We have demanding standards when we escape for a week in the UK to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Because it's January, it has to be warm and very comfortable. And it has to have big windows and a view in case we decide the weather's too awful to go out (as it was several times this year!) Shellseekers ticked all the boxes and is quite lovely. It has been thoughtfully appointed and beautifully decorated. It is small but feels much more spacious inside than you might think. The view is spectacular as you watch the waves surfing in across the beach below. For an out-of-season escape ( January: very out of season indeed) it fitted the bill perfectly, giving us a much needed respite from the daily grind. The opportunity to spend time doing nothing much except read, guilt-free, in such a setting was very welcome indeed. A few things that it would have been worth knowing about beforehand are included here. The chalet is about 100m from the road, along a narrow path, steep at first, that gets quite muddy when it's been raining. Don't expect your wheelie suitcase to be much use. And if you are less able you might struggle. Bring waterproofs: at one point we wore waterproof coats, overtrousers and walking boots just to get to and from the car! If you plan to go out at night, bring torches. We were able to enjoy solitude: but we came in January. In high season you could find yourself sitting down to a barbecue on the decking a metre or so from people doing the same in the chalet next door. Don't expect two bedrooms. The 'second bedroom' is more of an antechamber between the double bedroom and the bathroom: there is no door separating the one and a half single beds from the lounge area. Not a problem for us as we came as a couple and used it as a handy utility area, but if you have youngsters used to their own room they (and you) could be in for a surprise. And it was less clean than we would have liked when we arrived. I cleaned the bath whilst my wife cleaned the fridge. And we decided against using the microwave on the basis that it presented a health hazard. We mentioned this to the owner in response to her 'welcome' SMS, but got no response. A acknowledgement/apology would have been nice; a bottle of wine even nicer. Finally, at the time of writing, the path to the beach is closed due to landslip and subsidence. We chanced it but I don't know for how much longer that will be possible unless it's repaired. But not to be churlish, none of this spoiled our week, and I'd recommend Shellseekers (with the reservations above).
John Gandys bar
Ok, we were seduced by the sign proclaiming the 'best burgers in Exeter'. That an the fact that it was a cold day, we were hungry, and 'Bill's' further up the road had a queue out onto the pavement. Well it was a smart move. The bar (bistro?) has a nice ambience and a good mix of lunchtime customers. We both went for the beefburgers with a couple of added extras and although I'm not well versed enough to decide if they really were the best in Exeter, they were very good indeed. And the fries were amongst the best I've tasted anywhere. What set XXXX apart though was the cheery and enthusiastic guy who served us. I didn't get his name, but he was Antipodean and he made all the difference. From his friendly welcome through his attentive service, to his farewell as we left, we could have been long-time buddies. Go sample the burgers and fries!
We dined as a party of four at Flaneur on a Friday evening: having already eaten there as a couple we were keen to introduce some friends to this new Cuckfield bistro. Flaneur prizes itself on its French style, evident in the adjacent shop and the 'bistro' feel: scrubbed tables, painted chairs and everything carefully unmatching. We were warmly welcomed and looked after throughout the evening by Laura and Harriet, whose service was friendly, efficient and attentive without ever being intrusive. The menu is limited to four starters and four mains (including a veggie option), but changes regularly. Grilled halloumi was a well received starter: I had an excellent chestnut mushroom soup. Moussaka with a very good salad was one of the mains and was delicious, with another of our party singing the praises of a summer salmon and crayfish pie. For me though, the highlight was the lime and ginger cheesecake! (That and a very reasonably priced and easy-drinking Rioja.) It was a lovely evening with an atmosphere combining the intimacy of a small restaurant with the buzz of a pavement cafe ( and when it's warm enough, the full length windows open onto an outside terrace). Thank you to David and Caroline for bringing a little bit of the continent to Cuckfield!
The hotel is situated on a headland just east of the centre of Amalfi, in fairly easy walking distance from the town (though bear in mind there is no pavement!): entrance from street level is via a lift which takes you to reception, in one of the cloisters. The history of this wonderful building now begins to become clear as the cloisters surround a beautiful courtyard, set with tables and chairs: a fine spot for a pre-dinner drink. We were initially placed in room 12: a 'standard' room and though fairly small, it had a beautiful painted ceiling and one of the original arched windows. It was however right by the lift lobby, and being above a bend in the road was too noisy for light sleepers such as us. We asked for a move and this was facilitated the next morning without fuss. We were given room 7 which was ideal as we were then next to our friends. Again, a small room, but it did have a tiny balcony with views across the bay, and was much more peaceful. Breakfast was a generous buffet affair, with the option of sitting on an outside terrace on a fine morning. We loved this hotel: the service was polite, friendly and attentive and the hotel itself a real gem. We especially liked the tiled floors throughout, the painted ceilings in the restaurant, and the sense of history. It was also refreshing to note the lack of nagging notices in the bedroom and bathroom: the towels were changed regularly without the plea to consider the environment (which actually translates as a plea to consider the hotel's laundry bill!) Would return like a shot and recommend without hesitation.
We ate here having seen the recommendation in the Rough Guide and were very pleased with our choice. We sat outside: the restaurant nestles under the cathedral wall, close enough to the main square to pick up the bustling atmosphere but secluded enough not to feel hemmed in by crowds. We were made to feel very welcome and our helpful waiter took time to lead us through the menu. I had the local white fish in 'mad water' which was sweet and tender, but the main course was somewhat upstaged by the shared starter, a combination platter of marinated anchovies, mozzarella in lemon leaves, bruschetta, zucchini and sweet peppers - don't miss it! Thoroughly enjoyed our evening here!
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