When I go abroad I like to hire a car to make sure I see all the key sites the country has to offer. Recently, I realised that I was doing this at the expense of discovering my own country – Great Britain. I’ve lived in London for 10 years and if I’m in the UK, I tend to spend my weekends in the capital because there’s always something going on. Talking to some American friends made me see that they had seen more of my country than I had so I made it my mission to change that.
If I’m going to do something, I’m always on a mission to do it VIP style. Europcar car rental has a prestige division of it’s car rental service and I think it’s important to have a comfortable but Look at Me ride if you’re going to be spending a lot of time on the road. At the Europcar Prestige depot in London’s Kings Cross, my hot date and I picked up a sexy, sporty Mercedes SLK.
Prices for prestige car hire start at £108 but it’s worth every penny. For some models you need to be over 30 (because of insurance reasons) but the choice of cars is incredible. Browsing the Europcar website to choose what to hire is an experience in itself.
We started at a reasonable hour (ie 8am) and so by 10am, we were at our first destination – Windsor Great Park. My mission for the weekend was to try the best of what the UK has to offer and to push myself away from my normal London routine. I had fond memories of horse riding when I was younger and I sometimes do it when I’m on holiday so I used Google to find details of stables in Windsor that organised hacks through the park.
I’m a complete novice but after two hours on Flossie (above), I managed to canter. My date did the same and although our legs were shaking slightly at the end of the ride, by 12 noon we had completely left London behind us and felt part of country life.
And you know what else is great about the country? Quaint restaurants / pubs like The Fox and Hounds by the entrance of Windsor Great Park.
We’d worked up an appetite on horseback so we filled our faces with Skate Wing and Sea Bass and shared a plate of home-made chips. The portions were hearty and we felt so satisfied and full after the meal, we shared a coffee to work out our plan for the rest of the day.
The next destination was Bath as neither my date or I had ever bathed in the thermal pools. I’ve bathed in healing waters in Italy and Greece but never in my own country, so we set off for the Thermae Springs Spa in Bath. Ok, it’s not cheap – £26 each for two hours of access – but this was the view from the rooftop pool as we arrived.
Our session was 7pm – 9pm so as we left it looked like this. The water is heated to 33 degrees and the contrast between the warm waters, the fresh air and the breathtaking scenery is a sensation that will be engraved on my memory for years to come. It tickled all my senses and it’s just unforgettable.
If you’re planning to visit Bath for a weekend then make sure you book well in advance as it’s impossible to turn up on a Saturday and try to find accommodation. Visit Bath has a list of all the places to stay in the city and you can book in advance through the Visit Bath website. We didn’t do this so we had to stay in Bristol (long story) but when you’re driving a Merc you don’t mind the extra time on the road between Bath and Bristol too much.
The best thing about getting out on the open road in the UK is you can decide when to stop. If you travel by train you miss a lot by being focused on the newspaper (or your work) while you wait to arrive at a destination. As we were driving back on the Sunday, we had our eyes peeled for a place to stop for brunch and found this delightful pub called the Pelican Inn in a village called Froxfield, located just off the A4 near Marlborough in Wiltshire.
Although we hadn’t had breakfast, the lure of seeing Sunday Roasts served to other people looked too good to ignore and we both had Wiltshire Ham served with all the roast trimmings. It was satisfyingly HUGE – there were two yorkshire puddings and four crispy roast potatoes – and it was £11.50. We didn’t need to eat for the rest of the day.
After a coffee (to ease digestion) it was off to Windsor Castle. We didn’t see any of the town on Saturday as horse-riding led straight to Bath, but I wanted to get a bit of culture into my weekend. On holiday, I try to go to museums and cathedrals and galleries and I was desperate to see this bit of history, just a few hours from my home city. It was spectacular.
It’s £17.75 to get into the castle and the exhibitions so we decided to walk round the outskirts. As I live in London where all the museums and galleries are free I take objection paying this much to visit an attraction. Walking round and looking at the building’s structure still helps you to think about what it was like in the ancient times.
Have you been to Bath or Windsor yet? If not – what’s stopping you? Tell me on Twitter @zoegriffin how you get on!
Visit the Europcar website for details of Prestige cars – prices and collection locations. In London you can collect them from several venues including King’s Cross, Victoria, Bayswater and Marble Arch.
At Thermae Bath Spa, two hours of spa access is £26. You can buy longer stays or spa packages online