When I first thought about starting this luxury travel website, I decided that it would be boring and predictable to merely review swanky 5 star hotels. Although they can be extremely luxurious and opulent, they are not always special. Some of my best experiences and most treasured stays have been in cave hotels in Turkey, or Riads in Marrakesh. Small, places full of charm and character. Sure, they don’t always have TV’s in the bathroom, or award winning spa’s, but they have other attributes that can equal and even exceed those highly starred behemoths.
I am pleased to introduce you to one such place, ‘Church House’, a Bed and Breakfast in Midhurst, West Sussex, owned by Fina Jurado, somewhat of a local legend. Fina used to own Midhurst’s most popular bar, Picasso’s and it’s most popular restaurant, Gaudi’s, and both establishments would draw a barrage of customers from all over the country, and even further afield. Fina, who came to the UK from Spain 30 years ago, and is now a self confessed Anglophile, is notoriously discreet when it comes to speaking about her regular customers, and was extremely tight lipped when asked, but it is a well known fact that she is loved by most of England’s landed gentry (including Royalty), the world’s best Polo players, and several A-list celebrities, having hosted them regularly over a period of many years. For those that don’t know Midhurst, it is home to Cowdray Park, one of the country’s top Polo venues, and is close to Goodwood, home of the Festival of Speed and Glorious Goodwood amongst other events. As you might imagine therefore, Midhurst attracts the great and the good of not only Britain, but all over the world. I never went to either Picasso’s or Gaudi’s, but I really wish I had, because there are countless stories of late nights, bad behaviour, and a lot of fun had over a golden age.
One day, Fina decided that it was time to gracefully wind down Picasso’s and Gaudi’s, a devastating blow and a big shock to its loyal following, seeing as they were both still as buzzing and popular as they had ever been. It was time for Fina to stop working so hard and enjoy a slightly more sedentary life. First she would renovate Church House, where Gaudi’s was located, and then she would rent it out. Or so she thought, until a conversation with her estate agent made her change her mind, and she opened up Church House as a B and B. Fina’s reputation of being a first class host has become so legendary that, from the moment she decided to open up Church House to guests, she has received never ending enquiries as to it’s availability, and it has once again become a full time job!
I arrived outside the modest looking building which is dated from the 1300’s. It looked a bit pokey if I’m honest. ‘Oh well, its only one night’, I thought. To my absolute bewilderment, as I walked through the front door, a HUGE open plan house opened up before my very eyes. It was as though the doors of the wardrobe had opened to reveal Narnia. As our fellow guests commented later, the first thought you have when we arrive is ‘I want to live here’. It is perfection.
We were shown up the contemporary wooden staircase to our bedroom. By now I was frantically trying to work out how I might be able to own a property like this one day. The room was long and spacious, with the French oak beams that feature throughout the house, at one end a lovely stained glass window, and a beautiful freestanding bath taking centre stage at the far end of the room, not far from the elegant King size bed.
Made to feel instantly comfortable, we were shown around by Fina, and chatted away, waxing lyrical about how beautifully she had decorated the property, and questioning her as to where she had obtained all of the stunning antique furniture which adorns every room. The mix of both traditional English pieces, and the touch of Spain that pervades through the paintings and sculptures betrays a lot of Fina’s own personality; elegant, cultured, and, there is no other word to describe it. . . . so very, very classy. We carried on talking over a cup of tea downstairs in the kitchen next to the incredible professional French oven, clearly a machine for someone who has spent a large part of her life cooking to the very highest level. She produced a home made coconut and jam cake, still warm, and so delicious that I crept downstairs later that even to stuff my face once more.
That evening we had planned to take a trip to Chichester to go to the theatre, but seeing as we felt so utterly relaxed, we decided it would be foolish not to spend as much time as possible relaxing in front of the fire and pretending, just for one evening, that it was our home. And what greater compliment than that could I give of this Very Special Stay?
To book your stay, call Fina on +44 (0) 1730 812990
or +44 (0) 7875 971368.