Thursday, October 27, 2011
I don’t golf. When I was growing up, my family became obsessed with the sport. All of our vacations revolved around golf, and my mother and brother spent every weekend on various golf courses throughout Silicon Valley. My mom was so desperate for me to join the fun that she even bought me a golf bag for Christmas one year. But I had no interest. I still don’t. So when I received an invitation to spend a night at the five-star Stoke Park Hotel in Buckinghamshire—a property renowned for its golf course—I wasn’t sure I was interested.
Lucky for me, the invitation wasn’t for golf. No, it was for something far more suited to my tastes. It was for the Stoke Park Hotel spa. And restaurant. And junior suite. Now those were things I could get interested in.
I hopped on a train to Slough then took a taxi to the hotel. When I arrived I was taken to my suite, which was in the newer of two buildings. One building was a historic mansion and the other was contemporary.
My suite was spacious and decorated in modern style with large pictures on the walls and a comfy leather sofa in the middle. There was a huge bed, a flat-screen TV, a massive bathroom with a separate bath and shower, and windows with great views over the golf course. I got settled in and then met Sarah from the spa for a tour of the grounds.
She took me to the Stoke Park Hotel mansion first. It was decorated in the classic English style, complete with original wood carvings and period furniture. There was a restaurant, a salon for afternoon tea, a bar, meeting rooms, and several guest rooms.
Outside of it were the golf course, gardens, and some pretty ponds. One of them was spanned by a beautiful bridge, and was the filming location for scenes from Bridget Jones’s Diary.
Back in the newer building, Sarah showed me around the Stoke Park Hotel spa. The space included a swimming pool, steam room, locker rooms, and spa treatment rooms. Next to it was a large gym with two floors of machines and a yoga room. This was flanked by a restaurant on one side and indoor tennis courts on the other.
After the tour I walked around the grounds before I was joined for dinner by someone I had lured into driving out from London to eat with me. We ate at The Dining Room restaurant in the mansion and enjoyed a pleasant three-course meal.
It included ‘Royal Berkshire Pork’ ham hock terrine with celery and apple salad; pan fried halibut with leek, pumpkin, and sorrel risotto and marinated artichokes and crispy leeks; and vanilla and passion fruit cheesecake with coconut sorbet, pineapple ravioli, and chili jelly. The food was delicious, and the presentation creative. My halibut even came in a tiny pumpkin.
The next morning I woke up and headed to the Stoke Park Hotel spa. I was in need of some exercise after my gluttony the night before, so I started my spa day with some laps in the swimming pool. Those were followed by a stint in the steam room, which unfortunately wasn’t working very well.
From there I moved on to the spa treatment area. I sat in a sunny lounge until my therapist came out to meet me. The next 85 minutes were spent getting a Collagen Age Defying Facial using the spa’s SPC Skincare line, which focused on essential oils and extracts. The facial included a microdermabrasion polish, a facial massage, and a back treatment. It was incredibly relaxing. My therapist was great about tailoring the treatment to my skin type and checking with me to make sure everything was to my liking.
At the end of the treatment she recommended products for me and suggested some new additions to my sparse skincare regime. Afterwards I floated out of the room and back to reality in London.
The Stoke Park Hotel, spa, restaurant, and overall stay were well worth a trip out to Buckinghamshire. I discovered a great many alternatives to golf that I wish I had known about as a kid. I would have happily spent five hours enjoying spas and exploring fine dining options while my family trudged around the greens during our vacations in Hawaii, Tucson, Scotland, and the rest. Maybe that was what my mother was afraid of all those years.