I swapped a ski holiday in the mountains of Andorra for a spa holiday in West Norfolk
I was supposed to fly to Toulouse and then drive into the heart of the eastern Pyrenees mountain range for a week on the slopes with my mum and sister in January.
Flights to France had been booked for the second week of the month when we made our plan in September – seven days of relaxation and fun in the Grandvalira ski resort, just the three of us.
When we booked our £100 return flights we did so knowing there was a chance it could all go wrong due to the unpredictable nature of the pandemic, but at this time of year we We were pretty sure it wouldn’t.
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Fast forward four months and we reluctantly realized that wasn’t going to happen and (determined to have some semblance of a holiday) booked into a West Norfolk self-catering holiday home for two nights.
It felt like deja vu for a reason. That’s because it happened last summer when my family and I were supposed to fly to the Azores, having already delayed flights in 2020 and then being forced to cancel in 2021 anyway.
Instead we spent four days on the North Norfolk coast with our friends in July, so this time when disaster struck we decided to do the same.
Our destination; Nar Valley Cottages in Pentney, West Norfolk where we would have full access to the Energize Pentney Spa and only half an hour’s drive from the coast.
Rising early on Monday, we headed straight for Sandringham for a long walk around the royal estate and a restaurant lunch as neither of us had ever visited, despite growing up on the Suffolk/Essex border.
The visit was a great success. The hiking trails were pretty through the woods and the restaurant was beautiful – not to mention a great deal and not at all what we expected.
With spacious parking, good facilities, food and great hiking trails, I can see why people come from far and wide to visit the Queen’s winter residence.
In the afternoon we headed to Pentney to check in to the three bedroom Cart Lodge, which had wonderful views over the fields, a fully equipped kitchen, a superb living and dining room, and two bathrooms. bathroom.
Just a quick walk through the gravel parking lot, the spa was an absolute delight and had; a heated outdoor pool, an indoor lap pool, two saunas, a steam room, an aromatherapy room, a gym and treatment cabins.
Wanting to make the most of our stay, we all booked a variety of treatments (massages, facials, etc.) and visited the spa twice a day for long soaks in the pool, walking from our accommodation to our swimmers, bathrobes and sliders.
Unfortunately when we first arrived at the spa the outdoor pool was closed after a problem with the valves but the next afternoon it was fixed and the owners of the cottages – the lovely Tan and Hannah – had the kindness to offer us a third night. stay for only a fraction of the price as an apology.
We happily accepted and continued to visit the hot pool morning and evening as it was truly something special. The steam rose from the top of the water and at a freezing sunrise or under the twinkling stars at night, it was truly breathtaking.
As well as our spa rituals we set out to explore West Norfolk during the day, visiting Congham Hall for a three course lunch, Snettisham RSPB for a stroll, Hunstanton Beach for a good stroll around the dunes and of course Swaffham Waitrose.
We had decided to eat out for our lunches, lured by the excellent £23 offer for three courses at Congham Hall and the grandeur of the Sandringham restaurant, but also because many pubs were closed for their January holidays , which rather ruined the dinner plans.
Instead we indulged and bought some amazing seafood ravioli, pizza and noodles from the Waitrose cooked food aisle, which were an absolute treat.
Lunch at Congham Hall was fabulous and we enjoyed the most amazing brownie we’ve ever had for the pudding, followed by a quick tour of the beautiful spa and hotel interior.
In the evenings we watched movies in the cozy lounge, ate copious amounts of chocolate and played card games.
We were reluctant to leave and return to Suffolk but came away feeling very refreshed and a little less bitter about our ski trip, despite getting flight refunds thanks to Ryanair being forced to reschedule and offer us the option of our money back.
I hope this is the last of these Covid vacation stories I write. I would really like to leave the country one of these days.
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