We step into Heartwood Tea rooms in Sandridge, a small Tudor building with low ceilings, sash windows and exposed brickwork with contemporary lighting.

Before we order our afternoon teas, we go for a wander to have a look around the tearooms, then settle at our table beside an old Inglenook fireplace stacked high with logs; sunlight pours in through the open conservatory and the white walls look freshly painted; behind the counter are two high shelves, one with teapots of every shape and size, the other filled with jars of elegant blends of loose tea from Vintage Vanilla Chai to Lemon Rooibos.

Hidden away at the back of the tearooms is a small patio garden with round tables and chairs surrounded by roses in full bloom, neat bushes of hydrangeas, and pots brimming with colourful pansies.

The friendly waitress arrives and proudly presents two bone china cake stands layered with dainty cucumber, egg and cress, and smoked salmon and cream cheese finger sandwiches on the lowest tier, freshly baked scones with small pots of cream and jam on the second, and a generous selection of tiny macaroons and brownies on the top tier.

It’s a delight to share these delicacies with my daughter and her friend this afternoon and show them the art of taking tea. I meditatively stir my tea, and listen attentively as they recount the trials and tribulations of their GCSE exams. I try to cheer them up with light-hearted conversation, reminding them that it’s nearly all over and enthusing about their looming summer holidays.

I take my first few sips of Earl Grey from a china teacup with bold flower patterns splashed across it in this authentic tearoom; fresh cut carnations arranged in shabby chic vintage teapots decorate the window sill.

It was Anna Maria, the duchess of Bedford who introduced the concept of ‘afternoon tea’ to England in the 1840’s. As the evening meal was becoming fashionably later, the duchess began inviting her friends over to Woburn Abbey for a light refreshment; she sent out invitations asking her friends to join her for “tea and a walk in the parks.”  It soon caught on and became a la mode among the social hostesses of the upper classes.

Even though I’m living in the 21st century, the age of fast cars and social media, I have to agree with Henry James that, “There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.” It’s a secret pleasure of mine to occasionally hide away and indulge on a weekday afternoon where I can step out of my routine, sit back to enjoy a culinary ritual while catching up with my favourite people.

At Waddesdon Manor we take the stairs to the first floor bedrooms, the dark wooden paneling, arrangement of furniture and embroidered textiles give a sense of luxury and comfort. Throughout the house there are many intricately designed clocks from tall pedestal rococo style, to the dainty clock with gilt bronze branches and porcelain flowers that I’m now admiring in the State bedroom.

The green boudoir has a certain charm and feels private, intimate. Louis XV chests of drawers and console tables are adorned with vases in bold blues and trimmed in gilded patterns.

The first floor is partly dedicated to the Rothschild collections on display ranging from 18th century antiquarian books, illustrated prints and albums filled with textiles. A chunky gold necklace embellished with baguette cut emeralds and diamonds is lit up in a glass cabinet; I smile and stare as it sparkles and shimmers in all of its beauty.

Although restoration, conservation and exhibitions are ongoing, Waddesdon Manor doesn’t feel like a storehouse for relics, but a vibrant living place packed with enthusiastic visitors from all over the world. As I walk back downstairs tapestries and grand oil paintings of Venice cover entire walls, and there is never a moment when we are not spoilt with some artwork or design.

A small crowd has gathered around an extraordinary piece of decorative clockwork in the form of a musical elephant automaton. It dates from 1774, was made in London by a French clockmaker and plays four tunes. It’s eyes roll, ears flap, trunk lifts and scenes with gilded figures and flowers encrusted with diamonds revolve at its glittering base; such abundant detailing and workmanship leaves us all mesmerised.

I sigh with relief as I step out onto the gravel path take in the fresh air and look out at the simplicity of the English Landscape. I feel small and slight as I walk along the path surrounded by spacious lawns on either side. The vast garden is outstretched before us and we escape into the warmth of a summer’s day.

We wander passed the manicured parterre and such beautiful planting with stunning bold colour schemes. The tranquility of the gardens is a comfort. I pause to smell the fresh greenery; the hedges hide the Manor and for a moment I could be lost in any garden in France or Italy. I can hear a cascading fountain in the distance, look up at the statue of a beautiful female Roman citizen and pass by various mythological sculptures.

We turn a corner and arrive at an ornate Aviary inspired by 18th century pavilions and to this day filled with exotic birds. We discover that this was an adored place of Ferdinand De Rothschild. The shrubbery is dense but we manage to get a glimpse of red tipped feathers and can hear all sorts of cawing and birdsong.

We say goodbye to Waddesdon for now, but hope to return later in the year, as I hear that the manor is full of festive sparkle and is beautifully illuminated during the dark winter months.

We step out of the shuttle bus and there before us in the distance is the magnificent Waddesdon Manor. An extravagant French Renaissance Chateau built on a huge scale complete with round towers, columns, turrets and pinnacles.

Ferdinand de Rothschild purchased Waddesdon Manor farming estate in 1874 from the Duke of Marlborough. It is still fully furnished and Ferdinand spent over twenty years maintaining and embellishing it with objets d’art; today it houses one of the finest private art and furniture collections in England.

We step over the arched threshold and passed the hallways on either side of the entrance vestibule; before us is a sumptuous dining room where we begin our tour.

Inspired by Louis XIV’s state apartments in Versailles, this experience can only be described as an assault on the senses. Sparkling crystal chandeliers hang from the ceiling and each wall is rich with gilded mirrors, Dutch paintings and Beauvais tapestries. The dim lighting adds to the effect and is apparently important in preserving the collection. I find myself needing to stand still on the Savonnerie carpet and simply pause to take in its aesthetic richness.

As we leave this room, we are greeted by a white marble statue of Orpheus playing the lute then step through the conservatory into the Baron’s room. Panelled wall to wall, it is furnished to 18th century Parisian taste. The central chandelier steals the show and its diameter is as wide as the table. The furniture and porcelain is an eclectic mix and I spot some classical mythological statues beside Ferdinand’s favourite armchair.

The guide shows me a grand ornately decorated roll top desk with gold classical statues at it legs. Made in the 1770’s, the guide explains that it is one of Waddesdon Manor’s greatest treasures upon which the writer Beaumarchais wrote The Marriage of Figaro and the Barber of Seville. The marquetry on the desk panels is painstakingly detailed in imagery.

We turn into the Grey Drawing room, a typical 18th century boudoir where guests would relax, play cards or listen to music.  A Reynolds portrait of the Duchess of Cumberland catches my eye. She has a certain beauty and Horatio Walpole once described her eyes as “enchanting.”

I spot three vases beneath the painting and step closer. The guide notices my eye for detail as I marvel at the pink vases trimmed in gold and decorated with miniature scenes; he tells me about the technical challenges in combining the Rose Pompadour colour with the gold paint.

Every single wall and piece of furniture is richly decorated and packed with visual imagery, colour, textures and lines. I am immersed in an environment of dense aesthetics and artifice. I try to see passed the roped barriers and visitors filing through each room and get a sense of what it must have felt to live in such opulent surroundings.

I climb the spiral staircase treading the soft red carpet under my feet as I look out through the tall windows onto the huge lawns and rolling countryside.