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Monday, 7 October 2013

North Devon Delights - Day 1

I picked up my passengers and hit the road at 8am this morning, destination Barnstaple, North Devon. 

We had a pre-booked visit arranged today at RHS Rosemoor Gardens, Great Torrington, where there was time for lunch and a good look around. When we arrived I dropped everyone off before moving to park up where I found every coach bay full with 1 car in each. It is the most irritating thing to find that your allocated parking is taken by people who shouldn't be there, especially when there is no alternative for me. So every car parked where they shouldn't be found themselves blocked in by a 13m long coach because I couldn't fit anywhere else. I locked the coach and went for lunch in the gardens restaurant and if any of those cars needed to get out, they would have to wait! That'll teach them!

The restaurant was extremely busy and the meals looked very unappetising so I settled for a slice of home made coffee and walnut cake and a large latte before going for a look around the gardens. I've visited Rosemoor several times before but it has always been in the rain and so, because the sun was out and it was a beautiful warm autumn day, it was quite a different experience. I'm not a gardener and I don't know what I'm looking at but I know if it looks pretty! 

Whether you are looking for inspiration or just a relaxing day out, RHS Rosemoor is a garden of intoxicating beauty, meticulously crafted and planted, retaining the essence of rural North Devon within a dramatic backdrop of steep wooded valley sides.

Whatever the season, the exciting colours, scents and textures mean that all your senses will be stimulated, and with both formal and informal gardens - as well as woodland walks, water features and open spaces - there is something for children and adults alike to enjoy. 

A wealth of inspiring, entertaining and educational events are held each year at Rosemoor. From horticultural walks and talks to family fun days, art exhibitions to food fairs, there’s a lot going on for everyone.


Besides anything else, if the weather is good, it is just a nice, peaceful place to enjoy some fresh air. The downside today was that it was very busy and after getting up early this morning, I just wanted to close my eyes for 10 minutes. So I went back to the coach where I found 2 out of 8 blocked in car drivers waiting to leave. Both drivers tried to shout at me for blocking them in so I just pointed to each sign saying 'Coach Parking Only', of which there were a lot, and the very clear writing on the ground saying the same, and asked them both what it said. That shut them up! They won't do it again!

We left there and drove the short journey back to Barnstaple and our hotel. Brend Hotels, The Imperial Hotel, Barnstaple. This is my favourite hotel in the UK. The staff are the making of this hotel. No one can do enough for you. They are all such nice people and the majority have worked here for many years. 

The Brend Hotels are a very good chain of hotels in the South West owned by the Brend family. They do not have a bad hotel. All of them have more than comfortable rooms and always very good food with at least one of their hotels being Michelin starred. The Imperial is a 4* hotel. Guests are expected to dress for dinner and there is a dress code in the restaurant. Meals are served covered with silver domes with a 'tadaaah' when it's removed, but the atmosphere isn't snooty or stuffy like a lot of these up market hotels can be. 

The waiters in the restaurant provide some good eye candy for the ladies, especially the Egyptian brothers who I usually take to the pub on the night before my day off, where I always beat them at pool because they are rubbish! Unlucky for me, I don't have a day off here this time.

So we all checked in, dressed for dinner, and were invited for a complimentary welcome drink in the lounge, before being taken through and seated in the restaurant. As always, I really enjoyed my meal. Cauliflower and four cheese soup, St. Clements sorbet, Roast Beef with the largest home made Yorkshire pudding I have ever seen, and Baileys cheesecake with clotted cream followed by coffee and mints.

Gluttony comes to mind! It was really nice to catch up with the staff who I have come to know quite well over the years and the ladies on the coach appreciated the eye candy!