My mother, sister, and I spent nine days at the matchless Hope Cottage, with Sue and Bob as our endlessly helpful, kind, and effervescent hosts. We opted to have Sue tour us around (as opposed to choosing the B&B option) and are so glad we did. Traveling is almost always a stress, of course--figuring out what to do on what day, how to get there, how to pay, how to return, where to eat--but at the Hope Cottage, it was easy.
Each day, we woke up to chirping birds, and while not always to sunshine (this is England!), to a sunny Sue with a perfectly healthy, simple, and delicious--and as the week went on, increasingly tailored-to-us--breakfast, including yogurt, fruit, and eggs fresh from her hens, set up in the gorgeous solarium. After that, we'd head after to the day's sights--Highclere Castle, Jane Austen’s house in Chawton, and the village of Lacock were among my favorites--chatting along the way with Sue, taking in the bucolic scenery, without any worries about missing turns or negotiating left-side driving. Sue was eminently flexible and accommodating: if we wanted a little more time in a particular place, or to add an extra stop, it was no problem--nothing ever was. More than a pleasant tour guide, she became a friend, and we like a group of girls on vacation with Sue as our cheerful and very capable leader.
On the way home, a quick call to Bob was all it took to ensure that as soon as we stepped in the door, tea was set out and dinner nearly so. The food was sublime and varied: from lamb with eggplant sauce to lasagna to fish pie, the dishes were befitting of a top restaurant--and were also quite healthy and locally sourced (the lamb, for example, was from a farm in the village). Then it was on to dessert, which was always homemade, often fruit-based and light, and perfect. Finally, we'd sip tea while watching the sunset (which came at an wonderfully late 9 pm), chatting, and finalizing plans for the next day.
The setting itself really can't quite be captured in photos. I knew it would be pretty from the website, but it's more than I imagined--and beyond pictures. You can't see (or hear or smell) in the photos how relaxing and wonderful it is to be surrounded by garden and fields and birds on all sides. The house and the guests cottages are just lovely--I can't say there's a "best" place to stay; they're equally nice. The town center just down the lane (and walk-able from the house) is also so picturesque it almost seems a caricature of the perfect English village--except it's real, of course! Finally, it must be mentioned that the cottage's pet ducks--who can't come inside, though they'd very much like to--are the most adorable creatures you've ever seen: though different types of ducks, they're best friends, and do everything not only together, but in sync. I took about four separate videos of them. (And I'm not even an animal person as such.)
On this trip, I was reminded that there is no substitute for travel: photos, videos, tales don't do it--to expand your mind and being, you must go and see things for yourself. And yet international travel especially is sometimes so draining. Not with Sue and Bob; not at the Hope Cottage. The experience left all of us fresh-faced and relaxed and edified--and dreaming of our return. We are deeply grateful.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Hope Cottage is an 18th century cottage situated down a peaceful lane in a delightfully unspoilt Oxfordshire village. Thatched cottages and country views abound. We offer a choice of bed and breakfast or the full package for a hassle free holiday comprising airport pickup and drop off, dinner, bed and breakfast and daily tours of your choice. We have a comfortable, air conditioned vehicle and can take you wherever you wish, catering to your own interests. Close to Cotswolds, London, Bath, Oxford, Stratford, castles, gardens, historic houses, churches - The world (or our area of the South east of England at least) is your oyster. Back at Hope Cottage we provide home cooked meals using home grown or locally sourced produce. After a busy day touring you can relax in our conservatory or on our west facing terrace, drink in hand, and plan the next busy day. ... more less