Wednesday 27 July 2005

we're all going on an autumn holiday

For our first wedding anniversary, we're heading down (and over) to Devon for a 4 day weekend in September. Since we're bringing Jasper with us, I researched our accommodation options in the AA's (that's the Automobile Association, not Alcoholics Anonymous) guide to "pet friendly" places to stay. It's full of useful information, including details like whether or not pets are permitted to stay in the room with you. I initially made a booking with a hotel that looked quite stylish and upmarket, and the AA guide said that you could leave pets unattended in the rooms (useful for when you go out for dinner, for example). When I asked the owner about leaving Jasper in the room, he snorted and said "Only if you want to pay for all the soft furnishings!" I later sent him an email letting him know that they are listed in the AA guide as allowing unattended pets in rooms and perhaps they wanted to correct it with the publishers, but he never responded. Ultimately, I cancelled our booking because all of this was rather offputting.

It just happens that the hotel that won "Pet Friendly Hotel of the Year 2004" is located at the edge of Dartmoor Park in the area we wanted. It's a lovely looking country hotel that's received several positive reviews in various newspapers and travel guides, and most importantly, they were friendlier than all get out when I rang them. Not only do they cater well to their 2-legged guests, there are many perks for the 4-legged variety as well including king-sized doggy beds, special food, and for the Paris Hilton-esque pet owners, doggy pampering treatments. Our room leads directly to the woods behind the house, and has its own entrance so that muddy paws won't leave a trail through their lovely hotel. The woman I spoke to was very helpful and wins extra points for asking about Jack and making the appropriate "awwww" noises. The web site says "We will also gladly cater for any special dietary requirements, although prior notice would be appreciated. If on the other hand you would just prefer something simple or plain grilled, you only have to ask." This is relatively rare in this country - ordinarily you would be considered annoying, rude, and American if you asked for your meal to be prepared a certain way. I like that they don't seem to think this is a bad thing.

I'm hoping to get a booking at the New Angel restaurant, owned and run by John Burton Race. You may remember him from such television programmes as "French Leave" and "Return of the Chef" on channel 4, and yes, I am a sucker for "celebrity" chefs. He was an accomplished (i.e. Michelin star) chef before he made any of the television series, and is passionate about good quality, local food. Although I learned his name from television, I am inclined to eat in his restaurant based on his philosophies and ability rather than his celebrity status. I've emailed a booking for a meal on the day of our anniversary, so here's hoping they have a table for us.

I'm really excited about this little getaway. I love planning holidays and staying in hotels. I am looking forward to seeing Dartmoor because the last time I visited Devon, it was during the foot and mouth crises and walks through the park were out of the question. The West Country is gorgeous; I cannot wait to go back. And this time, dammit, I am getting my cream tea!

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