We wanted to celebrate our wedding anniversary with good food, relaxation and romance in a boutique hotel with a bit of a adventure thrown in. We got a bit more adventure than we bargained for!
Finding a place to celebrate our wedding anniversary in the middle of winter always proves a challenge. Our next anniversary was to be our fifth and we decided we wanted to do something unique and special. Flicking through a short holidays book we discovered Muhu Island. Not only did the island promote the prospect of snowshoeing through crisp white snow, it’s also home to Estonia’s top spa hotel Padaste Manor. Time spent outdoors in an idyllic winter wonderland, cosy accommodation in an atmospheric manor, luxurious spa treatments and gourmet food. It sounded like the perfect way to celebrate our anniversary!
After a three-hour flight from London we arrived in Tallin and the backpackers in us decided that we would use local transport of a bus and ferry to travel the rest of the way to our luxury accommodation. Padaste offer the option of a limousine pick-up service.
Muhu Island is pancake flat and the manor is set on the curve of a bay with tall reeds and the seawater lapping gently at the shore. The manor is a beautiful, regal building dating back to the fourteenth century. Twilight arrives early in February and the inside of the manor was made all the more inviting with an open fire roaring in the sitting room, candles flickering on the windowsills and relaxing music playing in the background.
We stretched our legs with a bracing walk around the picturesque property – there was a definite mid-winter feeling in the air and we were some of the brave first guests of the season. This meant that we were upgraded to a much bigger room than we had booked. By the time we were ready for dinner a storm had rolled in bringing strong rain and heavy winds. The fine dining restaurant is in a separate building across the grounds, but every detail had been thought of and the staff were waiting at the door with an umbrella to keep us dry.
Dinner was a lovely candlelit three courses of local delicacies with a touch of drama thrown in! The storm had blown over power lines and the restaurant was plunged into darkness mid-meal and the kitchen left without electricity. The fantastic service came to the fore again – guests were offered blankets to keep warm and alternative desserts were concocted to replace the baked chocolate puddings on the menu. We were greeted back in our room by more thoughtful touches – candles to light our way and a hand baked cookie on the bedside table.
After a cosy nights sleep breakfast was a spectacular three courses including pastries, scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, a selection of cheeses, cold meat and pickled fish. This was served silver service set to tinkling music with a lovely view over the gardens.
The only disappointment so far was the lack of snow, which meant no snowshoeing. We instead opted to tour the island on the manor’s mountain bikes. Today was our wedding anniversary and we had booked one of Padaste’s romantic packages that include a champagne accompanied hot tub, spa treatment and private dinner. We set off planning to be back in time for our 3pm booking. We cycled into the centre of the island, stopping to take pictures of the pretty snow-topped churches, stone circles, cute wooden houses and forests.
When it was time to turn back we decided to take a different route. Unable to find the path we were looking for we found ourselves dragging our bikes through knee-deep mud. Three o’clock came and went and we were horribly lost and upset at missing our romantic appointment. This was not quite the way I had imagined our wedding anniversary! Our only option was to retrace our steps and we eventually found ourselves in the middle of a tiny village. My husband knocked on the door of a few houses before he found one occupied. The next thing I knew I was removing my muddy boots, rolling up my muddy trousers and being invited in to the warmth of a living room. The grandmother, her daughter and grandson did not speak English but were kind enough to call the hotel for us, give us a pair of warm, hand knitted socks and make us a cup of tea. We sat in silence smiling, watching the television and feeling ever so slightly embarrassed! When it came time to leave I offered the socks back but grandma insisted we keep them. They are to this day my favourite souvenirs!
We arrived back at Padaste to be told we were not the first to get lost and that we could still enjoy our evening as planned. Within minutes we were in our swimming costumes, wrapped in huge fluffy robes with our feet in Wellington boots traipsing through slippery mud in search of a hot tub. We must be going the wrong way we thought, but sure enough perched on the edge of the bay was a salt water hot tub, just the right temperature to protect us from the freezing air and complete with a bottle of French champagne. As the sun set and turned the sky a bold pink and orange the trials of earlier were – almost – forgotten!
After being massaged and slathered with locally made goat's butter cream we dressed for our private dinner. This could be taken in various locations around the manor, including their private cinema. The food and wine were again locally produced and delicious. The highlight was the cheese plate, which was so big even two of us struggled to get through.
Relaxed, refreshed and blissfully happy we reluctantly left the next morning, pleasantly surprised by the very reasonable bill. We stayed a night in Tallin where we wandered the pretty streets and enjoyed dinner of wild boar and honey beer at the medieval restaurant Olde Hanse (www.oldehansa.ee/). A (nearly!) perfect weekend.