Today we visited Dartington Crystal, I’m told it’s the only place in the UK that still blows their glass by hand. The produce about 1700 pieces per day, all beautiful but a bit pricey for my wallet and I find a bit heavier than I like. Gorgeous stuff however and watching the skill of the glass blowers is a treat.
While the boys were out not catching fish, the girls went back to Exeter to have lunch with a long lost aunt. They visited Rougemont Gardens which was the (damn) Normans seat of power back in the day. The description of the place is in the name.
The stained glass window is from St Stephens Church which is a few blocks away from St Martins.
So today we went to Budleigh Salterton to fish. Fishing was a bit of an abortive experience as our gear was not quite up to snuff but the beach and the drive were great. It takes about an hour and a quarter to get from Northcott Cottage to Budleigh Salterton (I kept calling it Bubbly Selzertown to bug my in-laws) and it’s like leaving the rolling hills of Devon and ending up in the Mediterranean. The temperature was quite a bit warmer than when we left Northcott Cottage.
The town itself is totally a tourist town with big houses and estates around. The streets are so narrow that cars can’t pass each other if there’s a parked one, we have to take turns going.
The beach is a pebble beach which is a first for me and the earth around the beach is quite red and orange.
Beautiful place overall.
Where we are staying with Shareen’s parents, Northcott Cottage. The house is about 600 years old, apparently it was given to the daughter of the farmer way back along with 35 acres of land across the road as her dowry. Idea being that she could rent out the land and house and earn her own living that way. Over the years the family got the land back but somehow the cottage remained empty until relatively recently. Shareen’s parents own the half on the right and they have a neighbour in the part on the left.
We also have their garden in the back and there’s another garden in the front (not shown).
Finally, real British Fish and Chips….nom nom nom
Exeter, UK – note that they named a street after me
So today I decided that as a family we should step outside, out of the house that is. We’re on vacation and spending time inside is a waste of time in my opinion. Well intended but a tactical mistake in the end. Everyone was still tired from our journey and there was no grace or patience left that day. Lesson learned was to take an extra day to recover from a trip before attempting to step outside.
We decided to take a trip into Exeter to check out the shops and stretch our legs by walking about a bit. My in-laws live in Morchard Bishop and the easiest way for the four of us to get to Exeter was via train. Dad drove us to the train station and again the train arrived with the precision of a Swiss watch. The train was full and we ended up standing for the half hour trip into Exeter.
Oddly enough it was free to get on the train and we didn’t have to buy tickets until we got off at Exeter Central station. The conductor at the station automatically added return tickets to our purchase and we received a small discount. Total price for a return trip for four to and from Exeter was 12 pounds.
We walked a few blocks from the the trains station to Cathedral Square to get a view of Exeter Cathedral. The Cathedral is over 800 years old and is spectacular despite the current renos.
We also visited St Martins Church which predates the cathedral by a few hundred years.
A generally lazy day, the girls stayed at home but the boys (grandpa, beloved son in law, and grandson) made their way to Exeter for some shopping.
This was not a social (tourist) call but rather mission for survival. We didn’t have Wi-Fi in the house and that wouldn’t do. I also wanted to get a UK or European cell number if I wanted (more than needed) to use my cell and at $1.50/minute I’d rather not rack up too many roaming minutes.
We made our way on the narrow country roads through Crediton and to Exeter which has the larger shops and stores.
Crediton is a small country town with essentially one main street with small shops along the way and a couple of larger chain type super stores at each end.
Exeter is a larger population centre which was formerly a Roman town and now is also a university town.
The only thing of note about getting the Wi-Fi gear was that the prices for computer gear end up being about 20% more expensive than the same gear in North America. This is due to the 20% VAT charged on goods in the UK. Note that prices in stores include the VAT already.
Getting the “temporary” cell number was relatively easy, we went to a Vodafone store to get a micro-SIM for my iPhone, they didn’t have any and so sent us to an independent re-seller across the street (Phones4U). 10 pounds later I slipped a Lebara Mobile (which runs on the Vodafone network anyways) SIM into my phone which came up right away with the new number.
First morning in UK, it’s 5:30 AM local time (which is really 10:30 PM Calgary time), we are staying with Shareen’s parents at Northcott Cottage which is on Southcott Farm near Morchard Bishop in Devon.
The house we are staying in is in an old (I’m told over 600 year old) converted barn but more on that later.
The light outside is grey, there’s fog and mist and the cows are mooing, waiting for the farmer across the lane to bring them in for milking.
Thinking back to our trip yesterday it couldn’t have possibly gone better, at least from a logistical point of view (lady who kept feeding her kid rice crispy squares, cookies, and apple juice, you know who you are). We traveled with Air Transat as it was quite bit less expensive than any competitors we looked at. We were apprehensive about going with a discount airline fearing that we were sacrificing service and comfort for savings but that was not the case.
The plane was a clean new’ish Airbus A330, the seats were cramped but no more than anything else we’ve flown in recent memory. The plane left Calgary exactly on time and delivered us at London Gatwick exactly eight hours and thirty five minutes later. We were served one hot meal and a continental breakfast and the staff were courteous and attentive. None of our luggage was lost and we were ready to go about forty minutes after we landed.
The British rail system kicks the shit out of Swiss precision I have to say. We checked with the train wicket at Gatwick and had about twenty five minutes before the next train to Reading station where we would switch to another train for our final leg.
The Gatwick rail terminal was a short stroll from our terminal and the train for Reading left at EXACTLY the time indicated on the boards. The train was a commuter type train with small but functional seats and we had to stuff our luggage in a doorway before we found a space in a small luggage area. The commuter train made frequent stops and it took about an hour and a half to get to Reading.
Side note, coming from Canada and our big space I’m not used to the crowds in Europe yet. Reading was quite busy and I got flustered trying to find which platform our train to Exeter would be departing from. I checked with the information desk which pointed me to platform 7 which it turns out was right next to the platform we had arrived on.
We made our way to platform 7 and waited about 30 minutes for the train to Exeter St Davids. The train arrived about ten minutes before the scheduled departure time but getting on board was a bit of a schmoz. The kids were tired and tempers were a bit frayed in addition to the fact that the train was overbooked (the announcer apologized profusely at least twice). Our tickets were for unreserved seats and this particular train had very very very few unreserved seats. Shareen and I left the kids in the last two unreserved seats in the whole train and went to stand in the restaurant car where at least there was a bit of room to stand.
My wife showed some initiative and asked the attendant how we could find some more unreserved seats. He told her that you had to go look and find them. Not sure if he felt sorry for us or was embarrassed about the overbooking but he told us to go sit in the first class car right next to the restaurant car. We found four seats together and brought the kids over later.
The conductor came to check our tickets and I was ready to either argue for our right to stay in the first class car due to the space limitations in the rest of the train or purchase the first class upgrade but he simply winked at me and said “no worries”. Later when we were getting off at Exeter St Davids I wanted to give him something for making our trip easier (to be clear, I wanted to give him something for easing our burden, not for letting us stay in first class specifically) but he refused stating that it was the least he could do for a weary traveler. He did however have no problems ejecting some mooching Quebeckers who were looking for a free ride.