the APH offer

Bond, Bridget and me: my stay at Stoke Park luxury hotel

It’s where James Bond beat Goldfinger in possibly the most famous golf match in cinema history, where Bridget Jones ditched singleton life for a weekend away with boss Daniel Cleaver and where Teri Hatcher and Pierce Brosnan (as another Bond) danced the night away in Tomorrow Never Dies, so a stay at Stoke Park luxury hotel and country club certainly comes with high expectations.

stay at Stoke Park luxury hotel view from tennis courts
The Grade-1 listed hotel was built in 1908 and is instantly recognisable from its many film appearances

Thankfully the five-star, 111-year old hotel is more than able to live up to its reputation and manages the tricky task of combining country house hotel relaxation and country club sporting energy with aplomb. Continue reading Bond, Bridget and me: my stay at Stoke Park luxury hotel

News, reviews and opinions on everything to do with leisure, from hotels and holidays to food and fitness, by national newspaper journalist and author Sarah Bridge

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