24 Elul - Year 5766
Pixie and I arrived back from holiday on Friday afternoon--and it's back to work tomorrow--but first, a quick holiday recap.
We traveled down the M5 most of the way into deepest, darkest Devon--ending up in Sidmouth, a lovely seaside town. The beach is a must for Pixie, so onto the pebbles we went. After a bit of "paddling" (that's wading to us Yanks) near the shore and exploring various rock pools (it was low tide when we arrived)--it was time to stock up on food for the week and get to the cottage.
The cottage was very cozy and actually bigger than our house. The village it's in, Tipton St. John (which does sound like a character in Spinal Tap, as Singing Bear pointed out), is one of those tiny English places that couldn't possibly be anywhere else. One or two pubs, one post office, a school and homes built into the sides of hills--I hate to use the word 'quaint', but if the postcard-view fits....
Lyme Regis and Charmouth are worth a visit, if you ever are in that area. They're both seaside communities with fossil-strewn beaches--some of the most concentrated collections of prehistoric bones and imprints in the world. Visitors are welcome to comb the beaches for interesting finds, though there are plenty of shops open if you don't score a dino bone or ammonite shell imprint and still want a souvenir. Pixie and I had beginner's luck with us and each found a stone with an ammonite print--although mine seems to be made of some sort of metal, which may not make it an authentic Triassic item. It does have that spiral shape, so I kept it anyway.
A trip to Exeter, the largest town in that area and home to Exeter University, was next. We visited the cathedral and looked around at some of the shops. I was keen to find a funky little indie record shop, it being a college town and all--but the only one we stopped in was very small and the prices seemed a bit steep to me. There was a Music Zone shop, which was having a sale--so I picked up a couple of Tangerine Dream re-issues and a Strawbs disc. Pixie's folks kindly let us poach their National Trust membership cards for the week and we decided to check out Killerton Manor House & Gardens in a place called Broadclyst. Killerton is one of those regal 18th century houses, all huge portraits on the walls and antique furniture in every room. The house is nice (with a special display of ladies' evening wear from the 1800's through the 1970s) and the gardens are well-manicured and extensive, but I was glad we didn't have to pay admission, as it didn't seem worth the price charged for entrance to me.
Our final full day was spent in Exmouth, yet another seaside town (I'm sensing a pattern here). We decided to go on one of those tourist-y sea cruises. This one was called the "Jurassic Coast Tour" and went from Exmouth, up the coast to Sidmouth, and back. I was a bit unsettled by the rocking of the craft, but I got used to it after a while. We passed by a Royal Marines shooting range and you could hear the pops and clacks of the guns. The captain joked over the tannoy that only four passengers had been shot since he had been piloting. I found the tour interesting, especially when we were given a closer look at "sea stacks", towers of rock that are free-standing, due to being eroded away from the mainland--also a peregrine falcon nest, created in a nook high in one of the cliff-faces. Having some time left in the day, we headed to a town called Beer, to explore the old quarry caves there. You aren't allowed to brave the caves alone--so we joined a tour group already in progress, with our hard-hats on. An older woman served as our tour guide and I had a chuckly moment when I thought of the League Of Gentlemen episode featuring a cave tour guide with a deadpan voice. The quarry itself seemed fascinating to me, with the methods of extracting the stone and the graffiti on the walls, placed there by workers over the years. The cold down there made the tour a bit uncomfortable--but soon it was done and we were back in the late afternoon sunshine. Pixie's trusty Kensington 100 Rover nearly didn't make it out of the town, with all of the steep hill roads about.
Our nights were spent at the Golden Lion pub, in Tipton. There's a crew of regulars, you know 'em from every small-town pub. One guy we called "Crossword Guy", due to his constant quizzing of staff and his friends about words to fit his puzzle. Another sounded a lot like Ian McKellen, so he was called "Gandalf". There were a few others, but we lumped them in as "The Crew", as they didn't stand out as much as the aforementioned two. We also enjoyed a nice meal there on Wednesday night--we started with garlic mushrooms and for mains, I had lemon sole (not de-boned, unfortunately) and Pixie had veggie enchiladas--I finished with a chocolate-orange tart and Pixie had some ice cream. We'd recommend the Golden Lion, if you happen to be there.
As with all holidays, this one ended much too soon.