Friday, 3 November 2017

Travel | Hotel du Vin, Exeter

Hotel du Vin Exeter review travel blogger UK

How do you choose a hotel? Do you scour Tripadvisor reviews to gauge popular opinion? Do you take to social media to ask the hive mind? Or do you trust one chain and go back to them time and again? A few weeks back, Mike was invited to speak at a conference in Exeter. It had been a while since the two of us had an adventure so I packed my suitcase and headed down with him, looking forward to exploring this pretty Devon city.

My good friend Alice grew up there and I’ve been on a day trip or two with her, and have always liked it a lot. Devon is one of my favourite places in England. My grandma lived in south Devon so many holidays were spent there as a child, exploring coastal villages and nominating our favourite beaches (mine? East Portlemouth for its rope swing into the sea). But day trips and overnight stays with relatives don’t help when finding a hotel.

I have had nothing but lovely experiences staying with the Hotel du Vin group in the past (most recently the Brighton one back in February where we ended up buying my engagement ring in a cute little jewellers in The Lanes). The Bristol one is in the Christmas Steps area, all higgledy piggledy shops and old fashioned buildings, and an espresso martini or two there at Christmas is fast becoming a tradition of ours.

But what about the Exeter Hotel du Vin? Housed in a magnificent building on Magdalen Street at the south end of the city, this HdV has an impressive red brick frontage. The old eye hospital has been converted into a luxury hotel and spa, but traces of its medical heritage remain in the form of the old wooden signage, terrazzo flooring and - wait for it - the old operating theatre, which is where we stayed. The friendly front of house guy, Calum, who showed us to our room pointed out that it was the only one with the same gorgeous terrazzo flooring as the entrance area, but it was the inlet drains that gave the game away. Not in the least bit squeamish, though, as you can see from the picture - the bed was huge, comfortable and inviting. The bathroom area was generous, with products galore. The huge, double height windows let in so much light. This is a beautiful hotel room.

Hotel du Vin Exeter review travel blogger UK


So much so that on Thursday evening, when Mike was at the speakers’ dinner downstairs, I took myself off to the pool. Half indoor, half outdoor, this little pool is gorgeous. And I had it all to myself. I bobbed about in the bubbly indoor jacuzzi area before swimming through the doorway out into the night air. The water was warm and steam rose up from the dark pool - a rainy evening solo swim felt indulgent and invigorating. Afterwards, I padded back up through the garden and up to the room in my robe and slippers for an hour or two of telly, crisps and wine. Not bad, eh?

Hotel du Vin Exeter review travel blogger UK

Breakfast next day was extensive and delicious. The staff didn’t bat an eyelid when I asked about vegan options, and I managed to put away a chia and mango pot followed by avocado and chilli on toast. We needed sustenance for a day listening to the amazing speakers at the Like Minds conference, after all (if you’re interested in digital start ups and hearing from people like Amazon Alexa, Lego and *cough* Beano then keynote videos of the conference are viewable here).

Hotel du Vin Exeter review travel blogger UK


Hotel du Vin Exeter review travel blogger UK


Back at the hotel, I headed down to the spa for a manicure. It’s been ages since I had one, my nails going through a horrible phase over the past year or so (top tip: supplement with calcium, vitamin D3 and vitamin K! Definitely sorted mine out). The therapist who did my nails was absolutely lovely, we chatted about what it was like to work there (she’s been with the spa for three years now, always a good sign), and I loved the colours they had on offer - classic red for me. The end result was immaculate and as a lovely finishing touch, I was given a tiny bottle of polish for touch ups (not needed, in the end, as this manicure lasted an impressive couple of weeks).

As soon as my nails were dry, we jumped into the car and drove the 20 minutes or so down to Exmouth. I’d seen the dreamy pictures of the River Exe Cafe over on Instagram and had wanted to visit. Luckily for us, we got the last table on the last Friday before they closed for the winter. If it’s an experience you’re after, then this is for you. The Cafe is on a pontoon out in the middle of the river, so the only access is by boat. On booking, you pick a slot but need to add half an hour onto that to allow for the water taxi to pick you up from Exmouth Marina and deliver you to the watery eatery. It’s a speedy boat ride over, and the dark was just about setting in when we climbed aboard, the lights of the estuary twinkling all around us. Once at the cafe, you almost forget where you are (there’s no choppy feeling or obvious clues you’re not on dry land) and the staff were very friendly and relaxed.

River Exe Cafe Exmouth Devon review food blogger



River Exe Cafe Exmouth Devon review food blogger

The food itself was great. Plenty of fish on the menu, as you’d expect, but there’s always a vegan option. The night of our visit it was a delicious veg curry with plantain and samphire which I really enjoyed, while Mike opted for a classic fish and chips. From the pirate flag flying out front to the mussel shell artwork on the walls, the River Exe Cafe is a special treat that’s well worth the extra travel from Exeter.

River Exe Cafe Exmouth Devon review food blogger

River Exe Cafe Exmouth Devon review food blogger

Back at the Hotel du Vin, we ordered an Old Fashioned from the bar that we drank up in our room. Next morning, we went for breakfast again before a splash about in the pool. After packing, we headed into Exeter for a potter around the shops (Otto's for covetable vintage, NGNG for lovely plants, cards and prints, Exploding Bakery for coffee and treats for the journey back).

Since getting home, we’ve had a sneaky look on Rightmove for properties in central Exeter. Such a beautiful city with so much going on… the southwest’s best kept secret? Not for long.


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Disclosure:
Hotel du Vin Exeter offered us a room at a reduced press rate for the purposes of this review.  
All opinions are my own. 
For more on how I work with brands, visit my Work with me page
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