We’ve been in London way too long without getting out of the city, so we planned a quick weekend trip to Hampshire to kick off our summer of travel. There were a few weekends previously that we planned to travel to the countryside, but the weather predicted rain and being stuck in a hotel room with a toddler is not my idea of a relaxing weekend. And as luck would have it, those weekends turned out to be beautiful and sunny. This weekend was predicted to be cold and rainy but we were determined this time. We rented a car and left Saturday morning for the 1.5 hour drive to Hampshire, which is southwest of London.
We arrived a few hours before check-in, but the amazing Hotel Terravina welcomed us early. The room had already been cleaned and set up with a cot (crib) and a baby monitor (which would come in handy later…). In 2007, the Hotel Terravina changed ownership and was fully renovated. It has only 11 rooms, each of which are decorated differently in an eclectic, yet comfortable style. The majority of rooms also offer private outdoor spaces, which would be lovely in the summer. The hotel is in a great central location right on the edge of New Forest, one of the largest remaining tracts of unenclosed pasture land.
We were able to drop off our stuff and get a recommendation for lunch. They sent us to The White Hart, a cosy pub with a fireplace, dogs lounging indoors, a playground with a tractor and horses out back. It was the epitome of an English country pub and we loved it. The little one had been sitting for too long and was not interested in waiting patiently for her food in her high chair, so we strolled out back to “drive” the tractor, talk to the horses and play on the swings and slide. After we’d had our fill of the cold, we went inside and made trails with dominoes and laughed as they toppled over. We couldn’t resist finishing the meal with some delicious Sticky Toffee Pudding!
Now that our bellies were full, we hopped in the car for our next destination. To our surprise, we encountered several horses that were meandering through the streets, stopping to chew some grass whenever they desired. At first I was concerned that they had broken out of their field but soon realised this must be normal when the car behind us honked to keep moving! A few minutes later, we passed some cows enjoying a meal from a bush with their rumps practically in the road. Had we done our research in advance, we would’ve known that New Forest was an unenclosed pasture, but I didn’t learn that until I began writing this post!
We were headed to the Beaulieu Motor Museum, which is much more than just a car museum. On the Beaulieu land, you can tour the National Motor Museum, the Palace House and Gardens, the Abbey ruins and a special “Top Gear” exhibit. The 8,000 acres were originally owned by the King and used as a royal hunting lodge. In 1204, King John gave the land to the Monks of the Cisterian Order, who built and expanded the Abbey for a few hundred years. When King Henry VIII ordered the dissolution of monasteries in the 1530s, the Abbey was destroyed. In 1538, the 1st Earl of Southhampton took ownership of the land and converted one of the homes into a manor house, though it was never used as a primary residence until Lord Henry Scott was given the land in 1867 by his father as a wedding present. He made significant changes to the home and transformed it into the Palace House that we were able to tour. Lord Henry is the great grandfather of the current owner, Lord Montagu. In 1912, the ruins of the Abbey were opened for visitors to tour and in 1952, the Palace House and Gardens became one of the first royal homes open to the public. Lord Montagu’s late father was a huge advocate of the motor cars movement, so for the grand opening of Palace House, he displayed five of his father’s collected cars. The public’s interest in these historical cars kicked off what would later develop into the National Motor Museum, which opened in 1972. We started our tour with the Motor Museum and we were pleasantly surprised that we didn’t have to wrangle too much with the toddler. She had fun looking at the cars and there were plenty of staged photo opportunities, which helped keep her engaged. I typically don’t have much interest in cars, but even I thoroughly enjoyed walking through the history of British motor cars, including some record-breaking race cars. The museum has over 280 vehicles, the earliest of which was built in 1875. I’ve included a few pictures here, but you can view all the cars on the National Motor Museum’s website here.
Next we decided to tour the Palace House, which ended up being relatively quick since we were getting towards closing time. We were unable to tour the Abbey but hope to return when the gardens are fully in bloom and spend more time on the grounds.
By now, it’s about 5pm and time to go back to the hotel for the little one’s dinner reservation. That’s right – the hotel made a special reservation for her to eat in the restaurant at 5:30 because (drumroll please) Trevor and I had our own reservation at 7:30 for an adult dinner! “Wait!”, you ask, “How are you going to have dinner in the (highly rated) hotel restaurant at 7:30 pm while your daughter is asleep in the room?” Because folks, this awesome hotel gave us a baby monitor with the intent that we give it to receptionist while we enjoy a delicious three course meal at a normal hour. Yep, patting myself on the back for finding this gem of a hotel! So we head into the restaurant for Munchkin’s reservation and they have our table all set up with a chair-top high chair, plastic plates and cutlery, a special children’s menu and a wine menu for us. Baby girl eats while we enjoy our pre-dinner wine. Once she’s done, we go back to the room to relax a little, give the little one a bath (with the rubber duckies provided by the hotel) and change clothes. We put her to bed, grab the baby monitor and drop it off at the reception desk. She assures us she’ll let us know if she hears a peep (which she didn’t…until I insisted that Trevor go in and check on her in case the monitor wasn’t actually working and woke her up when opening the door which took a good 20 minutes to put her back to sleep…). Needless to say, it was an invaluable service to be able to have a mini-vacation with the toddler, yet enjoy a quiet, non-rushed, adult dinner.
The next morning, we wake up and head to the restaurant for our breakfast where they again had a table pre-set with a high chair and place setting for our daughter. After breakfast, we pack our belongings and check out, fully prepared for another big day!
Next on our to-do list – Peppa Pig World! Check back for Day 2 of our trip to Hampshire!