The Pier at Harwich
"Leave Alexander at home", and "go away just the two of you" both ignored in the past due to kid's club. It just didn't occur to me. However, enough was enough and after four months of broken night's sleeps we gave in and embraced a weekend away sans enfant. Oh boy, has it given me a taste of this newfound freedom!
We didn't go far and we didn't go bling but we went familiar and this time found the perfect antidote for tired, old parents!
The Pier at Harwich welcomed us. Two hours through Essex (more beautiful, rolling Constable countryside than TOWIE, if you please) past Colchester- oyster capital of the UK-yum! and in to the port at Harwich. You may ask what is there to do in Harwich bar look out to sea or go crabbing from the tiny pier and this is where you would be spot on.
The Pier is a small but perfectly-formed boutique hotel. Part of a group of Essex hotels (Milsoms) that I know well from personal experience. Standards are particularly high throughout and that's what keeps me coming back. You know you won't be disappointed.
So we pull up in Harwich, the sky is blue, we left behind a grey London. The Pier is split over two buildings. Relaxed bistro, fine dining restaurant and right rooms in one and across the road, the other seven really tastefully-decorated rooms with a sitting room on the ground floor for guests to relax in.
We were lucky enough to have the the Mayflower Suite (video); the only suite. Some suites are just stupid. Five rooms for one couple with a dining table for ten - you get my drift. The Mayflower however got a "this is how I want our bedroom to look" from me and more unbelievably as it happens rarely, agreement from Mr PCG! All muted colours, a 15 foot bay window with floor to ceiling windows and a telescope for those wishing to explore the horizon, plus plenty of comfy sofas for reading the morning papers. There are, of course, all the mod cons too.
This really is the place to sit back, kick back and relax. No luxury spa as at their sister hotel, Maison Talbooth but not to worry; I decided to organise myself in advance with a few carefully picked products to create a spa in our room. Parents with toddlers really don't get the time to sit around pampering themselves. So I lit a Shiffa candle, put on the brilliant Ole Henriksen 3 step peel and followed with an Indeedlabs moisture mask. I did my nails and slathered my hands and feet in the Cowshed Sandalwood intensive have and foot treatment. Bliss. Mr PCG happily made good use of the bed to play FIFA on the iPad and we sat back and really relaxed. You just don't realise the difference between when the little one is in bed at home and when he is staying with your mother until you do it.
Dinner at 8pm at Harbourside, no rush, no pressure just a two AA rosette restaurant. What a joy!
Not only is seafood, my favourite, their speciality (oysters, lobster - all local) but they also source all their food carefully so my Dedham Vale steak on the second night was really flavoursome. It was also cooked to perfection with a bearnaise sauce that had just the right amount of tang.
For the foodies out there; fish soup with rouille was authentic, crabs claws and giant prawns with black garlic butter also yummy.
Day two brought mackerel with thai papaya salad and an assiette of four different desserts - treacle tart, passion fruit creme brûlé, apple crumble and the strawberry trio - cheesecake, Eton mess and jelly. Somehow I managed a bit of everything.
They don't try to be too clever. Nothing overly complicated. The food for me is a reason to go back time and time again. Plus it's great value. We spoilt ourselves with a full English and American pancakes for breakfast, once in bed with the Sunday papers (real bliss) and once in the bistro. We watched the first season of Sopranos- again and slept to 9.30 without being woken in the night!
For the foodies, a trip into Suffolk, an hour a way to Butley Orford Oysterage where they have their own smokehouse, is a must, Jamie's Farm is also just down the road.
Phone calls home were probably too frequent and FaceTime helped. Alexander was in very good hands with his Grandma but still pined for us, which wasn't easy. We promised lots of sweets, stickers and presents and knew that the break would make us better parents. The jury's out!