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England, full of tantalizing surprises

I hate to love surprises. You didn’t read wrong; it’s true.  Whenever someone has a surprise for me, particularly Paul, I do everything I can to spoil it. I snoop, I guess, I badger, but thankfully, he’s got my number and turns a blind eye to my childish behaviour most times.

Because when he unmasks the surprise, I love it.

This past birthday weekend he planned two grand surprises, as impressive as the time he got me all the way to the airport before revealing that he was taking me to Amsterdam for the weekend. Imagine! The first of the two weekend surprises, I had managed to finagle out of him, long before we set out, but the not the last one. I didn’t find out until we were yards away.

First things first,  a week away from surprise number one, I cajoled Paul until he gave in and arranged a guessing game. He would answer ten yes, no questions of my choice. 1) Are we staying in the United Kingdom? Yes! 2) Is it somewhere we have been before? Yes! 3) Is it Babington House? Yes!

Fireworks! I got packing and Paul got relaxing. He had planned the holiday well in advance to avoid disappointment. On the Friday before my birthday we drove to the English countryside in Somerset.

Long before we got there, I remembered that I hadn’t packed my toothpaste, my robe or a face cloth. I always take the latter because hotels in Europe don’t always have one. Well, well, well, I needn’t have worried. Luxury is the word at Babington House. Feasting my eyes upon the tree-lined driveway and then the grand house, I remembered.

Yes, they had all these amenities and more in our room. We didn’t have to ask for a thing, except a glass of champagne. Anyhow, the room was just as I remembered. Paul had arranged the same one. Spacious and attractive, it had a freestanding, elegant bathtub in the middle of the bathroom.

The main house had a few changes such a massive guestroom, off limits unless you were the guest, which used to be a huge relaxation room, where chairs hung from the ceiling literally. The location of the restaurant had changed, but the food, every meal, was fresh and delicious, although not a patch on surprise number two.

I am getting there. Bear with! From enchanting grounds with breath-taking views to a cosy library with the most exquisite and comfy chairs, Babington House is one of England’s best holiday spots.

Now, for the second surprise. The Monday after my birthday, Paul worked as usual, came home and suggested we go out for dinner around 8.30ish. And no matter how much I coaxed, he kept quiet until we arrived in Knightsbridge and even then I had to guess it—Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at the Mandarin Oriental.

OMG was all I could say. And after a wonderful dinner in the most delightful atmosphere, I can tell you that Heston deserves his most recent Michelin Star for this very restaurant. If you go there, get anything! It all looks wonderful and simply must be. But we had the prime rib for two, most uncharacteristic of us, and it was divine, as was the serving of brown bread ice cream. Heaven!

Shame that Heston didn’t actually turn up there, but he does cook, design each and every recipe and test, test, test like only he can, so I am told. What can I say, the man is busy. In his absence, I managed to stash a keepsake—the menu. Shush! Now, I have never been one to behave so ridiculously, but with two major surprises within days of each other, I was feeling elated.

Some might say it was the wine. Good point, but anyone who knows Paul knows that these two surprises, back to back, are to be cherished and remembered for a long time.

Just kidding. The man is full of surprises and so is his England. Oops! Mine, too.