An uninterrupted shower! Reading the Sunday papers! No one complaining they don’t like their food! Having someone cook for me and tidy up afterwards! A morning lie-in without a three year old jumping all over me or trying to prise my eyes open! The sound of silence!
I didn’t realise how much I needed all of the above and more until Cardiff Daddy and I enjoyed a recent stay as guests of the Marriott St Pierre Hotel and Country Club in Chepstow.
Never mind the lavish surroundings, the leisure club and the à la carte menu, what really left me feeling relaxed and recharged was the chance to be me, and not mummy, for a day.
I missed my babies like crazy, of course. The summer holidays have been wonderful, just me and the little people, but it has been intense. I knew I was in desperate need of some time away to recharge and recuperate to give me the energy for the last few weeks… but I didn’t realise quite how much it was needed until I got there.
It occurred to me and Cardiff Daddy while we were there that the last time we had a night away just the two of us was about six months before I got pregnant with our youngest. He’s almost three and a half now and although we have had a handful of child-free nights when the kids have stayed with grandparents, we’ve always been at home. And it’s never the same when you can see the piles of toys everywhere or the mountains of washing or the dust on the skirting boards.
The Marriott St Pierre’s kindly accommodating us for a child-free night away couldn’t have come at a better time. The Chepstow hotel and country club is only 45 minutes from Cardiff but its beautiful 400-acre grounds in the Wye Valley and the fact we were staying in a 14th-century manor house felt a world away from domestic life in the suburbs of north Cardiff.
We checked in around 2pm, dropped our bags off in our room and had a relaxing walk around the grounds, before stopping off at the Tropy Bar, which overlooks the 18th hole of the golf course, for a glass of wine for me and a beer for Cardiff Daddy. The weather was good enough for us to sit outside and we spent a couple of hours here, properly chatting and talking in a way that’s not so easy when you have three kids running round everywhere.
Although it wasn’t too busy, it is a sociable hotel. We saw one group of ladies celebrating a milestone birthday, men and women from a West Country golf club on a golfing weekend, and other couples enjoying a romantic break. The hotel is well-known for its spa and golf breaks. I did think about booking myself in for a relaxing facial and Cardiff Daddy for a round of golf but the idea was to spend time together.
Check out time is 12pm, which we thought was brilliant as it meant we wouldn’t have to rush in the morning.
The first thing that struck me about the room was the view. It was absolutely stunning. We were lucky to have a room that looked out across the luscious green of the golf course. The perfect backdrop to sit and read the Sunday papers, a pre-child extravagance that hasn’t happened for years and which the journalist/news junky in me really misses. I loved the window area with the table and two comfy arm chairs. The television was huge and perfectly placed for watching it in bed. Other facilities included a kettle and tea/coffee station, complimentary bottles of water and an ironing board and iron. If you’ve been following Cardiff Mummy for a while you will know I like to iron… and my dress for the evening had got awfully creased in my bag so the iron was really useful.
The bathroom was a good size with a bathtub and shower, complimentary toiletries and plenty of fluffy white towels.
The black-out curtains made the room so dark we both slept until 9am the following morning. 9am! I can’t remember the last time that happened.
Dinner at Morgan’s
There are two choices for dining at St Pierre. The more casual Zest bar serves burgers, pizza, salads, pasta and steak for around £10-£15 per head, as well as lighter sandwiches from £7. Morgan’s is the à la carte restaurant, where the hotel had invited us to experience a three-course meal.
With two courses for £22.50 or three for £22.50 (or book as part of a package) we thought it was good value.
Being a vegetarian I always worry about fine dining as there’s often not the best choice but I was pleased to see some decent options.
For starter, I opted for the charred cauliflower pear and roasted onion with raisin mint and caper dressing. It was such a lovely combination of flavours I could have easily eaten this as a main course. For main course I had the orzo, artichoke and thyme served with herb ricotta, wild mushroom and passatta dressing. Again really lovely.
Cardiff Daddy had smoked haddock fish cake for his starter and free range chicken supreme with pea and feta risotto and crispy cured ham with a side order of triple-cooked fries. He said the chicken was good… although he was surprised by how much he liked the risotto and would quite happily have had that for a meal in itself.
For dessert, he had the cherry cheesecake and I opted for the chocolate ganache tart with mango sorbet. I always go for the chocolate and was not disappointed with its rich yet not too heavy texture offset by the lightly zingy sorbet.
I’d like to say that after dinner we stayed up drinking fancy champagne in the hotel bar… but actually, we watched TV in bed. And it was blissful.
Breakfast is served between 6am and 11am, which was rather useful given we didn’t wake until 9am and wanted to fit in a swim before breakfast. Served in Morgan’s, it was a traditional hotel buffet breakfast where you could help yourself to cereal, fruit, porridge, pastries and muffins, a continental breakfast of meats and cheeses, and a serve-yourself cooked breakfast station. It’s a good job we went swimming before breakfast as our bellies were so full we probably would have sunk had we attempted to go afterwards.
The leisure club
I can’t remember the last time I went swimming without my children, so a relaxing dip in the pool was lovely, followed by a long soak in the hot tub. There’s also a sauna, gym, and a studio for classes.
The changing facilities were spacious and clean, with shampoo, conditioner and shower gel in all the shower cubicles, hair dryers and vanity tables, lockers you don’t need coins for and a machine to dry swimming costumes in.
An afternoon in Chepstow
We checked out at 12pm and decided to spend some time exploring Chepstow. Other than the castle, it’s not a place I know very well. We really enjoyed walking around the Heritage trail, a one-mile walk past the river and around the town, browsing all the lovely boutiques I’d never dream of visiting with three children. We were still full from breakfast so didn’t need lunch, instead heading for a cuppa in a coffee shop, people watching and talking to each other without any interruptions from the little people.
Our overall verdict
Set in a 14th century manor, this is nothing like the typical city centre Marriott you might expect from the international hotel chain. The surroundings were beautifully relaxing, all the staff friendly and efficient and the food really good. It’s a good choice for a child-free night away without having to travel too far from home.
Thanks to the St Pierre Marriott for accommodating us. We had a wonderful time.
Rates vary depending on type of room and date of stay but on weekends in September you can find weekend bed and breakfast rates of around £100 for two people.