Last weekend my fellow mama in crime Sarah and I ventured off for a much needed overnight getaway in historic York, courtesy of the hip, boutique Hotel Indigo. The plan was: lots of good food, some G&T’s and plenty of mooching around at a leisurely pace without small folks nipping at our heels.
We arrived Sunday afternoon after a very civilised two and half hour train ride in which we spent a lot of time debating the merits of blogging, advertising, brands and Social Media – we’re true geeks I know! Once at York we hopped in a cab for a very quick ride to Walmgate and our home for the night the Hotel Indigo.
First impressions were pretty good. Cool reception area? Tick. Nice receptionist? Tick. Intriguing fireplace letting off mystical looking fake flames and vapours? Tick. We were shown to our Chocolate Box themed room which was small but perfectly formed. The decor was, as you’d expect, food-themed with cool jelly mould light fittings and chocolate box-shaped scatter cushions on the bed. All very hip and nicely done. Luckily, for me, there were a couple of Kit Kats waiting for us which of course I happily inhaled (I was starving!) – York is synonymous with chocolate you see hence the room theme etc but more on that later.
Once we’d unpacked (exploded the contents of our bags everywhere in ten minutes flat) we set off by foot to explore the city. I’d been to York once before but only for a few hours and not properly explored. Sarah had been tipped off that Betty’s Tearoom was THE place for afternoon sustenance so she’d booked us in for a 1pm champagne tea thank you very much. When we arrived the queue was impressive, snaking around the building but thanks to Sarah’s organised streak we skipped that and went straight in.
We were both totally mesmerised by the art décor elegance and the glamour Betty’s oozed. As first in for the 1pm sitting we were able to soak up all the atmosphere and snap away before any one else arrived. Based on the grandiose décor of the Queen Mary Ocean Liner (founder Frederick Belmont having sailed on the Queen Mary's maiden voyage then commissioned the Queen Mary's designers and craftsmen to create Betty's York), you couldn’t help but feel glamorous just sitting there – even if you were in a hoodie, sneakers and a man’s anorak!
We were instantly intoxicated by the exquisite wall-to-wall wood panelling, smart table settings and the lounge pianist playing standards behind us. Two glasses of champagne arrived at the table and instantly we kicked out of mum mode, stopped checking our phone for kid updates and got into the moment.
The tea was exceptional. Of course, I took advantage of the refillable sandwiches happily going in for two rounds – the egg cress and the coronation chicken were my personal faves. We indulged in two different brews from their incredibly extensive menu Sarah went for Gunpowder green tea and I the mild Betty’s blend which was lovely. As we're both not fans of sultana scones we opted for two lavender ones which were beautifully subtle and the perfect mix of crumbly and moist. Probably one of the best I’ve had. By the time we got to the top tier, for some the most important bit of the whole afternoon tea, I was starting to lag. Don’t get me wrong, I still managed to fit in a couple mouthfuls of their amazing chocolate and raspberry mousse cake before, sadly, admitting defeat (until next time!)
As we spilled out of Betty’s and back into the slightly less glamorous reality of 2015 we were stuffed and happy. The rest of the afternoon was spent exploring York’s historic, winding streets taking in the wonderful mix of architecture, antiques and food shops - perfect for Sarah’s interior design obsession and my need to eat something every couple of hours. The more we explored the more it became apparent the scale of the recent floods and what a devastating effect they’d had on local businesses. The street our hotel was on seemed the worst hit with every other business closed as they tried to battle with the damage. It was very sad to see but there was a prevailing sense of determination not to let it win - truly impressive in the face of it all.
We had no dinner plans but after a couple of hour exploring various options and keen to avoid the litany of chains we booked a table at Ambiente Tapas just near our hotel. Having heard a lot of Spanish being spoken as we ambled I was confident it’d be a safe bet for a great dinner.
We popped back to the hotel to indulge in that rare treat of actually having time to get ready at leisure and a fellow gal to do it with. In fact, as Sarah’s hair is always on point, I declared that she must make my mop look glam like hers and kindly she indulged me. So, with glam hair and face, (still sporting a hoodie and kicks as I packed light) we set out into the night for Tapas and vino. The evening itself was lovely but the food was bland and underwhelming, which was frustrating since every street was littered with independent pubs and restaurants but ce la vie! A couple of G&T’s at the hotel bar later and we were in bed at the ridiculously civilised 10.30pm. Well, we did have a day of exploring to do ahead of us and a mama needs to get sleep when she can!
The next day we were booked into York’s Chocolate Story exhibition which I was, as you can imagine, greatly looking forward to. We both woke up feeling a little worse for the wear but Sarah quickly started to feel seriously queasy but we cracked on nonetheless, keen to see what the deal was with York’s chocolate history. The exhibition was very impressive, from learning how the greats like Rowntree, Cadbury (an apprentice of Rowntree who later took up shop in Birmingham), Tuke, Terry and Fry, all Quakers, got into the trade to how they evolved chocolate from a drink to a bar and the battles that then ensued to remain relevant and keep a slice of the pie. We even learnt that Smarties are only the way we know and love them today because a factory worker decided to shake things up on her shifts and mix the colours up rather than keeping it to one colour per box. Thank god for the disrupters of status quo eh?! Quick chocolate fact for you: 6 million Kit Kats are produced in York every day. Mind blown?
At the end of the tour we got to taste some good chocolate, make our own chocolate lollipops and then watch a chocolatier make us some strawberry and lime filled chocolates from scratch for us to indulge in. Suffice to say we left the exhibition with a smile (Sarah less so) and the firm belief that we too could make our own filled chocolates at home – so far this has not happened!
With Sarah rapidly going down hill we went back to the Hotel, asked to borrow a room for a couple of hours (which they kindly let us do at no charge) and chilled before jumping on our train home. Suffice to say nearly 3 hours travelling backwards on a packed train didn’t help poor Sarah’s state but she handled it like a trooper.
Illness aside we had a blast, our trip was the perfect mix of exploring and eating which are the key ingredients to a memorable and enjoyable weekend getaway in my book. The hotel was perfect for a weekend exploring and is within walking distance of all the action. The service was fabulous, especially when Sarah became ill and the rooms are really reasonable, one like ours started at £89! If you do go to York don’t skip York's Chocolate Story, you’ll only regret it.