The post where I miss my plane but gain a slice of English heaven

by Sasha Wilkins on July 2, 2011 · 8 comments

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I’m tapping this blog post out on my PlayBook leaning against a mountain bike by the side of a sunset perfect Capability Brown-designed lake somewhere near Luton, erstwhile home of the British hat trade and delightful Luton Airport.

I’m not supposed to be here. I’m supposed to be in Barcelona. But idiot girl became convinced half way to the airport that her passport was still at home. After heading back to London, and turning my flat upside down, I discovered it in my PlayBook case in the car where it had been all the time. Gah.

Happily for me, when I finally arrive at Luton, I discover that EasyJet only charge £50 to put f**kwit passengers on another flight. (I was astonished to hear from the charming girls on the sales desk that they are regularly abused by passengers refusing to pay the charge. Frankly I consider myself lucky they don’t charge me the £180+ for a whole new ticket given that I have now taken up two outward seats.)

The next flight is 1145 tomorrow and I consider my options over a gourmet snack (Burger King beanburger). Whilst I am vacillating over my decision, (booking into the Holiday Inn Express, going home – again, or driving to my mother’s), I tweet my dilemma. Just as I decide to head to my mother’s, a two hr round trip in rush hr traffic, I get a tweet that makes me a very happy lady.

It reads, I think we can do better than that. It’s from a hotel publicist (& friend) who follows my feed. One of her clients is Luton Hoo Hotel, a mere seven minute drive (I timed it) from the airport, and they are rewarding my stupidity with the offer of a bed for the night.

I am thrilled for several reasons. First & obviously, I now don’t have to schlep anywhere before my flight in 20hrs time. Second, I have been wanting to check it out since it opened to the public in 2007, third, the difference between Luton Hoo and the Holiday Inn Express is as a rickshaw to a Mercedes, and fourth, this means I get (hopefully) a great hotel to review and film for LLG. It’s so all win I feel like Charlie Sheen.

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John Adam’s mansion Luton Hoo was formerly the home of the Wernher family, and was at the heart of the aristocratic establishment. The Queen and Prince Phillip spent part of their honeymoon here, and Sir Winston Churchill was a regular visitor. After Sir Julius Werner’s death, the house was inherited by his grandson Nicholas Phillips, who opened part of the house to the public to cover its running costs.

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I visited with my godmother maybe twenty-five years ago for a Faberge egg exhibition. (My father’s family  have strong Russian connections – hence my name, and so we always went to see anything vaguely Russian). In 1999 the mansion was sold to Elite Hotels who operate it now, whilst the family still run the estate. I’m excited to get a chance to now properly poke around the house in a way that was impossible when it was still a family home. (Getting an in-depth tour from the hotel manager is one of the properly brilliant things about reviewing hotels.)

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As I walk out onto the lovely terrace overlooking the formal gardens, I get a jolt of recognition. But it’s not from my visit as a child, it’s because I am now standing on the location of the second wedding in Four Weddings and a Funeral. Stupidly, this makes my day.

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