Better Late Than Never

By: Graham Baylis
Have you noticed how time has a habit of running away with you so quickly? Days turn into weeks, weeks into months and before you know where you are, you're ditching your shorts and t-shirts for woollen coats, gloves and scarves, and all those things you meant to do remain undone...

Don't despair, you're not alone. We all lead such hectic lives that it's easy to forget that we need to set some time aside for ourselves; time to relax and recharge the batteries. After all, a fire needs fuel!

Simon and Amy have found themselves in just such a predicament. Each summer, for the last few years, they've had a short break in the same hotel. It's always been comfortable and friendly, although last year there had been a change of ownership and the grumpy new manager would even have made Basil Fawlty seem hospitable. This year, they decided to go somewhere different. The trouble is, it appears they've left it a bit late. It's a busy time of year and all the hotels they've contacted are fully booked.

No need to worry. Amy goes online and soon finds the website of a company that specialises in booking two to five star accommodation and short breaks throughout the UK, finding last minute deals even up to the day of departure and offering customers as much as 70% off standard hotel rates.

Excitedly, Amy and Simon pore over the possibilities and are amazed at the options available. With so many fabulous hotels to choose from, it's difficult to make a decision. Finally, they find something that looks just the location for a perfect break. Situated on the borders of Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire in 350 acres of picturesque countryside, amongst lakes and alongside the banks of the River Great Ouse, this large and impressive looking hotel promises to have all the amenities they could hope for. There are extensive leisure facilities, including golf, a health and fitness centre, indoor swimming pool, sauna and spa bath. All of this sounds just the job for a bit of welcome relaxation and pampering, combined with some gentle exercise to help remove a few of those extra pounds they both put on over Christmas and have failed to shift.

Booking the hotel could not be simpler and just a couple of days later, Amy and Simon are travelling through the beautiful Cambridgeshire countryside. On approaching the hotel, they are struck immediately by the air of peace and tranquillity that surrounds its beautiful lakeside setting.

At reception, the welcoming and friendly hotel staff greet the couple as if they were long lost friends; it's a far cry from the grunt they received from 'Mr Fawlty' a year ago! Amy and Simon are delighted with the hotel. The d?r is immaculate, warm and cheerful and they have no doubt that they will be very comfortable here and feel right at home. Shown to their executive bedroom, they see that they have all the creature comforts at hand. Their spacious, beautifully furnished bedroom is tastefully decorated in a contemporary style. There's a fully tiled en-suite bathroom with dazzling white fluffy towels and complimentary toiletries, a colour TV with satellite channels, a direct dial telephone, hairdryer, iron and ironing board, tea and coffee making facilities and even a safe for a laptop and free wireless internet access. The king-size bed is bedecked with crisp white sheets and a sumptuous quilted bedspread and, a little tired after their journey, the couple can't resist kicking off their shoes and settling down for a short snooze.

Refreshed after their forty winks and feeling a bit peckish, Amy and Simon make their way to the hotel lounge for a light lunch. In comfortable and convivial surroundings, they each enjoy a fresh, crisp French Baguette stuffed with ham and cheese, washed down with a glass of nicely chilled beer. Then it's off to the nearby historic market town of St Neot's, the largest town in Cambridgeshire, for some sightseeing and shopping in the enormous market place.

Back at the hotel, having walked off their lunch, Amy and Simon decide to take advantage of some of the many leisure facilities the hotel has on offer. After an invigorating swim together in the indoor heated pool, Simon opts for a round or two of golf, while Amy indulges in a relaxing sauna and spa bath.

This is the life! That evening, having showered and changed into their 'smart' gear, Amy and Simon are sampling the superb cuisine of the brasserie. It's a delightfully relaxed dining experience, offering award-winning food and an excellent level of service. The menu is very varied and everything is tempting. Eventually, Simon decides on chilled melon soup with a passion fruit sorbet, followed by grilled sirloin steak with fresh vegetables and hand cut chips. Amy goes for parma ham with rocket and roasted peppers and as a fish lover, opts for the 'catch of the day' with a crunchy side salad. To finish, they feast on a medley of delicious ice creams made at the hotel and a selection of British and continental cheeses served with biscuits, grapes and celery.

Sleepy and nicely fortified by the excellent food and wine in plenty, Amy and Simon head for bed. There's plenty of activity still going on within the hotel, but the soundproofing in the room ensures that they both enjoy an undisturbed night's sleep. In the morning, they waken to glorious sunshine and the sound of blackbird song. After a sustaining full English breakfast, they're ready, reluctantly, to take their leave. Back home, Amy and Simon smile as they look at their photos and they agree that their short break has been the ideal escape from the fast pace of modern living. They'll definitely be using that company again to find their next port of call. It's time to say goodbye to Fawlty Towers...
Travel and Leisure
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