Thistle Rougemont Hotel, Exeter, England

A traveler’s rest since the 12th century, the luxurious Castle Hotel.

Jackie: We want to Talk about the last lap of David’s solo trip in England. I may be a bit jealous about David’s affection for his new pal “Rennie.” This is his nickname for the adored Renault Megane that he leased from Renault Eurodrive. He won’t stop raving about this car (that is not available in the USA, yet). You might want to see about the program online before your next driving trip overseas. David carries on…

David: Rennie certainly handled brilliantly during the heavy downpour that drenched my drive from Falmouth to Exeter. (Good girl, Rennie!) We (the car and I) parked in the private lot in front of the impressive Victorian 4-star Rougemont, one of the 33 excellent hotels in the Thistle Group. The location is perfect, a short walk from shopping and restaurants, the railway station and the magnificent 12th century cathedral. The Rougemont boasts 98 accommodations — including suites. All the luxuries that have become necessities: in room WiFi, flat screen TV, super-comfortable bed, bath with powerful shower, coffee and tea making facilities, a big work desk — the whole bit. Hard to believe this hotel opened to a well-pleased public in 1879. Drake’s Restaurant, named in honor of Sir Francis Drake who, along with Richard III, had an association with Exeter, this is one of Britain’s most ancient and historical cities, well worth exploring. St. Peter’s Cathedral dates from 1050; William the Conqueror built his Castle of Rougemont here in 1068. Today Exeter is a vibrant university city with loads of young people and an attractive mixture of the very old and the very new. The Thistle Rougemont proved to be the perfect base for wandering the sights and pleasures of this picturesque city of Exeter.

Jackie Comments: David does roll in the delectable details; he adores great hotels and the newest snappy cars — such an adjustment for me, just a bed and bath girl. Now another gem from Dave …

The Castle Hotel, Taunton, Somerset

David: “Very few Americans come to Somerset,” sadly commented Kevin McCarthy, Director of the breathtaking Castle Hotel in Taunton (perfect spot for exploring said Somerset). Kevin, a most congenial and loyal supporter of his home, entertained me for quite a long time over coffee in the “Snug” of the Castle. Americans know the Cotswolds, the Lake District, Cornwall, naturally London, but few know the joys of this lovely district. As “Rennie” my Renault rolled me into the too-green-to-be-true landscape of this beautiful and varied county, I found it hard to believe it is not visited more often by my countrymen. Somerset eases down from the Mendip Hills to the north where the fascinating Cheddar Caves and famous cheese are found along with Wells, the country’s smallest cathedral city. From the west of the Bristol Channel and Exmoor, one plunges into the great basin of the Levels with its lakes, wildlife, livestock and lovely flowers.

A truly glorious area, which should not be overlooked by any visitor to England.

Now, about the Castle Hotel, and my totally wonderful suite called Blackdown (another range of Somerset hills). My two-night home was enormous with four huge windows overlooking the front of the castle on one side and the romantic side garden — built on three levels — out another window. An emperor sized bed (a veritable foe to insomnia), dressing room and massive bath — all beautifully furnished and decorated. Mine was one of 44 luxury accommodations all with free WiFi, flat screen TV with Sky channels and accompanied by superb service. I could see why the Castle is a leading venue for conferences and for weddings. The Castle Restaurant where I had full English breakfast each morning has been included in the top 40 best British restaurants in the Good Food Guide. Chef Jamie Rafferty uses ingredients of the finest quality: fish and seafood from Brixham, game from Exmoor, fruits and veggies (grown exclusively by a local source) and Somerset artisan cheeses. To compliment the cooking is one of Britain’s top 10 wine lists built by the hotel owner, Kit Chapman. Lighter but delicious, fare is served in the contemporary Brazz brasserie.

So, what do think, Jackie?

Jackie: I think you’re a bit much, but a visit to Taunton is tempting.

Til then, we’ll Travel….