As Brits in New York, we often yearn for a return to the bucolic beauty of Blighty. Descending through the duvet of dark clouds, we spotted London’s meandering artery and felt pangs of Proustian “recherche du temps perdu”, recalling childhood walks along the Cotswold banks at the Thames source.
CLIVEDEN IS THE FAMED RIVERSIDE ESTATE perched on a Buckinghamshire hill, just 20 minutes from Heathrow, with commanding views over the entire county and vast stretches of the river.
ON OUR FIRST NIGHT, we had dinner in the former Astor stables. We sifted through highlights of Natalie Livingstone’s “The Mistresses of Cliveden” and recalled the racier days of the Profumo Affair and the decadence of the Astor era.
Ever the nosey parker, I woke up early the next day and headed down to the river. Feeling alone on the 400-acre estate, I spotted the romantic riverside cottage, Spring Cottage, which had once housed Christina Keeler at the time of the infamous affair, and also noticed the hotel’s svelte wooden river boats from the 1930s. One particular boat, the graceful Suzy Ann, would become the focus of our evening’s entertainment.
LATER THAT EVENING, we were ushered into the shuttle and accompanied down to the river by the baritone drawls of Michael the butler and were greeted by the cheerful Captain Paul.
“Suzy Ann meandered and wove along unspoiled stretches of the river taking me back to my school days.”
Suzy Ann meandered and wove along unspoiled stretches of the river, taking me back to my school days at Eaton College, not far from Cliveden. With a club famed for its rowing prowess, there I was able to commandeer a skull boat at weekends with friends and would skull down the Thames to Monkey Island for a beer. This floating saunter down the Thames will surely remain the highlight of our trip.
THE EVENING ENDED WITH DINNER at the Michelin-starred restaurant headed by André Garret. The undisputed culinary hero of the dinner was the grouse, which was a week into season and cooked to precision.
Alas, the trip passed by all too quickly, but we rolled out after only two days feeling well-rested, educated, exercised, fed and inspired.