Exeter In The Freezing Fog…..And Puppies

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I’ve been down to Exeter to visit Uni son. The pretext was to find a venue for his 21st birthday bash.  I’d booked myself into what used to be known as The Magdalen Chapter hotel. It has been sold to a hotel chain and has now, rather tragically, been renamed the Hotel Du Vin Exeter. I loved the old Magdalen Chapter. It was quirky and, although the service could occasionally run to slightly rural,  it was friendly and always eager to please.

So, what’s changed under the new management?  The physical hotel is still chic, quirky and comfortable. However, gone is the free mini bar and newspaper and also the rather lovely chap behind the reception/concierge desk. The ipads have gone (no bad thing), and the giant walnut thingy of a reception desk has been replaced by, what look like, two decorating tables end to end. I’m told a reception area refurb is on the cards. The service has definitely disintegrated in the dining room.

I was very pleased with my room allocation, it was by far the nicest I’ve been in while staying there. However, I think there may have been a disgruntled guest in there before me, intent on sabotaging the room. The unfathomable central heating control had been turned off, consequently the room was freezing, the tv had been set to subtitle mode and lots of plugs had been taken out of sockets. I figured the plugs out but needed intervention with the rest. The issues were sorted out but definitely not with the ‘nothing is too much trouble’ air of yesterday.

I think what has gone, for the moment at least, is the warmth and friendliness that prevailed here under the old management. This, sadly, makes this hotel just another place to stay when visiting Exeter, and there are cheaper, perfectly acceptable alternatives.

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The Hotel Du Vin Exeter

I’m very fond of Exeter. Wandering through its streets is to experience its history. There are atmospheric alleyways that you can imagine smugglers ducking in and out of.  J.K Rowling went to University here and Diagon Alley is supposedly based on one of Exeter’s alleyways. It’s a beautiful city with Roman walls and medieval and Georgian structures sitting, for the most part, quite happily alongside modern shopping malls.  The brands are mostly all here and the fact that it’s a University town means that there are still a few decent independent shops, cafes and restaurants. I’m a champion of the quality indie retailer so I’m bound to think that there are too many chain stores etc in most Uk cities and towns. If you don’t use it, you lose it people.

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One of my favourite things to do is visit the cathedral. It costs (at time of publishing) £7.50 to visit. There are guided tours included in the price and they are well worth doing. The outside of the cathedral always reminds me of the House of Commons. The interior is stunning. It has an extraordinary vaulted ceiling which is apparently the “longest continuous medieval stone vault in the world” and very beautiful it is too. It also houses the earliest known wooden carving of an elephant in the UK, it is on a misericord (aka a shelf to perch on during long prayer sessions). I’ve only scratched the surface of the cool stuff in the Cathedral, go and discover the rest for yourselves. It’s well worth it.

The Cathedral has its own cafe and all the profits go towards the maintenance of this National treasure. The food is good quality, honest fare. If you fancy a baked potato, slice of Quiche or afternoon tea and scones this is the place for you. It is situated in a pretty, little courtyard on the Cathedral grounds.

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Exeter Cathedral Cafe.
Just next to the Cathedral is another place that I love to go to for lunch. The Plant Cafe is unashamedly healthy but it does what it does very well. It’s tiny so be prepared to sit on a stool or share a table. The food is imaginative, very tasty and terribly good for you. Bonus!img_0488

And now, as promised, on to the puppies. On my return the Alpha and I had to attend an interview to attest to our suitability as potential puppy parents. What does one wear to such an event? I considered my usual mud-spattered, dog walking clothing but deemed it too desperate. I felt it was a bit too “ooh, look at me, I’m a doggy person”. I went with smart casual in the end, sensible shoes etc. Memo to self however, never, ever wear tasselled loafers when visiting puppies. At least I was popular (with the puppies), but I was terrified one of them would bite off a tassel and choke. Not cool.

Anyhow, we passed the test!! I’m going back this week to select our new family member. I do worry about Sam (our dog) though, he’s a rather nervous soul and his world is about to be rocked. I felt so guilty, I’ve bought him a plush, new bed to make up for it.

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