On the weekend after Christmas, the Mister and I escaped to the Cotswolds for an overnight stay** at the Mercure Cheltenham Queen’s Hotel.
We left the kids in safe hands and took a train from Paddington to Cheltenham Spa (two and a half-hour ride, one change at Swindon).
The 4-star Mercure Queen’s hotel is a handsome building ideally located right on the Promenade, the most fashionable part of town, where lots of fun things to do in Cheltenham can be found close by.
Inside, the decor is swanky but not enough to make you feel under-dressed in jeans.
Cheltenham is well known for its festivals of jazz and literature and, of course, for horse-racing.
Along the hotel corridors, pictures of horsemen adorn the walls. The wallpaper is the same you’ll find in the Houses of Parliament!
Our faces lit up as soon as we entered the bedroom, a Privilege suite with wi-fi, desk and sofa, satellite TV, cosy bathrobes, oodles of space to pad about in slippers, and a king-size bed.
A handy selection of toiletries were laid out in the bathroom.
But we didn’t linger for long as we were keen to explore the neighbourhood.
After a quick roam around, admiring some of the Regency architecture, we ducked into the lovely little Cafe des Arts for afternoon tea.
Their spread was a bit scanty, but it was a treat to sit there holding hands, eating scones and listening to Nat King Cole.
Jazz was the soundtrack to our weekend.
It played in the shopping centres (all the usual high street suspects represented) and wafted out of the more exclusive boutiques. And later in the hotel bar, we had aperitifs while Eartha Kitt purred in the background.
The Gold Cup bar has a classy, gentleman’s club ambience but it was spilling over with guests. Abiye put out a call on Twitter to find somewhere fun to go that evening and the top recommendations were all within strolling distance of the hotel.
We wound up at Flynn’s Bar and Brasserie, where we tucked into steaks followed by rich desserts (I’m planning to work it off in 2014).
Next, we hit John Gordon’s Bar, a very cool spot where we were served G&T’s by Cheltenham’s answer to Dalston hipsters in perfectly coiffed beards. We barely made it back intact to our hotel bed!
After a blissfully comfortable sleep and a luxurious shower (with ‘massage mode’!), we had breakfast in the Napier restaurant conservatory.
It’s a lovely place to start the day, natural light slanting in through the roof, and a tasty menu of hot food and pastries.
We had a few hours to kill after check-out at noon, so we walked down to the newly reopened Wilson Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum.
Here we were lucky to catch an exhibition by Colin Reid who makes mind-blowing sculptures out of glass.
The rest of the museum showcased modern artists and Cheltenham cultural history, including stunning pieces from the Arts and Crafts movement and a poignant display from Scott’s fateful expedition to Antarctica. The museum is named after Edward Wilson, one of Scott’s companions, who was born in Cheltenham.
It was a brilliant way to wind up what had been a very enjoyable weekend in the historic spa town.
Thanks to the Mercure Queen’s Hotel for hosting us.
Mercure Cheltenham Queen’s Hotel is on The Promenade, Cheltenham, England, GL50 1NN, United Kingdom, tel: +44 203 027 9779
**We were invited to review the hotel and received complimentary room and breakfast