A Stay At The Manor*

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Last weekend, my boyfriend and I were invited to spend the night at The Manor Country House and Hotel. The hotel is located in Oxfordshire, just a short drive away from Bicester Village, which is pretty handy if you're looking for a mini weekend break that involves luxury shopping and a luxury stay! I was incredibly excited to have been asked along to do a review- it's probably one of the most exciting opportunities to have come out of my blog and is definitely not something I'd done before. Prior to our arrival we were told we'd be staying in the Chapel Suite and be receiving a complimentary dinner and breakfast. I honestly couldn't wait. 

I suppose from the name 'The Manor', and from the brief look at the website, we should have known how posh the hotel would be, but I'm honestly not sure anything could have really prepared us. As we drove up the long, tree lined gravel drive towards what looked like a miniature stone castle, we honestly couldn't believe our eyes. Was this really where we would be staying?! I was suddenly glad I hadn't put my huge hoop earrings in, but my boyfriend did panic about his choice of Nike trainers...


       Inside The Manor

The entrance hall was incredible, with a gorgeous open fire. We were greeted straight away with a friendly smile and I was impressed when the receptionist knew who I as without me having to introduce myself! She walked us to our suite (something else that impressed me!) whilst pointing out where the bar was and the restaurant, reminding us what time our booking was for- which was very handy! 

The interior throughout the hotel was fitting with the exterior of the building! What looked like an old castle from the outside was adequately decorated inside- thick red carpets, ornate mirrors, large paintings and mirrors in golden frames, stuffed animals and deer antlers on the walls- it was all very regal, very grand and so unlike anywhere else I've ever stayed. 

When we reached our suite, we were handed a key- not a key card like in an ordinary hotel, an actual key, attached to a wooden keyring with our door number on. I love small, intricate touches like this and I think it really added to the feeling of The Manor! Having an electric keycard on the door would have ruined the fact that our front door was  heavy wooden one with a metal latch! 
       
      Our Suite

I tend to be a little over dramatic at the best of times, but let me tell you that I am being absolutely accurate when I say that the suite was absolutely unreal. The main room was generously sized with a desk, a chest of drawers, two large mirrors, a large TV, a sofa and- my favourite thing of all- a four poster bed. I was so excited as I have wanted my own four poster bed my entire life, so getting to sleep in one in a manor house that looked like a miniature castle really did make me feel like a princess! 

The bathroom was almost as large as the main room, with a large cupboard-wardrobe with dressing gowns and slippers, a full length mirror, heated towel rails, a decent sized shower and great lighting for selfies! (Always important, right?)

The only thing I would say was "wrong" (hardly) with the room was that even with the lights on, it was quite dingy- as it gets dark quite early at the moment, we were straining our eyes a little and it was quite tricky to get any high quality photos to show you guys just how brilliant our room really was...I guess you'll have to book a night there to find out for yourself, hey!






         Dinner at The Manor

Dinner at The Manor was something else. Let's start with the layout of the table because there was so much cutlery- I actually said to my boyfriend "thank God I have watched The Princess Diaries so many times and know what most of this is for!". See, pretending to be a Princess my whole life has come in handy!

We were provided with a set menu, with starters, mains and desserts and three different options in each category to choose from. There was also a complimentary basket of bread to snack on while we waited. In all honesty, the starters weren't really my boyfriend and I's kind of thing- we both despise almost all vegetables and the options were:

- Raw Sweet Potato Noodles with marinated wild mushrooms, sweet mino sauce and micro herbs
- Chicken Broth with chicken julienne sliced vegetables and homemade pasta
- Smoked Duck with carrot puree and fig relish

Aside from the fact that we didn't know what all the ingredients were (what the heck is a micro herb?!), as far as we could tell there were vegetables in every dish. I settled for the noodles and my boyfriend went for the broth. It was pretty amusing watching him gag over the vegetables he was given, but my noodles were actually a lot nicer than I expected! It was - essentially- like a cold Chinese dish, so I was happy! 

I can confidently say that the main course was a lot nicer! The options here were:

- Pan Seared Venison with celerlac, beetroot and braised venison bon bon
- Pan Seared Sea Trout with creamed potato, peach and pea puree
- Quinoa with caramelized cauliflower puree, onion textures and braised fennel

As soon as we looked at the menu, we knew what we were getting; the venison! And boy oh boy was that a good decision! I think that it was probably without a doubt one of the nicest pieces of meat I had ever eaten. I'd never tried venison before so was worried I wouldn't be a fan, but it was absolutely gorgeous, and both my boyfriend and I really enjoyed the meal.






Dessert was a lot more tricky to try and choose, as all three dishes sounded incredible: 

- Strawberry Brulee with strawberry sponge, gel, mint meringue and jasmine ice cream
- Chocolate brownie with popcorn ice cream 
- Sticky Toffee Pudding with toffee sauce, chocolate soil and vanilla ice cream

My boyfriend chose the brownie whilst I opted for the sticky toffee pudding and both dishes were honestly incredible. My boyfriend said how the brownie was pretty much melting in his mouth, and my sticky toffee pudding was just dreamy. 

The setting for the meal was lovely- the room had incredibly high ceilings and a large chandelier lighting the room. However, I would say again it was a little dingy and so we were often struggling to see things, but this was a very minor point. They had a great 70's playlist playing too which created quite a romantic atmosphere! 

After dinner, we went to the bar for a bit, were the lovely Lucas served us for about an hour and a half. He was an absolute star, chatting away about the hotel, about his work there, about the alcohol behind the bar (there was a bottle worth over £2,000 on display!) and just about his life- he was really, really lovely and I'm very glad we got to meet him! 

Our night in the suite was very comfortable- the bed was absolutely amazing, the room was very sound proof so we weren't disturbed by outside noises and we both had a great nights sleep!


         Breakfast at The Manor

Although I used to say that without a doubt dinner was my favourite meal of the day, one thing I absolutely love doing is going out for breakfast! Breakfast and brunh dates are just the best and I will never turn one of those down- and now I actually think I'd rather go out for breakfast than dinner sometimes!

Breakfast at The Manor did not disappoint. Obviously- after everything else being so brilliant, why would it have?

There was a buffet of non cooked breakfast, cereals and fruit, toast and juices etc. which was eat as much as you like- you could just go up and help yourself. However, neither me nor my boyfriend chose to use this as there was actually quite an extensive, delicious sounding menu full of cooked breakfast options! 



First of all, can we appreciate how cute it is that the menu says 'good morning!'? Like I said earlier on in the post, I really do appreciate small touches like that! 

I was so spoilt for choice and found it quite hard but eventually settled for a classic full English, 'The Manor Breakfast' minus the black pudding! When it came, you could tell the eggs were fresh and of an excellent quality because the yolks were quite large and very, very orange! 




I do wish I'd maybe broken out my comfort zone and tried something that I wouldn't have usually had, but I guess that just means I'll have to make a trip back in order to try something else, doesn't it! 

Luckily in the light of the morning, the dining room was lit much better and so I could get a good photo of our food (hashtag blogger problems).

After breakfast, we decided to take a nice walk around the large gardens, which housed an outdoor pool, tennis courts and a croquet lawn (pitch? arena? What is the terminology here?!) and even a secret garden which really felt like I was walking straight into the settings of The Secret Garden book. The gardens were gorgeous, even if the weather was a little grey and drizzly- I can only imagine how lovely it must be to take a stroll around the grounds in the summer! It would definitely be a brilliant spot for a blog-based photo shoot and a wedding! 






I was really sad when it was time to check out! Our stay at The Manor was actually the final part of our nine day holiday, and it was such a fabulous way to round off our break away- neither of us wanted to go! We truly had been treated like royalty, living in the lap of luxury for the weekend and we were sad to be going back to reality. We have definitely said we will return for another trip though, because it really was such an excellent hotel.

There are a lot of great deals at the hotel, particularly over the course of Christmas and New Year! My boyfriend and I have already had a quick look at them, and I highly recommend you do too! It might seem a little costly but for a special occasion and for the service you receive it really is worth it- I promise. And to appeal to any bloggers, it is such an Instagrammable place- you'll be able to create at least a weeks worth of content here!

Thank you so much to The Manor for their hospitality over the weekend and for being so accommodating of me and my boyfriend- I am truly grateful and I really do hope to be back soon!

What do you think of The Manor? Have I tempted you into visiting for a weekend break?

Love from,
Florence Grace

This trip was gifted to me by The Manor Hotel in exchange for a review but all thoughts and opinions are my own. For more info on sponsored content, please read my disclaimer at the top of the page.
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5 Things I'm Happy About Right Now

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There's absolutely no denying that right now, life is pretty sweet for me.

I think a lot of people have noticed a change in my tone of voice when I write over the last year or so. In 2016, I was blogging every single day- there were a lot of posts about the heartbreak I was going through, about how miserable I was feeling and about some really low points I was going through, particularly near Christmas time. December 2016 was probably the lowest point I hit that year, and I couldn't even explain why. Whilst overall, 2016 was my year of self discovery, the year where I really began to love and appreciate the person I was, there was a lot of low points for me. A lot.

2017 has definitely seen a new side of me- in fact, I'd even go as far to say that it's seen a brand new version of me! I have had a truly spectacular year and if I thought I couldn't be happier than I was in 2016, I was wrong- 2017 me has reached new levels of happiness altogether. I made new friends, I worked harder on my business and freelance work than ever before, I met new people who are now some of my closest friends, I cut off toxic people who were dragging me down, I got a new job that's kickstarted an entirely new career for me and, now, I have a new relationship too.

I am so happy. I can barely express it in words just how elated I am with my life, how in love I am with my life. I was worried to keep harping on about it, but you guys told me you wanted to hear it- so here I am, telling you all 5 things I am super happy about right now!



My Career
I am so happy with where my work is at right now. My magazine is developing all the time- the latest issue just come out (cop one for yourself here: lovefrommag.bigcartel.com), I'm continuing to do really well in my 9-5 job, I've had some exciting writing opportunities recently, including getting to spend a weekend at a 4* hotel for a review, and have more lined up, I have a presenting gig coming up next month which I can't wait for, even if I am a little nervous... and to top it all off, this weekend I am going to be speaking at an event in London about my business- because I've been recognised as a successful business woman.

That really puts a huge smile on my face. That kind of recognition is unlike anything else! People have doubted me from day one. Sometimes I've just had to clap for my damn self when no one else would in order to keep on going with it all. The fact that it's paying off, with opportunities like this coming up, really makes it all worthwhile. I couldn't be happier about it!

I am so excited to be speaking about being a successful business woman- it's a huge step for my career, and also out of my comfort zone!


The People In My Life
I am honestly surrounded by the best people right now! People who support me, uplift me, are honest with me when they need to be and don't let me take any shit. Some of them have been around for years, some of them have been around for less time than that, but I still love and appreciate them all the same!

It is so important to surround yourself with good people. Negative people who bring toxicity and drama to your life just drag you down and really do have a damaging impact on your mental health- surround yourself with only the best of the best! I took some time to think about who I really needed in my life, who I wanted in my life, and while this year I have definitely made some losses, they're only short term! In the grand scheme of things, these choices are better for me, my mental health, my sanity and my happiness- truly!



My Plans
I've recently just come off of a nine day break, in which I stayed in Manchester for a weekend, Amsterdam for the week and then Bicester for the weekend with my boyfriend- those nine days made me incredibly happy. Especially my time in Amsterdam! It really is my favourite place in the world.

Now, I have a lot more plans coming up that I'm looking forward to- Makeup Revolution's Halloween Party, my birthday weekend with my pals (which I am so excited for!), my friends baby shower, my actual birthday, going to see Tom bloody Hanks in real life (kill me omg), baby Bobbie's first birthday, a presenting job I have coming up, my boyfriend's birthday, another friend of mine having a baby...and that's all just November!

In addition to all that I'm looking at endless mini breaks and holidays for next year, I'm seeing Anne-Marie next year, looking into more presenting gigs and so on. I am just so happy to be fortunate enough to be able to keep my life as busy and exciting as it has been/is!




I'm Seeing Tom Hanks
In less than two weeks, I will be in the centre of the front row at London Southbank Centre listening to my favourite person in the world, Tom Hanks, read from his book and give a talk. Tom Hanks. In person. In real life. In front of me. Did I mention it's also happening on my freaking birthday?!

Anyone who truly knows me will know that this really was a case of the stars aligning for me!! I am so excited I can barely breathe and I am absolutely determined to get him to notice me and say hi- or, better still, happy birthday! I will cry and cry and cry with happiness and would absolutely never ask anything else from life ever again. Ever. (Someone, somewhere please make this happen).



My boyfriend
Alright, alright- if you're opposed to a bit of cheese and a bit of cringe, stop reading now. You must have known this was coming right?

Obviously my boyfriend is making me very happy right now! He's honestly a God send and somehow still manages to surprise me every single day with just how bloody lovely he is. I've honestly never been treated so well or known someone to be so nice all of the time! He absolutely puts the biggest smile on my face every single day, without fail! It is quite a contrast to the way I've been treated previously and he genuinely doesn't get it when I get so emosh/happy over him doing things that he thinks are so simple and insignificant. But it just means so much to me to be treated the way he treats me, and I honestly don't think I've ever been so happy. (Cute, aren't I?)





Someone told me the other day that I am "glowing" with happiness nowadays- glowing! That really made me smile that not only has my life switched right up and made me so happy that I appear to be glowing, but also that other people are noticing too! I get a message almost every day from someone telling me how happy they are for me that my life has turned around or that I'm finally in a good place with the right people.

It means so much to me that people pay attention to me enough to notice changes in my life and in my happiness- it means even more when people leave me lovely messages and comments telling me just how happy they are for me. It's almost overwhelming.

Okay, enough from me- now I want to know what you're happy about right now! It could be anything, 5 things or 1, share them with me in the comments below! Let's all be happy together!

Love from,
Florence Grace
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SURVIVOR

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Earlier on this year, I wrote “I wish younger me had known that it was possible to be this happy all of the time”. Since then, my life has become even happier, if you can believe it! Yet earlier on this week, I shared a post with you that opened up about a time when my life wasn’t quite so happy.  A time when things were far bleaker, where I hit rock bottom and fully believed that that was as good as it was ever going to get for me.

I am a firm believer in the fact that your past does not define you, in any way, shape or form. Sure, it can influence who you are and the choices you make in life, but it doesn’t have to define you and your future, not at all. My past certainly influences the person I am today but it absolutely doesn’t define me. Rather, it has taught me a lesson I won’t ever forget. It taught me how to survive. Because even when I was at rock bottom, when I was torturing myself over the behaviour of others, when my parents were going through a divorce that was breaking my heart and I was being bullied at school by people I believed were my friends and I was being abused by someone who I thought loved me, I survived. I pulled myself through on my own. I made sure I achieved the grades I needed to get into university on my own. I made career choices, worked my butt off to get where I am today and pulled myself through all the hardships on my own. My past, if nothing else, made me a survivor. It taught me how to be strong, how to look after myself, to not let the nasty people in this world drag me down- and today, I am a far better person because of it.




I get called mouthy now. I get told I’m too big for my boots, that I have an attitude problem, that I have my walls built too high around me. Can anyone blame me? After everything I’ve been through, I spot one sign of trouble from someone and I’m out! It’s a defence mechanism that I developed at the age of 15 when my life first began to tilt upside down, and I have used ever since. My ‘mouthy-ness’ isn’t because I don’t care, or want to be a ‘bitch’- it’s because you’ve started to give me shit and I’m not prepared to deal with it, so I’m shutting it down in the only way I know how; by getting defensive, parring you off with some sort of savage comment and cutting you out of my life. It might sound brutal but it’s the way I am because of the things that have happened to me- my brain wants to protect me from everyone.

I don’t mind though. It means I don’t take shit, which means that I am only surrounded by the best people possible. It means no one messes with me, because I don’t give them the chance to. The people in my life are genuine, true friends who are deserving of being there. I couldn’t appreciate them more.

From the age of 15-20 I was bullied, I was abused and I was left with a broken home. Now, I’m 21, with a dream career that I love, alongside running my own business, an incredible group of friends around me who I absolutely love, a settled family home (give or take a few bust ups with my mum…) and an incredible boyfriend. I am happy almost all of the time, happier than I can ever remember feeling before in my life. I honestly couldn’t ask for much more.

I’m a survivor and I'm here to tell you that it always gets better. Life gets better. I can promise you that.

Love from,

Florence Grace
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Domestic Violence Awareness Month

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*Trigger warning. The following content discusses domestic abuse (physical, emotional, mental, sexual), self harm and eating disorders. If that content will trigger you, please do not read on*

I've never had a partner hit me. I've never had a partner kick me. I never had a partner leave me with a black eye, or a bruised face that I needed to cover up with makeup in a desperate attempt to look 'normal'.

What I have had has been far more subtle. Pushed in the stomach so hard I was sick, pinned to the bathroom wall by my throat, arms twisted up behind my back, 'restrained' on the floor, bruises on parts of my body that no one would see. Not once but twice, there ended up being a hole in the wall where my partner tried to scare me as though he was going to punch me, before veering off at the last second. I've had items of mine broken, a door slammed into my face, doors literally burst through because I'd locked myself away on the other side, resulting in the door being totally destroyed. Let's not even begin to speak about the emotional and psychological torment I endured either, plus other forms of abuse I really can't bring myself to address just yet. I suffered at the hands of someone I loved blindly for far too long, and for so long I believed that that was what love was. It didn't matter about this guys behaviour, because he loved me, right? For every bad month there was one good day that seemed to cancel it all out, make it all okay. This was how mature, serious relationships worked, right? There were bad times and you worked through them, but you stuck around for the good days because that was why you loved them and that made it all worth it. Right?

Wrong. 

Wrong, wrong, wrong.




       Being broken


Being in an abusive relationship is something I very rarely talk about. In fact, only four people in this entire world know the full extent of it. My parents know very, very brief details. It's just not something I felt I could share. In fact, I'm still not fully comfortable sharing it now- but it's definitely an important topic that needs discussing. Now that October is here, it's Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and so now seemed a good a time as ever to discuss something that has played a huge part in my life that really isn't discussed a lot. I've wanted to speak up for so long...

...But it feels almost embarrassing, you know? To sit there, with me being the tough, sassy, outgoing individual that I am, and have to confess to people that once upon a time, I let somebody break me. I let them grind me right down until I firmly believed I was nothing. I developed body dysmorphia and odd eating habits, I followed 'rules' to please my partner, I cut all my friends off, I even self harmed at one incredibly low point, I did as I was told. I let him break me.

And while obviously I haven't stayed broken, the scars of what I endured have stuck with me forever. My past doesn't define me, of course it doesn't, but it's always going to be a part of who I am. It plays a massive role in creating the person I am today, impacting upon my relationships with everyone, even if I don't want it to. It just happens.


         My support system

I think having a good support system is absolutely crucial, to all aspects of life really, but particularly if you're going through something like domestic violence. Even if the people you tell can't help, just being able to offload so you aren't carrying the burden alone can make you feel so much better. I tried to tell people before it got too bad, once or twice. Funnily enough, none of them believed me- needless to say, none of them are in my life now.

I distinctly remember showing a friend bruises on my thighs and him saying "You could have done those yourself, how do I know if it was him?", while another friend said "What do you want me to do about it?". Those people? They weren't my friends.

I'm fortunate enough that now I have the right people around me who dragged me through it. They didn't at the time, because I didn't tell them. But when they did know, they proved themselves to be the truest of friends.

Friends who cried because they had no idea what I'd gone through until I confessed. Friends who held me while I cried for hours on end because I thought I'd never be fixed. Friends who have listened to me time and time and time again, always giving me advice and reassurance that, while it might hurt now, in the end it will be okay. Friends who tolerate the fact that sometimes, I need a shot or five of vodka to numb my brain, because while alcohol certainly doesn't solve problems, it sure as hell makes them feel better. Friends who have supported my good decisions and drawn me away from my bad ones. Friends who have believed that I would get better. And I did. 




            Surviving


I'm one of the lucky ones, because for me, it has turned out okay. I managed to leave the relationship, I've managed to process what I've been through, work through it (for the most part) and fix myself. I was left feeling destroyed, unwanted and unlovable and now feel quite the opposite.

But that isn't the case for everyone.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and it's important that this is something we all observe, if even for a day. So often cases of domestic violence go unnoticed. People learn how to hide any physical injuries, abusers learn how to be secret about their violence- sometimes, the abuse can go on for years and years. Sometimes, it can end in death. It's absolutely not acceptable and it needs to stop.

It isn't just women who suffer, either. Domestic violence doesn't discriminate. A huge number of men also suffer in domestic violence cases, but so often they're afraid to speak out for fear of looking weak, or appearing to be less of a man. This simply isn't the case- domestic violence can happen to anyone- even children.





      What now?

Well...what now?

We need to talk about it more, that's for sure. I know growing up, I had no clue about domestic violence until I began reading about it quite frequently in Jacqueline Wilson books, and then in movies and TV shows like Hollyoaks as I got a bit older. It's not something that was discussed at home, or at school. It's not something anyone I knew openly spoke about- but I guess, why would we? We had no reason to.

Often, the domestic violence in pop culture is glamorized, spreading the message that this is love, that this behaviour is normal. We see people forgiving their abusers, being too afraid to speak up, and while this is definitely an accurate representation of real life situations, it also enforces the idea that that's all someone being abused can do- forgive and forget in silence.

Domestic violence can only thrive in silence. The more of a conversation there is about the topic, the more we will be able to pick up the signs of it, help those suffering through it, try and prevent it from happening at all. Everybody deserves to feel safe in their own home, man or woman, adult or child. It's taken me years before I've been able to say anything beyond my little safety net of trusted friends, and obviously if you aren't in a safe situation to speak about it, or don't feel comfortable doing so, then don't. But just know that you don't have to suffer in silence. There is always someone ready to help you, be that a friend, a colleague or a stranger at the end of a phone. You really aren't alone.

For so long I felt like I was alone. I let people disbelieve me, make me doubt myself. I was walked all over, tormented for far too long. Now I'm free, and I'm happy. I'm okay. Don't you think every man and woman in this world deserves the same?

Love from,

Florence Grace

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