Monday, May 22: Exmouth to Penzance

Penzance

^^^Looking back at our hotel in Penzance from the waterfront.

Our wonderful hosts, Judy and Jeremy, made us a full English breakfast on Monday morning. We sat over coffee and chatted for about as long as we could. It was interesting to hear their perspectives on Brexit and politics. One observation that Judy made about us that I was pleased to hear was that we have a very British sense of humor. I guess all the Monty Python and BBC shows have rubbed off! If we lived closer, I feel like we would be good friends.

This was a travel day, and a weird one. In hindsight, we should have returned the rental car while we were close to Exeter, because neither of us had any business driving on English roads. We didn’t understand the road signs. The roundabouts freaked Sandy out, and he drove over a curb and almost into a tree when another car cut him off in a roundabout. The narrow back roads, which often narrowed without warning to only one car width, had no shoulders and hedges and stone walls were only a few inches from the side of the roads.

But the really embarrassing moment for me was when I scraped a curb on a comfortable wide motorway. There was no excuse for it, and I still think that curb must have jumped out from the side of the road. Anyway, I paid an extra 100 quid for that mistake. I’m just glad that they didn’t charge me for the whole rim. My other punishment by Sandy:

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We stopped at Jamaica Inn on Bodmin Moor, which was just off the main highway. A real tourist place, but fun enough, with good food and a farm stand. We had some caffeine and pastries and I bought a copy of Daphne du Maurier’s book Jamaica Inn, which I’m reading now.

Jamaica Inn

Jamaica Inn

Bodmin Moor

Bodmin Moor

When we arrived at our hotel in Penzance, I was pleased at the location right on the bay overlooking St. Michael’s Mount. We walked into the lobby, once we could get someone to open the door, and the mess and the stench was awful. I was ready to bolt by the time the owner walked in, but to be polite we looked at our room upstairs, which was tolerable, only a little musty and it was clean. He said that a mistake had been made and that they were in the middle of renovation downstairs, and offered to let us stay that night for free. He said that he would put us down as a no show on the travel service website we used but we’d have to back him up by saying that we didn’t stay there. So that’s what we did. I guess that the benefit to him was that we wouldn’t put up an awful review. We propped open the windows for fresh air and walked into town.

Penzance

Penzance

Penzance

Penzance

We had drinks at a little pub called the Globe, where the patrons and bartender recommended the Light of Bengal for dinner – again, one of the best meals we had in England was Indian.

Sunday, May 21: Exmouth

Sunday was supposed to be the day that we explored the Jurassic Coast UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was a major reason I chose Exmouth (which is at the southern end) and it would have fulfilled a quest to visit as many UNESCO sites as possible wherever we travel, as well as Sandy’s fondness for fossils and my love of sea cliffs and beach walks. However, it didn’t happen. We just couldn’t do it.

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Our hosts, upon seeing how exhausted we were, suggested that we take a down day, sleep, do a load of laundry, and hang out in their beautiful back yard. Their children were there and they went out with them that morning and early afternoon. When they came back, they invited us to eat a mid-afternoon dinner with them and their family. It was a lovely restful day, and as you can guess from these photos, it was just my kind of place, made complete with Esme, the grumpy cat.

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Late that afternoon (and it gets dark late in England, so we had a long evening) we walked down the beach and watched the kite surfers, collected pebbles, ate some ice cream, and enjoyed the sunset. We stopped at the Powder Monkey to eat a hot dog and I finally found a local brown ale, Hobgoblin, by Wychwood Brewery. On the way back I insisted on stopping at the Bicton Inn for one last delicious Titanic plum porter.

Yeah, I could see living here.

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^^^The bar at the Bicton Inn

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^^^Sunset from our bedroom window. That is the Exe river mouth just over the rooftops.

Saturday, May 20: Dartmoor National Park

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^^^On the way uphill

I’m so glad that we went to Dartmoor National Park. It was the nature experience I needed, plus there were many ancient and medieval sites, although to be honest, driving on the roads there scared us enough that we didn’t explore it as deeply as I would have liked to do. It was a misty afternoon, appropriate weather for searching for stone circles.

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This medieval bridge is called a clapper bridge.

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Dartmoor is known for its wild ponies. I saw another small herd of ponies higher up that looked wilder than the two we passed here.

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And just like Ireland, there were many sheep.

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Maybe I have an ancestral memory that makes me long for the moors. Before I knew about my Cornish heritage my heart leapt at the isolated highland landscapes in Ireland.

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We drove back to Exmouth and ate at a contemporary pub downtown called Spoken. I had a soup that combined an odd but tasty blend of flavors: cream of sweet potato and broccoli, and a very good stout from St. Austell Brewery: Mena Dhu Stout.

Saturday, May 20: Totnes

Totnes street

Our original plan for the day was to drive or take a train to Stonehenge. Our hosts suggested that a closer and more interesting option might be Totnes and Dartmoor National Park. So Stonehenge will have to wait for another trip.

We parked at the steam train station and walked up the hill to Totnes Castle, which looked over the town and the Devon countryside.

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There was a street market happening on the high street in town, with food vendors, farm stands, clothing and antique/junk tables. I bought a British Monopoly card and token set without the board for 1 pound. Lots of politicking was going on, since the elections were coming up. It was obvious that this town was very liberal (and we like that). We ate pasties at a bakery/deli, checked out the old church, then found a cool shaded walkway at the bottom of the hill that took us back to our car. This was a town that I could imagine living in.

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Friday, May 19: London to Exmouth

London, 2017

On Friday, we ate one last breakfast at Charlotte Guest House, loaded our packs, and took the Tube to Paddington Station, where we got on a train to Exeter. I wish I had taken a photo of the train station at Paddington, because it was different than others I’ve seen, but we got on the train so quickly that I didn’t get a chance. Here’s a tip – if you travel by train in England, the cheapest fares during the day are mid-day.

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Exeter train station

It took a couple of hours to get to Exeter. We couldn’t find seats together, but once someone noticed us talking down the aisle, she offered to switch seats. The scenery was beautiful and we both found a conversation between two older men beside us, one Irish and one English, interesting. They were strangers, struck up a friendship as we traveled, and we got to hear them discuss liberal politics. One said, “I realize that it is quite indiscreet to talk to a stranger on a train, but I’m very glad we had this conversation.” The other got up, bought them both a beer, and you could tell that they would probably get together again.

It reminded me of a conversation I had with an elderly Japanese woman on the train on the way to D.C. for the People’s Climate March. I generally like to be left alone on a plane or train, but by the time I got off Amtrak that day, I wished that I could ride with her all the way to her home in Maine. We could have been great friends – she was fascinating and we clicked right away. Maybe we should all give these random seatings on planes and trains a chance. It might save the world.

Anyway, once in Exeter, we took a bus to the airport and picked up our rental car. I had a reservation for a compact car, the cheapest one, because after our experience in Ireland five years ago I knew that small would be better. I was willing to pay extra for GPS, because having a map of those roundabouts is extremely helpful. However, the agent was excited about the upgrade he had for us. It was a small Nissan SUV, and it had all the bells and whistles: heated leather seats, GPS, sun roof, diesel. Candy apple red. Beautiful car, for the same price. We should have turned it down, but we didn’t.

Exmouth, UK

^^^View from our bedroom window at our AirBNB rental.

After a couple of wrong turns we rode through the countryside south to Exmouth, the harbour town at the mouth of the Exe River on the English Channel. The AirBNB home we chose was perfect, the hosts were friendly and fun.

That evening we walked down through a gorgeous public garden and to the walk along the strand. There was a rainbow over the English Channel.

Exmouth, 2017

Exmouth, 2017

Dinner was at the Grove, where you ordered food at the bar and took a spoon with a number on it for your table. They found us upstairs, where Sandy had the beef stroganoff special and I think this is where I had salmon. Dessert was Cold Apple and Rhubarb Amaretti Crumble, Custard with Clotted Cream. Clotted cream is one of the regional foods around here, somewhat like cream cheese. We sat on the balcony for a while and watched the seagulls.

Exmouth, 2017

Exmouth, 2017

Exmouth, 2017

Exmouth, 2017

On the way back we stopped at a tiny local pub on a back street that the hosts recommended called the Bicton Inn, where I had the best porter, no, best any kind of porter or ale or beer or stout, I’ve ever tasted. (It gets better in my memory, I think.) And I have tasted a LOT of dark brews. You can’t get it here, of course, and it was the only place I saw it in England. Titanic Plum Porter. I’d go back to Exmouth just to drink it again.