For this family the Four Seasons in Hampshire is a true home (not that far away) from home. We go at least once a year and usually in the autumn, when the summer holidays are sadly a distant memory and the Christmas craziness has not started yet. The moment we arrive is the moment we know that we are in for a fun and relaxed time.
Beside the beautiful building, a fantastic swimming pool and spa, and the fact that each and every single member of the staff is super attentive to all guests, them being adults, children or dogs, there is one added reason why Miss G loves the Four Seasons and it comes in the form of its resident dog, Oliver, the black labrador. She fell in love with him the first time she met him and the love has never stopped.
Luckily I had been in touch with the hotel before we left and I knew that Oliver had had an operation and might have not been his usual perky self, which meant that I could prepare Little G in case he was a bit poorly or even not around. She refused to believe that she might not see him and made him a get well card as 'this will make him better, mamma'. Don't you love the optimism of kids?
Unfortunately Oliver was not around on our arrival, but he had left Miss G an unexpected gift in our room. There it was, an Oliver table mat with the sweetest note. Miss G couldn't stop laughing at the fact that Oliver signed his card with a paw and that it said 'love and licks'. She also very much appreciated the Four Seasons sweet welcome (all suitable for her allergies) and so did we. Do you see what I mean when I say it's a 'home from home'?
Whilst Mr H opted for a nap, Little G and I put our wellies on and went to say hi to some of the other Four Seasons four legged members of staff, the horses. The sun was just setting down and it was utter delight to have a warm fire and a bottle of water welcoming us back to the hotel from our walk. It is the small things after all...
A stay at the Four Seasons wouldn't be complete without a pre-dinner swim and splash. It's our ritual. Little G took it a step further by wanting to try the steam room, sauna and all the products in the changing room, hair gel and talcum powder included! Only then she was ready for dinner (with her Oliver soft toy, of course) and a cosy night sleep.
Day two saw Miss G's eyes literally light up when her favourite friend made a much unexpected appearance. Yes, Oliver was back! Not in his usual red collar and not in his usual sparky mood, but to Miss G it did not matter at all. He was there to be stroked and cuddled and that was good enough for her. And us.
Sadly Oliver was out of action and unable to come for a walk with us, but we decided to go anyway and made the most of a misty walk on the hotel grounds. We visited the Four Seasons chickens, the kids adventure trail and we finished it all off with a fun session at the well appointed playground. It was smiles all around a lot of fresh air (and muddy boots).
Tired but in high spirits we left the hotel for a nice pub lunch and a visit to the nearby Alice Holt forest. We even went on a Gruffalo trail, which was not much to speak about, but it was fun nonetheless. Once there we realised that our aversion to get muddy made us stick out amongst the local crowd. I guess you can take city people out of the city, but you can't really convince them that being covered in mud is all that normal after all. I think a couple of my instagram followers were amused by my ashtags for the day #CityPeopleDoCountryside #Fakers #MudNoThanks
Of course we were all quite tired, exhausted actually, but we were also happy and in good spirits after the walk and the fresh air. Just when we thought the day couldn't get any better, guess who came jumping at us to greet our return to the hotel?
Needless to say, we woke up in a great mood ready to enjoy the Four Seasons epic Sunday breakfast, plus some newspaper reading or, in Little G's case, iPad playing. If Sunday mornings were always like that at my house, I'd be in heaven!
Miss G wouldn't let us leave the hotel without saying goodbye to Oliver, but he was not around and I had to prepare her for the eventuality that he was actually having a day off. The tears were nearly streaming down her face when Mr H took her out for a final walk on the hotel grounds and guess who came running to say goodbye once we were literally packing the car and ready to leave? Oliver himself! Little G was in disbelief and wide-eyed said to me: "Mamma, he sniffed my car seat, so he can remember me next time I arrive at the hotel!" And just like that, we departed our home away from home feeling energised, relaxed and happy.
* Please note that we were not guests of the Four Seasons Hampshire and that we paid for our stay, so this post is a genuine review of a place that we love and that we like to call home once or twice a year. The Oliver table mat was a welcome and unexpected gift, but then I doubt that many guests would be writing prior to their arrival to find out how Oliver is...