Giving the perfect Christmas gift
PUBLISHED: 13:36 21 November 2016 | UPDATED: 13:36 21 November 2016
No matter how you personally feel about the festive season, it's not always easy as you stalk the streets looking for that perfect prezzie. So, to help you in your quest, Adam Jones of Visit Essex has scoured the county to find some alternative ideas to act as an inspiration
For the person who has everything, rather than buying an actual ‘thing’, why not consider an experience that will create memories for a lifetime. If there is an adrenaline junkie in your life or avid cyclist, Lee Valley could solve the eternal headache of finding the right present for family, friends and loved ones. There are a whole variety of gift vouchers available, starting at just £15 for a voucher for a cycling taster session. These are ideal for all bike riders, whether it is track cycling in the world famous velodrome at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, or cycling outside on the mountain bike trails, road and BMX tracks.
For a wet and wild experience they’ll never forget, the thrills and spills of white water rafting and other aquatic fun are available at Lee Valley’s White Water Centre in Waltham Cross. The highly popular White Water Raft Adventure experience is bang-on for anyone who likes a little adventure in their life. It costs £65 for a voucher to ride down the 300m long Olympic course, where Team GB won gold and silver medals in the London 2012 canoe slalom event. Alternatively, a Hydrospeeding or Hot Dog session in one of the centre’s inflatable kayaks costs £100 for two people.
For most of us, booze is as much a part of Christmas as mince pies, turkey and the Queen’s speech. However, for a real talking point, why not give the gift of wine from your home county? Set among 40 acres of vines, woodland and pasture, the beautiful Dedham Vale Vineyard is an award-winning producer of a number of delicious wines, including its excellent methode champenoise sparkling wine, famed Bacchus dry white and rewarding red — the Dedham Vale Reserve. But that’s not all; the vineyard also offers gift vouchers, one of which offers the recipient a grand tour of the vineyard, wine tasting and lunch or afternoon tea for just £22.
Over in Coggeshall, the fabulous West Street Vineyard also offers gift vouchers, one of which is for its wine school, which will give the lucky wine buff a comprehensive overview of the world of wine and give them a chance to tickle their tastebuds with a tasting session. All in the name of oenophilic research, of course.
Find out more at www.weststreetvineyard.co.uk
Naturally, one of life’s great sybaritic pleasures is matching good wine with great food. Essex is a wonderful place to be an enthusiastic cook, as 70% of the land is still rural and the county boasts the longest coastline in England. That means we’re producing some amazing food on the land and pulling unbelievable fish and shellfish out of the sea.
To help hone your culinary skills, the Mistley Kitchen was founded by Sherri Singleton in 2001 and has since become one of the country’s most highly regarded cookery schools. Covering a range of different styles (from Indian to Italian) and techniques (including fish and seafood) plus better knife skills, Mistley Kitchen also attracts expert chefs to teach enthusiastic amateurs. The acclaimed food writer Ursula Ferrigno is a regular, sharing her extensive knowledge of regional cuisine from across Italy.
If Modern British or Gastro Pub Classics are your thing and you’d like a loved one to cook them (better) for you, then take a look at Braxted Park Cookery School. There is an extensive menu of courses designed to suit complete beginners all the way up to budding master bakers.
While a shop-bought object of beauty is a wondrous thing, you can’t beat a hand-crafted gift, especially if you’ve made it yourself. Writtle College is offering a half-day workshop where participants will make a modern, eye-catching door swag — an alternative to a traditional door wreath which will make an ideal present for those who love to celebrate Christmas. The course takes place on Saturday, December 3, giving you plenty of time for you to perfect your skills and to, literally, get your festive swag on.
Another three-hour workshop at the college (and also on Saturday, December 3) will take you through the gentle art of creating a seasonal table arrangement using locally-sourced foliage, flowers, candles and baubles. The finished product will be a stunning centrepiece for the Christmas table.
For details call 01245 424200 or contact email@example.com.
Keen gardeners will need no excuse to escape the town centre crowds and visit RHS Garden Hyde Hall, near Chelmsford. Running throughout the weekend of December 3 and 4, the Christmas Sparkle Gift Fair is perfect for green-fingered folks looking to find unique and unusual presents for friends and family, or indeed, themselves.
Not only that, the horticultural haven is running courses to guide you through making Christmas heart wreaths (on December 9) and a beautiful flower arrangement in a decorative gift bag (on December 20) to give to that special person.
As Christmas looms ever larger in the calendar, it is natural that amid the rush to purchase presents, buy the turkey and write what seems like thousands of cards to people you can’t remember or simply don’t know, you pause for a moment and ponder where the year has gone? Well, if you plan ahead and look beyond drunkenly mumbling Auld Lang Syne while cuddling the neighbour’s cat on New Year’s Eve, why not either treat yourself, or both of you, to a cheeky spa break?
Positioned as an escape for adults, Lifehouse Spa and Hotel near the beautiful Frinton on Sea is an award-winning contemporary spa hotel set in 130 acres of grounds. Lifehouse offers a wealth of treatments, with specialists offering tailor-made programmes to suit your needs in key areas such as fitness, life coaching, nutrition, weight loss, plus medical, alternative and holistic therapy, and even horticulture. Handily, it also offers many of these as gift experiences.
On the southernmost tip of the Essex coast, you’ll find The Roslin Hotel in Southend’s well-to-do Thorpe Bay area. Popular with opinion-forming travel writers, celebrities and the local smart set, The Roslin also boasts an excellent spa, the Retreat. Promising relaxation and rejuvenation, this waterfront spa offers luxury treatments from Elemis, BIOTEC, Thalgo, OPI, St Tropez and Lava Shells. Whether it’s a pampered afternoon visit or blow-out weekend away, The Roslin has a variety of packages and gift vouchers.
From individual days to residential breaks, Stoke by Nayland Hotel Golf Spa is the last word in pure indulgence. While the other half unleashes their inner Rory McIlroy on the 18-hole championship course, you can kick back and enjoy all manner of loveliness. The Peake Spa menu revolves around three treatment areas: body maintenance, prescriptive and luxury. All use tried, tested and trusted products from brands such as Decleor, OPI and St Tropez. For an unforgettable dirty weekend, choose the Rasul Mud Therapy or the exotic Hammam treatment, which includes traditional Turkish Soap Massage and the Red Island Exfoliating Ritual. You’ll definitely bag a load of brownie points for ingenuity by purchasing a gift voucher for a golf lesson, spa treatment or even afternoon tea, or indeed all three, so you really can’t lose.
Down Hall in Hatfield Heath is an impressive Palladian-style mansion with a fabulous spa. The appropriately named Eden Spa in this beautiful corner of the county will sooth your soul with your choice of massage, body, facial, beauty and even maternity treatments. Chaps needn’t miss out either, just look out for the ‘M’ denoting the suitable treatments for men in the brochure.
With a wealth of attractions, from historic houses to seaside fun parks, farms and zoos, you could also consider an annual pass for the favourite destination of a friend or family member. This will ensure that, once the thrill of this season’s must-have toy or gadget has passed, the sheer joy of visiting your favourite destination for a day out is available all year round.
And of course, if you haven’t already done so, to further inform and inspire you about all the stunning and welcoming destinations throughout our wonderful county, a subscription to Essex Life is essential.
Visit www.giftsubs.co.uk/EMMXS for details!So go on, gift the gift of Essex this Christmas!w
Find Out More
To discover more ideas and destinations where you’ll find a great gift and enjoy a magical day out, take a sleigh ride over to www.visitessex.com/Christmas