For my 4-week anniversary of having 2 for 1 BOGOF abdominal surgery my other half and I decided enough is enough. He was fed up of responding to the ring of my ‘Cabana Boy’ bell when I needed something and I was fed up of looking at the same 4 walls day in day out, with my only entertainment being to see how long it would take me to pick up the post with my grabber every day.
So we went online to find somewhere that wasn’t too far in the car (so I could recline all the way with my full body pillow and neck pillow), and somewhere near the sea. It had to be a place that was nice enough for us to spend quite a lot of time in the hotel just chilling, watching Netflix and enjoying some time together and somewhere that we could venture on short drives out and about to enjoy a sea view and some well needed change of scenery.
I was told to get my things ready so he could pack for me. I’m not sure if he thought he was onto a good thing by organizing this weekend jaunt, or whether he was being compassionate (not like him!) but all I could think of was whether I could fit my recliner in the car as well as the entire contents of my bedside table and medicine cabinet including my trapped wind and constipation medication and not forgetting my new favourite friend George the Grabber, probably a tool once used by Bob the Builder.
Anyway, we got on our way and 2 hours later (with a quick pit stop at a lovely pub The George Inn near Newmarket for lunch) we arrived at Strattons Hotel in Swaffham Norfolk.
From the second we turned off the high street I knew we’d found yet another hidden gem and this time not too far away from home. Nestled away from the hustle and bustle of the small town was this stunning old, yet modern, boutique style hotel. Don’t let the town put you off, it’s a bit grim, with a few pubs and a chemist but the hotel is the jewel in the crown here.
Family run with an award-winning restaurant on-site, Cocoes cafe deli, and also a gorgeous lifestyle shop, it really was an oasis of calm which was exactly what I needed to continue my long and boring recovery.
On arrival there was an issue with the room we booked to do with a leaky bath, so they offered us an upgrade to a beautiful suite for a few nights, with tea and petit fours, with the intention to move us to our original booked room over the weekend. No problem for us and excellent customer service.
Our upgraded room had a beautiful lounge, bathroom and double bed, a bit small for me, him and my body pillow, but the excitement of us being able to actually sleep in the same bed after a month of me sleeping in the spare room because our bed was too high, was enough for us to work out the space issues. However, on our first night all squashed in, I did laugh to myself when in the middle of the night, my toe accidentally dropped over my body pillow and onto his leg. He was so used to having the whole bed to himself boy did he jump out his skin!! Our lounge was divinely decorated, loved it so much we managed to source the cushion material and design our new lounge around that!
For our first evening meal we decided to try the Dabbling Duck in Great Massingham, a favourite of Wills & Catherine apparently. They weren’t there when we arrived, they were on their way back from their tour of Pakistan (wonder if she’d do a review for us?!). Apart from not having a record of our reservation the evening went without hitch. We both went for the comfort food of bangers and mash and a nice bottle of Malbec from Mendoza. Service was spot on, a warm atmosphere with the locals and their dogs. It was quite busy for a Thursday night, and about a 15 min (taxi) ride from the hotel.
Next day we were woken up a tad early for breakfast by various fighter jets flying overhead for an hour or so. The next town along hosted an RAF base and a bit further from there is Sandhurst so I guess it should have been expected. Breakfast was served each morning in Cocoes cafe. A delicious smoked salmon and scrambled eggs for me and a full English for him. It was packed with locals who had popped in for breakfast after the school drop off, or as a pit stop on their morning cycle, and again, a warm environment to eat in.
After breakfast, a little time out to re charge my batteries for our little trip out to Blakeney to see the seals. Sadly, it was either a 7 mile walk or rocky boat trip to find them but the boats only run at the weekend and I wasn’t even ready for a 7 minute walk never mind 7 miles! We busied ourselves with a few pit stops in between a little wander, a chat with a local artist in a studio (hut) hidden away down a back street, and regular sit downs on a beach bench, it was soon back to base for an afternoon of bed rest for me and a movie for him in our lovely suite.
Dinner that night was in the hotel restaurant Afterfive, which was another culinary delight with a bottle of crisp and dry Gavi di Gavi alongside. Take a look at the photos on their website as they speak for themselves. Apparently, Saturday night is always their busiest night, this was a Friday and still comfortably busy. I went for the slow roast leg of lamb, still in need of comfort food, and he had the pan-fried seasonal fish, and the main thing I love about a hotel restaurant when you’re staying there is it’s never too far to get home.
The next day, before we left for some more exploring, they moved us to our original booked room, obviously not as large as our upgrade but the decor was still easy on the eye and the bath had been fixed! It is a small hotel and in this new room we could hear our neighbour running a bath and then having a sing in it before dinner. She was easy to spot at breakfast the next morning as her talking voice was the same as her singing voice! However, we had no complaints and would definitely escape back there again.
Another day another village this time Burnham Market, a pretty little town otherwise known as Chelsea- on-Sea, mainly because of the Jack Wills store, another London based yuppy store that I’d never heard of, and a large handful of 4×4’s. There were a few pretty interiors shops, an abundance of tea and drinking holes and it was a lovely way to spend an hour or two. After that meander and feeling adventurous I braved it to Wells-Next-The-Sea (and no I haven’t missed a word out there). This was a bit of a ‘Kiss me quick’ town with fish and chip shops, ice cream parlours, amusements arcades and luckily a lovely little place for lunch called Sands, its main restaurant was upstairs with a view of the bay. My mussels were perfect, not too big and served with warm, crusty bread to soak up the cream, wine and garlic sauce.
Saturday night dinner was in the George & Dragon, a newly renovated pub with decent food but terrible acoustics! It’s the best gastropub option on offer. The local village of Swaffham where the hotel is based doesn’t have too many options, so this was a good choice for another evening outside the hotel.
Sunday was most definitely a day of rest. I had zero energy at this point and needed a day in bed to recover from all the walking and eating that I hadn’t been used to doing for the last month. We decided to watch a mini-series then have afternoon tea downstairs and then back upstairs for the football on the laptop (had to keep him happy!).
Afternoon tea is clearly a thing there as on both days over the weekend, all the tables in the gorgeous lounge were setup for the pre-booked sittings. They put on a different themed tea each month. This month was Halloween and we were served orange and green cakes and sandwiches with a ghost attached on a stick! It was all delicious and considering I only ever allow myself one indulgence of afternoon tea a year I was full to the brim and needed to get horizontal again pretty soon after!
In a nutshell, this was a gorgeous place to stay if you don’t want to do too much except relax, eat and drink and snuggle up in front of a fire during the winter or visit the different beaches during the summer. I’ve had my fair share of stay-cations this year, Wales, Rye and now Norfolk, but I have to say, health permitting, I’m a travel geek, and although we do have some lovely places to choose from in the UK, I’m still an abroad kind of girl!