The drive from London to Wales was not as harrowing as one might have expected, having left around 630 in the evening. That being said, what with the sun disappearing on the horizon almost immediately and usage of iPhones and internet limited by the incredible speeds achieved by our classic Rocket-Car – due to the lack of traffic on the M4 – plus the immense aerial difficulties preventing any palatable radio intervention into the constant conversation of fashion and boys, it wasn’t as gorgeous as it might have been. There’s only so long I can be in a car without necessitating control of the amount of George Michael played. Which at that point had been basically nil.
Travel aside (though we did make excellent time), we arrived at the tolls to enter Wales around 8ish, Language, at that point, became a not so much a barrier to me, but more of a goading tease of a rocky mountain range that encourages the overambitious climb to inevitable failure. Having never seen Welsh before in such mass quantities and coming at me from what seemed to be all sides, I was caught up as we passed each road sign in the attempt to pronounce the myriad of words that offered not a clue as to their meaning or relevance to “stop”, “toll ahead” or “more than 18 people in a van must pay twice the number of tolls for the number of two people in a van”. I’m quite sure that that last one was, in fact, a direct translation.
Arriving finally at our destination, The Park Plaza Hotel in Cardiff, we were beyond starved and were then well treated to one of the most delectable meals I have had – certainly since arriving in the UK. As the straight-out-of-the-oven delicious bread arrived with oil and balsamic arrived, so did the most beautiful Chablis recommended by the angel of adorability, or fabulously attractive waiter. I followed this with the most beautifully arranged and simplistic – but absolutely divine – buffalo mozzarella, avocado and plum tomato salad dressed with basil oil, which although it came in a considerably large portion for fine dining, left me absolutely unwilling to share as the flavors melted into one another so perfectly my only child syndrome kicked in immediately upon tasting.
More wine, laughing and luxuriating — the meal was a gorgeous and picturesque taste-tableaux in the stunning setting of the high-ceilinged dining room, and although it was packed beyond belief, the restaurant setup encouraged such a feeling of intimacy at one’s own table that the overall business of the other tables and bar patrons went practically unnoticed, though looking around the room we spotted several VIPs also clearly enjoying themselves. For my main course, I chose the beetroot Tarte Tatin with warm Pant-Ysgawn goat’s cheese and rocket, which was so ridiculously good I ordered it again for dinner the second night of our stay! To say it was delectable would be undermining the sheer incredible, multi-textured orgasm-provoking flavor frenzy that was this dish. If you go to this restaurant and DON’T order it, I highly recommend you reassess your value system.
Finally arrived in our room, drunk and so sated that to be greeted by such luxurious rooms that the staff had been so kind as to bring our bags to whilst we stuffed ourselves silly, I experienced a luxury aftershock that sent me into a mad fit of diving facefirst then cocooning into the down comforter, thereby provoking complete resistance within my body to ever leave such decadence. Finally emerging unwillingly and pouting, I made my way into the bathroom to shower where I was met with THE MOST EXCITING BATHROOM IN A HOTEL 2008-2009.
Yes, I give out awards for this. You will recall, earlier this year, as I was touring, I was slating contenders for the award of MOST TERRIBLE BATHROOM IN A HOTEL 2008-2009 (the big winner obviously being the Courtyard Hotel in Fort McMurray, Alberta), but to digress from that terrible memory and slip into something sleek, confident and made specifically for the attractive and sexy hotel patron who knows what they’re looking for in a hotel bathroom… Let’s talk skinnymirrored walls to the ceiling of the beautiful soaker tub (CLEAN LINES, MORE CLEAN LINES, OH LOOK, I’M HOT), full pressure shower with an additional, lower, second showerhead (for washing your hair in the bath, obviously). The fixtures were classically modern without feeling too STAR TREK or Philippe Starck, and the colouring was warm and regency without the oppressive low-lighting I’ve found tends to come hand-in-hand with my encounters with such attempts.
I wish I could tell you that I didn’t leave my room or such delicious comforts, but the gym and spa were far too tempting. So often a hotel gymnasium or spa are met with the lowered expectations of a blind first date with a eunuch Porsche-owner. Bad fluorescent lighting, unworking machines from the 1970s and a moulding Nautilus machine are the general standard, so I was joyfully surprised and ecstatic to be met with MULTIPLE working high-end machines of every imaginable function, from my usual best-friend Elliptical (which was A+++ AND included a private television screen and personal fan) to recumbent bikes, treadmills, spinning bikes — machines I had only heard about in high-end workout magazines and was therefore completely intimidated by.
Up a spiral staircase there were not only more machines, flatscreen wall-mounted televisions and personal trainers available for private sessions, but a soft floor with mirror which was key for my workout, which includes a lot of ballet-type pliés and relevés. Having forgotten my iPod, I was so happy that the music played in the gym was upbeat and easy to work with and was obviously selected to please any listener — I heard great soul music mix easily with current remixes, all of which was unintrusive but also pleasing — so important for the gym. no HITS FM, please and thank you.
Downstairs, the long swimming pool ran adjacent to floor-to-ceiling windows where beautiful greenery set the scenery to my attempts at Olympic-style laps. I got through three before joining the rest of my group in the jacuzzi and finally heading into the steam room of my dreams, where pinhole lights changed colors and long wide benches made for ultimate relaxation. After a shower under the overhead rain-style shower I was ready for the spa, which offered such a range of delicious treatments I was hard pressed to select what sounded most incredible, and encouraged the staff to please figure it out for me. I was led through the minimalistic but warm and beautifully scented spa to the relaxation room, where in a beautifully designed setting you awaited your treatment sipping juice or mineral water while watching the treetops move in the giant windows ahead.
To describe how an undeserving brat like myself could deserve such a delicious bodybrush and full body massage would only give you incentive for assassination, but let’s leave it at BOOK IT. JUST BOOK IT.
Rather than incite a battlefield between luxury and deservedness, I’ll just end stating the obvious. IT. WAS. DIVINE. If you find yourself in Wales, please do yourself the great pleasure of staying there.