Most people who know me (and if you've had a chance to peruse my About Me page) will know I’m a brazen London devotee.
This city courses through my veins. I fall a teeny bit more in love every day in a giddy, pubescent kind of fashion. Oh, the history, the people, the sights, the sounds, the smells (OK, at a push) and the pumping non-stop, 24-hour-accessibility of it all! Swoon.
But even the most passionate of lovers needs a break every now and then to stop things getting staid. Often I hear myself think 'God, I'm knackered with city life! I need to get off for a bit!’ So, the other weekend me, hubby and bump did just that; we hopped off the revolving London ride and headed to Falmouth on the South coast of Cornwall for a long weekend of salty sea air and much needed R&R.
After working late the evening before, a 6-hour car journey at first light, an exhaustion of Spotify playlists ('no more Madonna!') and yet another wee break it's safe to say we were a little tightly coiled upon arrival. So arriving at Highcliffe Bed and Breakfast to, genuinely, the warmest welcome I've ever been given was just the tonic.
Owners Simon and Vanessa and their lovely daughter pulled up outside the guest house at the same time as us; and no matter it was before official checking-in hours or that they were enjoying a family Friday afternoon. We were greeted like habitués rather than too-early strangers. Friendly chat ensued, help with bags dished out and we were gently ushered into the warm sanctuary of their contemporary B&B. Setting the scene for an absolutely incredible weekend.
I cannot recommend Highcliffe enough and here's why in no apparent order.
Firstly, the bedroom. A long weekend provides an advantageous head start to Saturday and, for me, guilt-free permission to laze about and do exactly what you wouldn't usually do on a Friday. Watch Netflix at 4pm with a hot chocolate (in lieu of wine)? Why the heck not. Ideally you need a great room to do this, like sumptuous Room 8…
Room 8 is a premium super king double delight at the top of the guest house. It is snug but not poky and tastefully decorated with subtle touches of sunny yellow that seared through the cold February rain outside. Stylish and plentiful lighting illuminated all the features and the giant bed with Egyptian cotton linen was so comfortable I fell into a deep slumber each night - completely unheard of in recent weeks. Everything was cleverly thought out - handy bottle opener (woefully unused; I miss PROSECCO *sob*) hot water bottle tucked away in drawer, yellow and grey cashmere blanket casually draped over a chair if it got too chilly (it didn't), generous bathrobes and ample spotlit wardrobe space for people who pack a week's worth of clothes for a weekend.
The sparkling ensuite bathroom hosted a curved, roll top slipper bath and fleecy white towels and was kitted out with Orla Kiely products. I had to be pried out of the powerful shower each time, usually with food as bait (see below). The harbour view from the Velux bathroom window was a joy each morning. Unfortunately we chose to visit Falmouth at the same time as #stormimogen, who raged outside fiercely. It really didn't matter, the hatches were battened down and we were tucked up in a chic bolt hole - Imogen and her tantrums were no bother to us. Besides, we managed to wedge in a Gyllyngvase Beach walk or two over the weekend, as well as a swim and a massage at the local spa, so everything was not lost.
Secondly, the decor. Highcliffe's guest and dining room are simply gorgeous. The owners, although only ever a buzz away and always conveniently around just when you needed them, live downstairs. With your own key, guests can come and go as you please. Vanessa had previously worked for a well-known glossy interior magazine and Simon held a top role in Media, and this is reflected in the sophisticated and high-standard interior design and well-finished furniture.
There's motion-activated lighting when you're too sleepy to flick a switch and striking modern colour schemes. They've done a great job of ensuring it is personal and welcoming rather than identikit. The guest lounge is beautifully furnished and stocked with back catalogues of fashion (hello, Vogue), travel and lifestyle magazines – for which I am a complete sucker. In my head, Suitcase magazine (a magazine that embraces the eclectic and adventurous appetite of a generation of creatives and entrepreneurs) is a visual representation of my every day life. Sadly, and realistically, it is not. There are lovely little touches; a table with sweets for adults, an honesty tuck box bursting with bars of Green and Black's Chocolate, Tunnocks Teacakes and Tyrrell's Crisps for midnight feasts. The dining room is kitted out with beautiful homeware from Willow and Stone, with a shop just down the road on Arwenack Street.
Thirdly, the food. There's an age-old saying that when you're preggers you eat for two. That weekend I possibly ate for four. The breakfast is a delicious feast. Think crunchy homemade granola and seeds, thick Greek natural yoghurt, delicious natural cereals, chilled juices. Fresh fruit and hot, buttery toast and a vast choice of condiments (including Vegemite! Streuth! A hangover from my Sydney days and one antipodean habit I've been unable to break, sorry Marmite). Unlimited pots of Cornish Tea's Smuggler's Brew and locally supported coffee. That's before you've tackled the Full English (veggie and non-)or the daily special, which during our stay included garlic-smoked field mushrooms and sautéed spinach with a poached egg on door-stop granary toast. I'm not kidding, I would literally crawl up the stairs to Room 8 on my hands and knees after a 3-course breakfast. I would love to blame the bump and the mild vertical ascent but it wasn't, it was just me being a great big greedy guts.
Fourthly, the proprietors. All the fancy pants stuff is marvellous and don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of the glitz. But with style you must have substance and when paying to stay away from home, to be made to feel you're a wanted guest. Simon and Vanessa genuinely want to ensure you have a really, really great stay and pull out all the stops without making it feel forced. Nothing was too much trouble. Their warmth and ebullience also filters through to their breakfast crew who were incredibly friendly and chipper. Simon's encyclopaedic knowledge of Falmouth, it's charming local gems, restaurants and characters was invaluable and everyone spoke so highly of them. The Wheelhouse, Hunkydory Restaurant and Bar and Beerwolf Books were highlights, sadly we didn't make it to Dolly's Tea Room and Wine Bar but this provides a perfectly valid excuse to return.
Alas, I have one grumble.
Time went way, way too quickly. Being comfortably ensconced at Highcliffe for some inexplicable reason means that time passes at double the normal speed. In a flash, we were on the A39 homeward bound, driving through Storm Imogen and feeling a bit sorry for ourselves. It's back to the grindstone now and Highcliffe is but a distant memory, but every now and then I allow myself to imagine being tucked up in contemporary Room 8 with a cup of Cornish brew, a well-worn Du Maurier and the prospect of both a Highcliffe breakfast and a glorious Falmouth day ahead.
Until next time...