Don’t you love traveling by train? And this Great Western service from London Paddington to Taunton is exceptionally good, with electrical outlets by our comfortable seats, and free wifi. It’s a pleasure to gaze at the beautiful English countryside as we zip southwest.The sun is shining when we pull into Taunton and walk the short distance from the train station, passing through the archway to Castle Green, where The Castle Hotel, our abode for the weekend, now occupies the historic edifice, the origins of which first stood on this site in the 900s. Elegantly renovated inside, it’s now an excellent blend of ancient history and modern comfort.
Afternoon tea is our introduction to the cuisine of The Castle – and if the pastries, sandwiches, scones and cream are any indication, we should be in for a delicious weekend!
I take advantage of a couple of free hours before the evening events to see what’s in the neighborhood – delightful ancient buildings (can you see the “1578” under the eaves?) tucked convivially in with new construction, scents of sausages wafting through the air, several gorgeous old churches, and an impressive town hall in the center of it all.Back under the arches to The Castle, and we dress for the evening…first a pre-concert lecture by BBC music critic Richard Wigmore, who brings delightful life to the pieces by Dvorak and Mozart. The Wihan Quartet, whom we so enjoyed at Orpheus and Bacchus on our Bordeaux/Dordogne Tour in the fall, once again thrill us with their music…I’m in heaven! We’ve long heard of the outstanding cultural tours offered by Martin Randall, and now finally experience one for ourselves!
We finish the day with a superb dinner, getting to know our fellow guests as we savor one delicious course after another. “Oh, you’re the Americans!” we hear time and again – we’re the only non-Brits here for this delectable weekend and I hope we’ll be back for more!