JACKIE: We want to talk about Summer Lodge, a special English countryside paradise in Dorset, Hardy Country. With eyes wide and jaw dropped, I entered Summer Lodge. It was full of warmth and wit, fine art, and homey beauty. Special rooms were designed by Thomas Hardy, the great novelist, poet and architect. The bulk of Hardy’s fiction was set in what he describes as the semi-fictional land of Wessex (based on Hardy’s home surroundings of Dorchester, which he called Casterbridge in his books). He was enchanted with the village of Evershot and spent time and talent with Summer Lodge.
Our suite was so good, with sofas and a fire place, desks and great bed (one of the property’s cats came to visit us — lovely). One’s hair tingles at the thoughtful private ladies’ dressing room and boudoir and bath, a world unto itself. Pretty, pretty, pretty and sweet as the shortbread that is tucked in the large closet, next to the well-stocked Teapot.
DAVID: We can thank General Manager Charles Lotter for the TLC. Very congenial and, as usual, J.J. fell in love with him. I fell in love with Executive Chef Steven Titman. The much-awarded chef is a no-nonsense guy – he’s just a “cooks with the freshest ingredients” kind of guy. While I was still slavering over Steven’s pot roasted breast of corn-fed chicken, he kindly gave me the recipe. (Lots of luck!) His menus meet and exceed the exacting requirements of the Relais & Chateaux’s gastronomic standards. World-class cellar master Eric Zwiebel showed us why Wine Spectator recognized his prize-winning wine list and inspired pairing skills. Steven and Eric are themselves an inspired pairing. You can enjoy both in their light and airy conservatory, the elegant/comfy dining room, or the warm and clubby coziness of the bar. In fine weather, you can dine on the terrace, while our scrumptious traditional Dorset afternoon tea is served every day in the Drawing Room.
JACKIE STILL OGLING: I could have spent our whole stay reading the walls, full of humor and the historic. A full collection of fun and folly. And food. I too adore the very accessible chef (he’s on Facebook)! Steven Titman established himself in the USA at the acclaimed White Barn Inn in Kennebunkport. Now a star at Summer Lodge, he prepares the finest meats, delicate fish dishes, and local produce from their own gardens.
This is a listed Georgian country house dating back more than 200 years, the drawing room (designed by who else? Thomas Hardy) makes you feel like casual royalty. Now there is a conservatory-style indoor heated pool, Jacuzzi, gym and spa. And may I say I had an opportune, lovely manicure.
Believe us, this is a special among the special.
DAVID CLOSES: With awe and appreciation, I must mention the esteemed, magnificent Red Carnation Hotels (check that site online and marvel). Besides thirteen luxury boutique hotels and spas in spectacular locations, including Summer Lodge, their motto is “No request is too large, no detail too small.” Pretty good. And, and the Uniworld River Cruise Ships. We’re mulling some of the current great deals on cruise trips to Russia, China, Europe or Egypt. Heck, let’s do them all. They offer the highest level of comfort, quality and service in river cruising with an unparalleled variety of vacation choices. You’ll cherish this world of benefits designed just for you. Unpack and unwind and leave the rest to Uniworld.
We’ll travel …