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Friday, 8 August 2014

A family break in Henley on Thames

Henley on Thames has always been on my radar of places I want to visit - who wouldn't want to visit the picturesque home of the famous regatta? This summer we planned to travel the length of the country to visit various theme parks and Henley on Thames was pretty central to our travels and seemed like the perfect place to base our family for a few days.
It is always hard trying to find good budget accommodation for a family of 5 that ticks all of the boxes - especially as my children are not old enough to stay in their own room yet. I like space, personality and somewhere I can enjoy wine when the children are tucked up in bed! It's not a lot to ask for but difficult to come by when you are on a budget. We have tried various options - camping (good value but you need a lot of equipment), wigwams (excellent but prices are quite high for a basic accommodation in the summer holidays), 2xchain budget hotel rooms (cannot fault for price however it means I have to share a room with my daughter and hubby does with boys - no time to ourselves!), cottages/lodges/caravans (excellent but expensive in school holidays). The hunt for perfect accommodation for us all continued and I stumbled upon roomfor5.co.uk. This website features accommodation across the UK that will sleep 5 of you in one room. Perfect! It was here I found The Paddock and immediately fell in love. A quick email to the owners and we were booked for 2 nights at the start of the summer holidays.



The Paddock is the sort of place I love to stay - a far cry from the faceless chain hotels where everything is uniform and the same. The Paddock is unique and a real home from home. With only 7 bedrooms you feel as if you are staying in somebody's house and not a hotel/b and b. We were to stay in the biggest suite which turned out to be lovely and spacious considering it featured 5 comfortable beds,  it's own dressing room, separate shower and and huge jacuzzi bath which was a real hit with the children (and myself after a long day on my feet). We had our own balcony overlooking the gorgeous gardens which was the perfect place to share a bottle of wine with hubby whilst the children were sleeping. I loved how the rooms were furnished with books that had obviously been enjoyed by the family throughout the years and there were thoughtful little touches everywhere such as 5 cold water bottles (instead of the standard 2) which were a welcome treat after a busy day and a selection of bubble bath's in the bathroom were a lovely bonus. I have never stayed somewhere so homely. We were free to use The Paddock's extensive gardens are enjoyed chatting to the owner about his pizza oven, cider press and outdoor cinema. The owner's were great with our children and spent time showing them around the pond and even put their hammock up for them to play in.



Breakfast was included in our room rate and was perfect - we all sat around a large table in the dining room with the other guests - this gave us a lovely chance to meet fellow travellers, share stories and exchange tips - we got talking to a lovely Australian couple who informed us Henley even had it's own museum. Breakfast started with huge bowls of fresh fruit salad and yoghurt plus a selection of cereals to help yourself to and jugs of fresh juice. Your preference of tea or freshly brewed coffee was made to order and topped up regularly. Then a huge platter of cooked breakfast items were brought to the table to share amongst your family and eggs were made to order - special thanks for making my children perfect soft boiled eggs. Finally the breakfast feast was complete with some homemade pain au chocolat's fresh from the oven. Breakfast really was superb and made to feel like a special treat. It is not often we eat breakfast together as we are always rushing around and it really was a highlight of our break.

Another good point about staying at The Paddock was that there was ample free off-street parking and the centre of town was only a 5-10 minute walk. We dined both nights in Henley town itself. A quick search on tripadvisor brought many lovely but expensive restaurant's to my attention - I had booked our trip a week before pay day and really was conscious of our budget! I am pleased that we have a taste card as I discovered I could use it in a few restaurants within Henley. On our first evening we opted for Zizzi which is situated in a 17th Century coach house and advertised itself as family friendly. Our starters and main courses were buy one get one free with a taste card and were cooked to order and delicious (especially the pesto pasta). The children's menu was on the expensive side at £7.25 for 3 courses plus juice however it did include a chocochino which they all loved. Our overall bill was £44 for the 5 of us including a couple of alcoholic drinks which was good value considering what we had.



On our second evening I noticed there was a wetherpoon's pub in the town centre and as it was a Tuesday that meant steak night! The Catherine Wheel is also a hotel as well as a 400 year old pub and was warm and welcoming with a large lounge full of family diners. I was pleased to see there were lots of crayons and colouring sheets available (a lot of the times we find they have ran out) for our children to help themselves to. The Steak night menu was £7.99 for a selection of steaks and included a drink. We have always enjoyed steaks at wetherspoons and find they are not overcooked as they can be in other chain pubs. The Catherine Wheel did not disappoint and our steaks were lovely and juicy. At £7.99 for a steak and a pint you really cannot go wrong. The children's menu was £3.99 including a drink and a free fruit bag. Our whole meal was only £28 for the 5 of us including drinks which is superb value.

I loved walking through Henley on Thames on an evening and admiring all of the beautiful boutique shops, expensive looking patisseries and the beautiful yacht's on the river. It feels as if you are transported into some sort of perfect town and I was seriously envious of those who lived there! I definitely want to go back in the future and spend more time in the town to explore all that it has to offer, I feel that we barely scratched the surface on our stay.



There is a convenient Sainsburys local in the centre of town where we stopped to buy a picnic lunch for the next day's adventure and there was a lovely independent wine shop where we could stop off on the way home to buy a chilled bottle for the evening.

Our room at The Paddock cost £120 per room per night including breakfast which although not the cheapest option, certainly was the best value for us and we were very comfortable. If you take our evening meals into consideration, it cost us £32 per person per night for dinner, drinks, bed and breakfast which is amazing value! I would not hesitate to recommend The Paddock and will definitely be booking up next time we are in the area. 


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