Red (Taylor’s Version) is still holding the internet’s heart hostage – and no one’s complaining. Except maybe Jake Gyllenhaal. Tough time to be that guy.
The singer waited a decade to re-release her fourth studio album on her terms, delicate heartbreak anthems and cinematic music videos inspiring Autumn/Winter wanderlust in millions. All anyone wants to do is don a red scarf, drive to the countryside and crunch leaves underfoot.
The day the album dropped, this Swiftie was doing just that. On a trip to Hotel Four Seasons Hampshire, I was delighted to discover the countryside retreat subscribes to Taylor’s whimsical aesthetic. Wind in my hair, I was there, I remember it all too well… so here’s a full review.
Just an hour’s drive or a quick train ride out of central London, the Georgian manor house is heaven for travellers looking for a slice of England’s green and pleasant land (that’s not too far from Harrods – many guests arrive via the helipad).
Wheeling our suitcases down the sweeping drive at sunset (3.30pm – sigh), the beauty of the bucolic surroundings made us stop in our tracks.. You don’t get that from a chopper!
The beauty of the bucolic surroundings made us stop in our tracks....
Awash with greens, golden yellows and browns, I couldn’t have asked for a better setting to melancholically relive relationship trauma to catchy country tunes.
Immediate plans were made to get up early and run through (a couple of) the hotel’s 500 acres, with Nothing New on repeat until our ears joined the leaves in falling clean off. This plan was of course scuppered following a few hours of robe donning, sauna sweating, wine quaffing, overeating and blissfully oversleeping.
We began by planting our bags in our beautifully appointed Heritage room, featuring a huge flat screen TV, enormous bed, top notch coffee machine and view of the fields beneath. A mini apple pie lay in wait for us on the table, next to a map detailing horse riding, clay pigeon shooting and the like.
Toasting the sun as it dipped over the horizon, I resisted taking the pie and wine to languish in the marble-clad tub. Instead, we switched Taylor off for a bit and headed for a spectacular dinner in the hotel restaurant, Wild Carrot.
We were pleased to be looked after by a delightful lad, whose mother was revealed to be none other than Ariane Steinbeck, the interiors guru responsible for many of the hotel’s bedroom designs.
Discussion of my plus one’s engagement the previous day earned us a complimentary glass of Champagne...
Discussion of my plus one’s engagement the previous day earned us a complimentary glass of Champagne, taking the edge off any existentialism fuelled by a certain pop star’s work of semi-fiction.
Charmed by deft service and a strong cocktail list, we took our time deciding between torched yellowfin tuna, Spring Welsh lamb rack and dry aged Rib Eye steak. Dover crab cavatelli won out, a lemon-tinged coral emulsion piquing our interest, followed by rich chocolate cake with citrus tender cream.
Hungover the next morning, we cursed ourselves for missing the (excellent) gym’s group aerobics class – then shrugged and headed to the breakfast buffet. As expected, we found an embarrassment of riches spanning organic eggs, cereals, fluffy pancakes, the Full English and so on.
If there’s one thing a cloudy brain full of winsome country song lyrics needs, it’s a few hours in a cosseting spa. Especially one that promises to massage body *and* mind. Thoughtfully, this one offers hypnotherapy and guided meditation for guests with aches and pains that can’t be treated with a back rub.
I smiled to myself as I was reminded of the memes currently circling the internet: Swifties asking for Taylor’s address, so they can forward on their therapy bill. An hour’s ‘deep mind massage’ later, I emerged with thoughts a little less tangled.
Finally, I settled in for a soothing Diamond Cocoon Facial, a prebiotic treatment promising to offer pollution protection. A skilled therapist talked through my skincare routine and exposure to damaging pollutions (sadly, not suitors), before massaging my face and neck with Natura Bissé lotions. I suppose I can’t get away with invoicing Taylor for that one.
Feeling much perkier, it was time to drive home. Faster than the wind, passionate as sin, ending so suddenly, I remember it all too well. And so will you…