Around Southern England

Oct 7th, 2010, 10:08 AM
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Around Southern England

It's good now and again to visit our less fortunate (less fortunate that they don't live up here) Island cousins in other parts of the UK, so Mrs Life and I decided to take a week and have a bit of a tour. From here in sunny Lancashire, we set off on Saturday the 25th September and headed South. Our first port of call was to cousins in Reading to break the journey and have coffee and a chat. We hadn't seen them for a couple of years, so it's about time. The sat nav took us through a part of the approaches to Reading called the "13 bends of death" and true to form, the road was closed due to a fatal accident. However, we found another route and arrived OK. After a very pleasant interlude, we pressed on for our first overnight in Poole.

We stayed at the Hotel du Vin, just off the quayside, the third time we've stayed there. It's usually a very good hotel and it lived up to our expectations. If you're heading that way, it's a good place to be. We arrived around 6pm, checked in to a nice room in a courtyard and as always, were pleased with the facilities. Wet room bathroom and a well equipped bedroom. Quick shower and change and off to the Loch Fyne restaurant in the area. We've eaten at the one up at the Loch and this one was a bit of a disappointment. My halibut came with a "salsa" that overpowered such a nice fish and my wife's Goan fish curry was blandness itself. When places ask "Is everthing OK?" we tell them if it isn't--and also if they don't ask. Upshot was no charge for the curry. These chain restaurants don't do it all the time in the way that they should.

Sunday dawns bright and clear and we're off to Monkey World at Wareham, a sanctuary for rescued chimps and other primates. It's somewhere that we support by their "Adopt a Primate" programme and by taking bags of stuff they need for the animals, like vitamins etc. If you can , go there and support their work. It's quite a big place and seems to grow all the time. We spent most of the day there and got back to Poole around 5pm. We ate in the hotel and had a really good meal in their restaurant.

Monday..we're heading for Padstow today in Cornwall, somewhere we've not been for 30 years. The drive takes about 3 and a half hours with a stop and we pull in outside the Metropole Hotel around 1:45pm. It looks a bit frayed round the edges, but it appears to be the only hotel of any size in the area. They won't let us in the room till 3pm, with the usual "room not ready excuse" so we head off round the town for sightseeing. The hotel is right next door to Rick Stein's Seafood Restaurant, where we're booked at 7pm (only time we could get). Padstow is a really picturesque little seaside town, with restaurants, pubs and bars surrounding the harbour and the streets that run off it. There are also lots of clothes shops and gifty type places. We wander back to the hotel around 5pm and check in.

Our room is on the first floor with an "estuary view" over the roof of Rick Stein's restaurant. It is bit faded and the room has certainly seen better days. It could do with a good man equipped with some wallpaper, paint and a new carpet. The bed still has blankets on it rather than a duvet. I hate that, as you just know that the blanket wasn't changed from the last occupant. It's small and the bathroom has a lethal step up into it. The tiles around the bath are cracked and the paint is peeling in places on the top of the wall above the basin. My laptop won't work with their wifi and there's no hard connection. At £145 per night ( a reduced from £175 rate I negotiated), it's way overpriced. Oh well!

Down to Stein's at 7pm for dinner and it's a really well appointed room. The decor is excellent and the service is attentive, not intrusive. The menu is all (apart from 1 dish) fish or shellfish and is very expensive. A small salmon steak for around £35! Total bill of £120 and it wasn't overspecial. Maybe it's us expecting too much?

Breakfast is good Tuesday morning and afterwards we head off to the Eden Project near St Austell for the day. It's a bit damp which cuts down on the gardens but the rest is inside the "Biomes", large gold ball type structures, filled with plants and trees. We spend a full day and come back to Padstow around 5:30pm. Showers again and out looking for a restaurant. We find the Clipper, a plain food place and eat. Mrs Life has another curry, beef this time, and declares it to be very good. We wander back to hotel for a nightcap and so to bed.

We're off up to Bath today, as we're strike North again. An uneventful journey and we arrive around 2pm. The room is ready at the Hilton and is really nice. Hard wire internet too. We've only one night here and we head out straight away to explre the town. We walk around the crescents and the Circus and around past the Pump Room and Theatre. It is a lovely place and we almost wish we had another night here. Dinner at a small back street restaurant recommended by a lady in a bookshop and it was very acceptable. Another wander round the town, then more nightcaps and a good night's sleep.

Good breakfast, pack the car and off to Stratford upon Avon. So far, all our road trips have gone well, apart from the poor guy in Reading. Once again we arrive at the White Swan at around 1pm, before 3pm and can't get in the room, so again we do the tour. Shakespeare's birthplace, New Place where he lived (sadly demolished) and his grave in the local church. We have a look at the shops and buy a few things and have a cream tea. Back to the Hotel and check in. Parking is 300 yards away and it was raining, so we drop the case and Mrs Life stays with it in the hotel. When I return, we check in and find the room. It's funny, only the Hotel du Vin took our cases up. The room is large, cold and again in need of decoration. They have 41 rooms and only 5 are occupied. They say that a Japanese party has cancelled and in spite of a polite request, don't turn on the heating. We have another turn round the town, find a restaurant that looks OK, book for 8pm and go back to the hotel for 40 winks.

Lamb's Restaurant is excellent, obviously well kmown and busy and the food can't be faulted. A good end to a day and back for anightcap (see a trend here?)

At breakfast, there is only we two in the room--service is great! The server leaves the hotel whilst we're still eating and we see her going out of the door. We do Anne Hathaway's cottage before we leave and then head to Ludlow for our last night away. The weather is still wet and doesn't stop even when we get there. You guessed it, it's before 3pm and we can't get into the Feathers Hotel. So let's have a look at Ludlow--it's a pleasant market town with a foodie reputation. We have lunch at De Grays tea room, very good, one celebrity politician eating as we sit down. Still wet when we leave, but being from the North we are hardy souls and have a good look at the place. It's worth a visit with some nice shops and some very good restaurants to choose from. Mrs Life is once again fancying something spicy, so we book at the Golden Moments Indian Restaurant, ignoring the Michelin stars that surround us. Back to check in and the room is excellent. We've clearly been given an upgrade from the standard double that we booked to a large room with a particularly good bathroom -bath and separate power shower cubicle-beautifully decorated throughout. The Feathers is an old black and white frontaged place, with modern rooms at the rear. I can really recommend the hotel if you're in the area. We dried off in the bar and then went up to get ready. The curry was good and worth a visit. More nightcaps...

Saturday 2 Oct--off home with a stop in Birmingham to see my hal brother and family. A good visit and they have two smashing kids. We wend our way out of Birmingham back to the M6 and home for 6pm.
Lifeman is offline  
Oct 7th, 2010, 11:17 AM
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Enjoying your report.
Saraho is online now  
Oct 7th, 2010, 12:22 PM
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hi lifeman - nice report!

I too enjoy visiting bits of Britain that are new to us - for example we just delivered DS to uni in a part of Wales which we had never visited before and as he'll be there for the next 3 years, we should have plenty of opportunities to explore.

sorry that your stay in Padstow was not stellar. IMHO it is the victim of its own success; though I can't speak about the hotel metrople, you are not the first to make those sort of remarks about Rick Steins. he has attracted some other cooks to the town who have more to prove and are cheaper and more reliable, according to reviews I've read.

Eden OTOH is consistently fun and forever renewing itself - I'm always happy if visitors want to go there, and want us to go with them.
annhig is offline  
Oct 8th, 2010, 12:29 AM
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annhig..I think you're probably right about Padstow, or Padstein as I 've heard it described. The servive that he has performed is to raise the standard in the town above usual seaside fare.

I mention to say "golf balls" not gold when describing Eden and "half" not hal when describing my brother.

Some days this keyboard has a life of its own
Lifeman is offline  
Oct 8th, 2010, 05:45 PM
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Thanks for an enjoyable and thorough report, Lifeman.
irishface is offline  
Oct 9th, 2010, 03:46 AM
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Yet again, damn keyboard--"service" not a badly spelt servive!
Lifeman is offline  
Oct 9th, 2010, 05:23 AM
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The servive that he has performed is to raise the standard in the town above usual seaside fare.>>

he's now started on Falmouth, by opening a fish and chip shop with an oyster bar above. However, Falmouth is an altogether different kettle of poisson with many excellent restaurants already, not to mention at least one other high class chippie. the Rick Stein one is far more expensive and although it's down by the maritime museum and therefore on a prime site, I'm not sure how it will fare during the winter when the stream of tourists reduces.

time will tell.
annhig is offline  
Oct 21st, 2010, 06:35 AM
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Enjoyed your report, Lifeman...... from a Lancashire lassie to a Lancie Lad. You must have passed right by my house on your way to Anne Hathaway's !!
bellini is offline  
Oct 21st, 2010, 06:44 AM
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It was very wet when we were there, a cuppa and a scone would have gone down well! We saw the house, but it was just too wet to walk round the gardens.
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