Cotswolds Covid Minibreak

I have debated blogging about travel over these last few months, as it really didn’t feel right to do so, so many people have been unable or unwilling to travel, and it’s almost like saying, here we are, where are you? But………on the other hand, I think that it’s good to see how the world has adapted to travel during a pandemic, whether people agree with it or not, it has to be down to one’s personal choice and the level of risk that each individual is prepared to take, and as long as we try our best to keep people safe as well as ourselves, then no one should judge anyone’s choices. So I’m going for it and publishing a few blogs that have been sitting here since July.

Although, this wasn’t the reason we went to the Cotswolds, it felt like this was a babymoon. Not for me, that ship sailed long ago, but for our much loved 5yr old dog Gracie Mae! You see, we were days away from getting a new addition to the family, another French bulldog, a playmate for Gracie and something to help keep us sane during these unprecedented times, so we decided to go on a dog friendly holiday so that she could enjoy her last few days of being the centre of our attention. We also had my 11yr old step daughter with us, we’d intended to be in Italy, but obviously Covid put a stop to that one yet again!

For the first four months of the Covid outbreak, I was very cautious on what I did and who I saw. My level of anxiety increased dramatically, and I rarely went out. As it got close to the Summer, we decided to brave it and drive to Italy. So glad we did and I ended up spending about 9 weeks there. It was the best 9 weeks of the year, I was very lucky to have been able to have had them, we stayed in a small village, with locals who had been locked down for quite some time and the numbers were significantly less than UK numbers, so we spent some time in hotels which we knew were Covid friendly, and the rest of the time we spent 99% of our time either in our apartment or eating and drinking outside. When we returned (we had to fly as things were changing even then), I decided I was going to try to live my life a little less in fear, and focus on ‘self-care’ for myself and my family as much as I could.

We booked the Double Tree in Cheltenham, as Hilton Diamond members with thousands of points, it’s always a first option for us to find a Hilton, and this seemed the best option in the area. It had an indoor pool, a spa, bar and restaurant, and from experience on our last trip the chain seemed to have handled the Covid regulations with due care and attention.

We left on a rainy Tuesday morning, and decided to stop at one or two of the villages en route to the hotel first. First stop was Burford and we headed for the famous Burford Garden Centre. Walked up to the entrance, very well organised with a one way system, and were then sent away because they don’t take dogs!! I found that rather strange, but hey ho! Sent the OH back to the car whilst we had a little look around. We were looking for wellies, but there only seemed to be high end brands for sale, so we exited and then the OH took his turn. 45 minutes later (!), he comes out with his hands full of goodies, how nice, I thought, he’s bought us presents. But no, his arms were full of boxes of solar lights, all different varieties, bought for research purposes only, he’s an exterior lighting specialist and is still trying to find a solar light that has some longevity and does what it’s supposed to. So off we went, purchase-less, (is there such a word)to find an alternative destination for a late lunch.

We found the Highway Inn by accident, mainly because we parked at the top of Burford village, got out and stopped at the first place we could find that served food. The Inn, is actually a hotel and restaurant, and what a delightful place it was. Excellent covid control, hand sanitiser as you walk through the entrance, obligatory masks until we sat down. It was just before last food orders at 3pm, so we quickly ordered and had a delicious lunch. Avocado and hummus salad for me and fish finger sandwiches for them, although they were more like a giant piece of cod in a burger bun! Looking online later, this looks like a quaint little hotel too if you’re looking for a place to stay.

After a little mooch, successful for them, unsuccessful for me, we made our way to the hotel. Again, hand sanitizer at the main entrance and a 2m distance check in. We had actually checked in online and had a digital key, so went straight to our room! We had a family room which had a large double bed and a large sofa bed next to it. Enough room for the 3 of us as well as a good corner for the dog! We went down to the bar for pre-drinks before going out for dinner, one way in one way out, I spotted a few people wandering round the reception without masks, which did infuriate me somewhat, but it was my choice to be down there, so I had to suck it up. We weren’t near anyone else in the bar.

Dinner was at the Hollow Bottom that evening, a great, spacious pub serving more than typical pub fare. A table in the corner, and we felt very comfortable. Good food and all were happy.

The following day and Broadway was the first stop. This was one of my old favourites, and I hadn’t actually been there for years and years! It hadn’t changed much, with the exception of lots of antique shops changing to gift shops and coffee shops. It was raining quite heavily, but luckily it faded out during our walk.

The stone houses and hotels were still as beautiful as I remembered! It still felt like we were stepping back in time, and even though changes had been made, the authenticity and historical look of the village still remained.

The streets were quite busy, but most people walked with respect, at a distance, and I didn’t feel the need to wear my mask outdoors at this point. We stopped at the Broadway Hotel for a bite to eat, the other half and step daughter had had a large breakfast, me not so large, The hotel was very busy, and after a little ops investigation, the OH reported back that the breakfast was a buffet and that it was busy. A buffet?! How can that possibly be Covid friendly? So it was a direct no from me, so back he went, to get a tray full of food and bring it back to the room. I ordered 2 hard boiled eggs, the safest option for me, still in their shells! They had a cooked breakfast.

So at this point in the day, I was a bit peckish, they weren’t. They ordered a sticky toffee pudding, a hot chocolate and a raspberry cheesecake. I had a lovely slice of quiche and salad. The only thing I didn’t like about this place was when we were waiting to be seated, the maitre d’ said “excuse me, I just need to breathe”; turned away; pulled his mask down; took a breath and then replaced it over his mouth. Epic fail!! I wasn’t sure I’d actually seen that correctly, so said nothing, but in hindsight, what he was doing was breathing out his germs for us all to share and then putting them away again. Defeating the purpose of mask wearing, and I hope we won’t suffer the consequences of his reckless actions! This only demonstrated what I have always been afraid of during these times, you can’t control what other people do, nor can you rely on other people to be as sensible as you may feel you are being. So if these things are really going to bother you then stay at home.

By the time we finished lunch it had started to pour again, so it was back to the car, a quick drive by of Stow-on-the-Wold, and then Bourton-on-the-Water. It was absolutely mobbed, so we drove on by and decided to try it the next day instead.

That evening was dinner at 131 The Promenade. This was my favourite! A lovely outdoor area, covered, with heaters and blankets on the chairs. It also had a walk-in Gin bar, but as we were with an 11-yr old, didn’t feel it was appropriate to stop there! We were shown to our table, which was through the outside area and actually inside the hotel. I was a bit disappointed. If ever I’m given the option of an outdoor table I’ll always take it, but the other two suffer from the cold, they’re Southerners, that says it all, so we stayed indoors. Also lovely, but lacking a bit of atmosphere.

131 The Promenade, outside now under cover

Dinner was enjoyable, service was excellent, and tables were distanced. Food was delicious! Risotto for me, and an asparagus and quinoa salad, the avocado and hummus starter was doubled up and a great main course for step daughter and the OH had the perfectly cooked duck. If we had to find a place in Cheltenham to stay again, I’d definitely stay here. 9.45pm and the bill arrived, so it was back to the hotel for an after dinner Baileys. Or not. We forgot the 10pm curfew was also for hotels, and the bar was well and truly closed for business, so we made do with some digestive biscuits and fizzy water!

The next day it was breakfast downstairs. The hotel was a lot quieter, and I sat myself in a corner and got the other two to queue for hot food and toast! I felt perfectly safe in my corner bubble. Ridiculous I know, as the people I’m with are doing it differently to me, but it’s just the way I’m rolling at the minute, and if this is how it has to be in order for me to be able to travel a bit, then so be it.

No need to check out as we did it automatically, so we left the hotel by a side door. Although we had intended to, we didn’t made use of the pool and spa facilities, the hotel was too full for us to feel comfortable swimming, and you had to book set times, which we didn’t want to be restricted to, but it didn’t really matter as there was plenty to do outside the hotel.

We returned to Bourton-on-the-Water, and although it was still exceptionally busy we parked and got out for a wander. I actually kept my mask on here, as it wasn’t possible to be too far apart from people on the narrow streets. This is the most picturesque of villages in my opinion, and we had a lovely walk through the village before stopping at a perfect find for lunch. Everywhere with food options had people queuing outside for tables, fish and chips, cream teas, cafes etc. Just off the main road was The Dial House, another lovely looking hotel, with a restaurant. We got one of the last few tables available, were served by a young guy with his mask under his nose (plonker) they ran out of barrelled beer and hadn’t put the gorgeous looking log fire on and didn’t ask people leaving the restaurant to wear their masks, but apart from that we had no complaints! The staff were all relatively young, so we put it all down to their inexperience.

All in all, this was a lovely few days away, can’t imagine what it would be like peak season, as it was very busy this week, it was half-term though! And now, another lockdown is looming and it’s back home to prepare for the dark and gloomy month ahead of us. But at least we have this little bundle of fun to keep us busy!

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