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Back to Basics: Houseguests & Hosting

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Having guests come over for a night, weekend or even week shouldn’t be a burden, but a joy. One of the things that give me the greatest pleasure are times where me and my close friends and family are having a beautiful (but incredibly simple) meal over the table, sharing wine, stories, playing games, watching movies and just enjoying each others company. Opening your house to anybody, whether it’s in laws, your family or close friends, is a grand gesture and one that should be made memorable for everybody included (and that includes you!). It also, shouldn’t be too much work. The thought of hosting for even just a night can scare any man, but it really isn’t as bad as it sounds. If you prepare in advance, you will barely have to do anything when your guests are actually there.

Guestroom

Being a good host means giving your guests a comfortable place to stay and sleep. You need a guest room, plain and simple. If you don’t have one, you should organise and direct your guests to a good hotel around the area. It is ideal to keep it within walking distance from your place so you can comfortably entertain and have dinners, breakfasts and more all together.

If you do have a guest room, it needs to be as homey and comfortable as possible. They aren’t staying in a hotel, so don’t make it so cold and harsh (as hotel rooms often are). Make it vibrant, comfortable and add touches of your own style to bring the place to life. Ensure the sheets, duvet and linen are fresh. It needs to be somewhere you would like to spend the night in, and the bed is the centre piece of the guest room! You don’t have to venture far… John Lewis have a brilliant selection of different colours and designs which can be found by clicking here. Older women, like my mother and aunt for example, adore Laura Ashley. Although it’s not for men, if your guests happen to be female, treat them with luxurious and delightful bedding from their vast selection here. Ensure you don’t make it all white – it will look too much like a hospital. Add some colour and always use neutral colours and patterns so it can work for both men and women. (Unless of course, you are specifically catering to one or the other)

I always have a selection of candles, magazines and a bowl of chocolates or small sugary treats on the side table. Candles will ensure romantic lighting (ideal if it’s your in laws in town) and if they are scented, even better. Have a selection of magazines and maybe a book or two that you enjoy if your guests want a late night read. A sidelight would be good too so they don’t have to get up and out if the light switch is away from the bed. Having a bowl of ‘treats’ is a beautiful touch. Everybody loves a little comfort and nothing says comfort and delight like chocolate and candy. Other necessities: a large bottle of water with a selection of glasses & warmth. Ensure there is a thick throw available at the end of their bed.

Think of the things you would like if you were to go to someone’s home. Have fresh towels and beautiful soap. Some lotions, shampoos, new toothbrushes and good toothpaste also add to the comfort of your guest(s). When I say soap, I mean good stuff, not ones that will quickly fall apart and become a ball of mush. Pop down to Zara Home – although they don’t sell it on their website, they have an amazing selection of great smelling soap that is 100% vegetarian-friendly and keeps its amazing solid square shape.

* I haven’t included a TV here. Although I will cover this in a separate ‘Bedroom Guide’, I don’t believe in TV’s in the bedroom. A bedroom is a place of piece and calmness, not loud sounds and ever-changing flashing images. This goes for the guest room as well.

Breakfast

Whether they are staying in your guest room or in a nearby hotel, always offer your guests breakfast (even if they are staying in a hotel. Invite them over in the mornings). Waking up to a table of fresh food is a delight and it doesn’t even have to be hugely elaborate. Buy everything the night or day before and just whip it out in the morning before everyone is up. Get croissants and a bowl of colourful fresh berries. Have a bowl of fruit (or if you have time, make a fruit salad), a delightfully bright jug of fresh orange juice (if you can squeeze it yourself that’s even better), crispy toast with a selection of jam, butter, nutella, peanut butte & more. Finally, you need a beautiful pot of tea and coffee. Other things you could add are yoghurt and granola (which would go perfectly with the berries) or a selection of pancakes with fresh honey.

Don’t bother going all out with a greasy big full English breakfast. Its quite frankly more work for you (and you have the rest of the day and even dinner to plan) and a fresh, light breakfast will be more of a delight than a heavy one.

Plan for the Day, Weekend or Week

Have a plan for every day and let your guests know in advance. They need to be prepared with what to wear and what to expect. If they have never been to London (or any city), the tourist attractions may be fun – if they are into that – but I find wandering through the streets of Soho, having coffee in genuine little cafes or shopping down King’s Road will be more of an ‘experience’ than hitting the busy and overpriced tourist attractions that London has to offer. Again, if this is something your guests want to do, then they shouldn’t be stopped from having a genuine ‘tourist’ experience around the city.

Some ideas for the day:

-       Have a bubble tea

Bubbleology is a fun experience for Western tourists. This Asian drink is delicious and the shop (made out to be like a scientists laboratory) always draws peoples’ attention when strolling by. Book it here.

-       Shop in Covent Garden

Covent Garden is a divine experience for any tourist. The seven dials, the cocktail bars, restaurants, and shops (I love Rokit and any friend visiting me enjoys the experience of going through this kooky and classic vintage shop) – Seven Dials

-       Go to the theatre

Of course, what’s London without it’s magical West End? The theatre is my absolute favourite part of living in London. Everybody loves it and I always take my guests to atleast one show when they are in town. Wicked and Billy Elliot the Musical are certified to ensure a good night out. Book tickets with Timeout.

-       Dinner at the Southbank

If you don’t want to make dinner, go out. But make sure it’s somewhere worth it. Dinner at the Southbank is beautiful. A wonderful stroll down the waters edge and then looking out whilst having a meal is not only romantic, but an entirely magical experience for anybody new to the city. Visit Southbank

-       Visit a Park (Hampstead Heath if you can)

Providing the weather doesn’t completely dominate the plans (which would be surprising), a visit to Hampstead Heath is a must with it’s gorgeous views through all of London that won’t cost you a penny. Make a small picnic basket of treats and spend an afternoon strolling through the park, getting lost and enjoying the little lakes without the hussle and bussle that comes along with Green Park or Regent’s Park. Information on Hampstead Heath Park

-       Go to Portobello Road Market

Get enchanted by the colourful streets of Notting Hill. Find little trinkets for the home, gifts for loved ones, eat delicious treats and enjoy the company in this quirky and incredibly stylish part of London. Visit Portobello Road Market

Food

Having guests over means having plenty of supplies for however long they are staying for. Have a bowl of fruit always out so they can help themselves whenever.

Dinners and lunches shouldn’t be a huge ordeal. If you are staying in for food, keep it as simple as possible! The best meals are those that you can cook together. I remember many times where a friend would come by and we’d cook together with a glass of wine in hand. Having a guest over that is a friend or family means taking the liberty to be casual and have fun! There is no need to prepare a lavish three-course meal. Homey foods are in order: spaghetti bolognaise (with fresh tomatoes and topped with basil), lasagnas, salads, juicy steaks, curry, burgers, and fish and chips are some examples of feel good meals that would complete the entire experience. They also take no time at all and you will be able to truly enjoy your time round the table with your guests that spending hours sweating over the stove.

Of course, if your guests aren’t so close to you, or they are over for a special occasion (anniversary, birthday, etc), a little more formality may be in order. Again, this doesn’t mean lavish meals but a more formal set up – such as a fully dressed table – are required.

Games

There is nothing better than finishing off a homey meal, cosying up with a cup of tea and sitting around the table with a fun game. Always have a selection of board games on hand to whip out whenever needed. This goes to the same for cards. My personal favourites are classic ones I grew up with: Monopoly and The Game of Life are fun ones that everybody always enjoys. Pictionary, especially if you have a mix bag of people (old and young) is perfect for an evening of laughs. Other more unconventional games (but none-the-less still incredibly fun) are 13 Dead End Drive – a game not many people know, but can be found in the hidden corners of Amazon and Ebay – and Saint or Sinner. This is a fun game for adults with a ‘working’ lie detector. Again, it’s deep into the caves of the internet but can be whipped up if you look closely enough. For these two, a little bidding and patience are required but everybody I’ve introduced them to have fallen in love and got themselves a copy!

Going Away

Hosting doesn’t always mean staying in your home. If you want, you could be a ‘host’ of a travel trip with a few close friends. Have a weekend away in the Cotswolds, or go off to Paris for a few nights. Of course, when I mean hosting, I don’t mean you have to pay for absolutely everything – but I mean taking the lead. Prepare an itinerary, find the right hotel or cottage, get meals and restaurants planned, and ultimately, get everybody organized. Sure it’s pricey, but you don’t have to stay at the most expensive hotels or eat at the 5 star restaurants… it’s about the company and the memories you will make together. If you get a cottage in the Cotswolds or the Lake District, get one with a kitchen, so you can have a night in (if it’s cold out, you can cosy up inside) and make food all together and sit around drinking wine, watching movies and having a good old time.

With the house, food and plans sorted, ensure your guest feels at home in your home. The key to being a good host is having it all prepared and ensuring a comfortable experience for your guests. It doesn’t have to be lavish, nor does it have to take much effort. But if you do it right, it will be perfect.

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