Saturday, January 02, 2010

On the twenty-seventh and twenty-eighth days of Christmas...

...the Budman and I headed 30 minutes south to enjoy a day or so of R&R.  One of the gifts that Santa gave to the Budman was an overnight spa break at Cliveden Hotel.  Since the Budman is all about luxury hotels, spa treatments and historic places, Santa did good!

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Another added bonus for the Budman was that this roadtrip commemorated THE FIRST time the Budman had driven since getting his UK driving license.  Sighs of relief the whole way round... mainly because he had to keep cancelling his appointment to take the test due to work conflicts.  However, in mid December, a few days before Christmas, the Budman received the green light to hit the road.  So, for this trip, he was behind the wheel.

The first house was built in 1666 by the 2nd Duke of Buckingham. A notorious rake, schemer and wit, he created Cliveden as a hunting lodge where he could entertain his friends and mistress. Since then it has twice been destroyed by fire, only to emerge, phoenix-like, more stunning than before. The house has played host to virtually every British Monarch since George I and has been home to three Dukes, an Earl and Frederick Prince of Wales.

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Queen Victoria, a frequent guest, was not amused in 1893 when the house was bought by William Waldorf Astor, America’s richest citizen. When he gave it to his son and daughter-in-law in 1906, Cliveden became the hub of a hectic social whirl where guests included everyone from Charlie Chaplin to Winston Churchill, and President Roosevelt to George Bernard Shaw.  It was after the First World War that Cliveden really came into its own as centre of social and political influence, when Nancy Astor decided to enter Parliament. She made history when she became the first ever woman MP at Westminster in 1919.

Perhaps the earliest sign of what was eventually to become of Cliveden came in 1942, when Waldorf’s concerns over the cost of the house’s upkeep prompted him to give the entire estate to the National Trust. The arrangement provided for the Astor family to continue living at Cliveden for as long as they wished to remain. Like many country homeowners, the post-war years for the Astors were tough, not helped by a distancing of relations between Nancy and Waldorf. Waldorf himself died in August 1952, while Nancy outlived him by another 12 years. The death of her eldest son, Bill, the third Viscount Astor, two years after hers, spelt the end for the 73-year long reign of the Astors at Cliveden. Today. it is a fabulous hotel where people can enjoy the feeling of living in an English estate.

Photos of the house, its exterior, Great Hall and other lovely rooms, and other historical buildings.

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The Christmas tree in the Great Hall at Cliveden.

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Budman and Hachie Gal enjoy afternoon tea,

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The exterior of Cliveden....from all sides.

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Cliveden at night.

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Our room, the Price Albert room.

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Scene of the spa treatments...thanks, Santa.

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Cliveden Hotel sits on 376 acres of National Trust land that is equally as beautiful to walk, which we did on both days.  The Thames River also flows right past this house and grounds as well.

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Kissing the Budman until the mistletoe.
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(Like those wellies?!)

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Farewell, Cliveden!

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