the georgian townhouse : walton-on-the-naze : essex

the georgian townhouse : walton-on-the-naze : essex

Recently, we travelled south to Essex to visit a We Are Life client and decided to make a bit of trip of it. Not having ever been to Essex before, assuming it was all brash a-la “The Only Way is Essex”, we weren’t really sure what to expect and I certainly didn’t have high hopes for a bit of high end, but affordable, luxury. In fact, this was probably what I thought Essex was all about…

But, Walton-on-the-Naze, is so much more than jellied eels. Sure, there are very traditional English seaside touches but there’s also a lot of beauty…

And, in a major stroke of luck – especially as they don’t have a website or a twitter account – we found The Georgian House. It’s described as a “B&B” over on website booking sites, but I don’t think it would be stretching it too far to say that it’s as good as any self-described “boutique hotel” we’ve stayed in. The house itself is very large – a stunningly restored Georgian townhouse over four floors, full of the original features. Perhaps one of the reasons it is described as a “B&B”, is that it is primarily a home, lived in by the owners, Geoff & Chris. However, it’s not the kind of B&B where it’s stuffed full of the owner’s mis-matching knick-knacks. This one exudes style, taste and elegance. Everything – from light switches to door handles to cutlery to taps to bedding to Farrow & Ball heritage colours – is in keeping with the style of the property, whilst acknowledging that guests probably also want a bit of 21st century luxury. It is beyond clean – taps literally sparkle. The bathroom was pristine – and like a boutique hotel, with complimentary toiletries. No half used bottle of liquid soap here. Towels were big, white and fluffy. Lush!

There are two “rooms” available for guests. Ours was just off the main staircase on the first floor and it was not a room at all. It was a mini apartment. A huge bedroom (again attention to detail was superb) with a separate bathroom (free standing bath) & toilet – although our room didn’t overlook the sea, this was not a problem because the accommodation was just spectacular.

Now, breakfast. I always have an issue with B&B breakfasts. Either the dining room is pretty horrible, or the food is bland or just plain awful. But The Georgian House does breakfast, with bells on. There’s only one table in the dining room – which is at the front of the house so all you can see is the sea – but as there are only two rooms to let, I don’t think you’d ever be fighting for a seat. Fresh fruit, juices, cereals, fresh breads & croissants, proper coffee served in a proper silver coffee pot and a full English that ranks up there with one of the best I’ve had.

Our first visit to the Georgian Townhouse was in 2013 and we always said if we were ever in the area again, we’d definitely do a stop-over. Fast forward to 2019, and we’d moved to Istria from Manchester. But on a trip back to the UK in September 2019, we drove and did a ferry crossing from Harwich, meaning were back in Essex and close to the Georgian Townhouse, so we made a booking.

It was good to see that, after fouor years, the high standards were still there. We got to stay in the same room again – but were shown the other – and everything was still pristine. Just as we remembered. As was breakfast – superb quality ingredients, fabulous presentation and all served in a room, with huge Georgian windows, overlooking the sea, right across the road.

We have not been paid to write this blog post – we paid full price for both of our stays – but we felt that The Georgian Townhouse is well deserving of a very high recommendation.

Road Trip : September 18

Road Trip : September 18

We’ve made a few trips back to England since we moved out to Istria, and we’ve just completed our second road trip. Driving is definitely not the quickest way to get back, but it’s surprisingly less stressful than flying. And especially landing in a UK airport. Specifically Manchester…

Last time we drove, we headed across northern Italy, through the Mont Blanc Tunnel, skirting around the edges of Switzerland and up through France to Calais. We decided to try a different route this time and headed north up into Austria, Germany and Holland. We could have chosen a very scenic, mountainous route but that would have added hours and hours to what was already quite a long drive, so we didn’t get to see the best that these countries obviously have to offer. Germany, in particular, was pretty flat for the duration of the route we took and certainly no real Instagramable moments. However, the German motorways made up for lack of spectacular scenery – although very fast, they felt very safe as everyone seemed to really respect the rules of the road. Unlike in Italy. Holland, whilst still very flat – as we expected – became a lot prettier the more north we travelled. It has to be said, all three countries seemed to manage roadworks way, way better than happens in England. There were roadworks along the way, but the traffic largely kept flowing. Until we got to England, and this was what greeted us as we left Harwich, and became almost the norm as we travelled to various points in the country…

You definitely know when you are back in the UK…

This time we decided to try a different ferry crossing, opting for the longer Hook of Holland to Harwich route. This turned out to be a good decision, because finding and navigating both ports was really easy – they are both quite small, compared to Calais and Dover and Portsmouth etc, and well sign-posted. Maybe it was the time of day/year, too but on both journeys, we embarked and disembarked and got through passport control quickly and efficiently.

We didn’t book cabins as the crossings were in the daytime, but did book seats in the Stena Lounge. This was described as a quiet lounge, where you could relax or work, in comfort. In reality, it was a little bit like a lounge in a retirement home – although with the added bonus of complimentary drinks. The crossing was a good seven hours, so for the return journey we decided to book a cabin (see below) – with a 9am departure, it seemed like a good opportunity to catch up on some much needed shut-eye, and before arriving back in Holland at 5pm. We hit very, very lucky with the weather on the return leg – brilliant blue skies and a very calm North Sea…

Now, here’s a bit of a top tip if you ever do this crossing. It does take a whole day – and a whole day sitting in a communal area can go quite slowly. So, once onboard, get yourself along to the Guests’ Services desk and enquire about booking a cabin, because if they’re not all booked, they sell them off. Cheaply. So, we bagged a triple berth cabin which had a double bed, with a single bunk above, sea view, desk area and large(ish) bathroom with good shower, for just over 35 euros. Worth every cent to be able to have some privacy, catch up on sleep and freshen up. We’d also pre-booked lunch in the main restaurant – at 16 euros for two courses it seemed good value. And, we weren’t disappointed. The food was good restaurant standard and the portions very filling. Although it did all feel a bit “Triangle” when the Prawn Cocktail & Marie Rose Starter arrived. No Kate O’Mara though…

Retro North Sea lunch…

We’d never been to Harwich before, and needed somewhere to stay when arrived as we didn’t dock until 7.30pm, but to be honest we struggled a bit finding somewhere that looked appealing. However – and here’s another top tip – Walton-on-the-Naze is only 20 minutes away and I remembered our last stay here, at the beautiful Georgian Townhouse. There was availability on both nights we needed (arrival & departure) so we booked again. It was like a home from home and everything we remembered. Beautiful room, bathroom with a roll-top bath, super comfy bed, excellent breakfast, uninterrupted sea views and wonderful hosting from Chris & Geoff. Do yourself a favour if you’re ever Essex way and make a booking. You won’t regret it.

On the way back, we decided to take more of a tour through Switzerland. A word of warning coming up here – if you are going drive on a Swiss motorway, and you’re only passing through, get on Google Maps or which ever app you use, and find a route that AVOIDS motorways. You have to have a vignette to drive on the motorways – if, like us, you hadn’t realised, as you approach the motorway, the police will syphon you off into a lane where you then have to buy a vignette. At a cost of 40 euros! Once we’d got over the shock of this unexpected expenditure, we realised that actually this wasn’t too bad for us, because we can get to Switzerland quite easily and now having paid to drive on the motorways, we’ll probably explore it more over the next year. But, as I say, if you are literally just passing through, it’s quite a hefty fee to pay – especially if you’re unfortunate enough to join at one junction and exit at the next…

Having said that, and we didn’t even get high up into the mountains, Switzerland is beautiful and it was probably worth the 40 euros to see the little that we saw. I’ve since read this excellent article from The Culture Trip and will be definitely using this as a guide next time we visit, because we were a little bit captivated by Heidi Land.

We sailed a return trip with Stena Line for less than £250 for two of us, plus a car. If you book seats in the Stena Lounge, drinks (wine, soft drinks, water, tea & coffee) are complimentary – and although you could get well and truly sloshed, as there was no limit applied to how many times you could refill your glass, it didn’t seem quite the right thing to do on this occasion. As well as the restaurant where we pre-booked lunch (we didn’t realise the ferry would be quite as quiet as it was, so a booking, post summer, is probably not necessary), there is also another restaurant which serves hot food and when I looked, had a really extensive selection, including veggie options and salads, sandwiches etc.

So, will we be doing a road trip again? Yes, most definitely. It gives us freedom. We can decide how long we are going to be away, plan the route to suit ourselves, and have the bonus of having an empty car we can fill up with goodies when back in England, and en-route. Those French hyper-markets are just too good to not factor in a few wine stock-up stops!