It was a great plan. And, as with so many great plans, things didn’t go exactly as expected.
This all started a year ago, when DH and I decided to explore spending an extended vacation in the UK, Brexit notwithstanding. We’d rent a place with a kitchen so we wouldn’t be dependent on restaurant meals; we’d see friends in London; we’d have a home base from which to explore; and best of all, we’d have direct flights between Austin and London.
We choose Devon, as it’s one part of England neither of us has fully explored, and make our bookings.
Not having a crystal ball, we don’t know that we’ll actually be in Oregon come October since the new house we’re building in Austin won’t be ready until January. This means we now have to fly to Austin in order to catch our “direct” flight, and of course do the same upon returning. Not to mention the additional cost of hotels, etc.
No matter. We’ve rented a cute little National Trust cottage in Devon (Coastal Cottage #3, which sounds picturesque), described as “cozy” (which turns out to be code for “minuscule”); we have a car with GPS; what can go wrong?
First clue: the three cottages are at the end of a literal long and winding road: rutted, unpaved, narrow, rocky, passable by only one vehicle at a time and our rental car pretty much takes up the entire width of it. If someone is coming in when you’re going out, one of you has to back up a quarter mile. This will get old pretty damn quickly. As will unlocking the entry gate’s padlock in pouring rain.
Pros: The cottage is nicely equipped with pots and pans, washer-dryer, and a reasonably comfy bed.
Cons: The TV doesn’t work. There is no Internet. There is no mobile connection so cell phones don’t work either. There is, however, a phone box outside that you can unlock with a key. But let’s say you break your leg falling down the treacherous winding stairs connecting the bedroom and sitting room, and you cannot crawl outside to get to the phone?!? This place is really remote. It is also cold and clammy and there is a fireplace, but we’ll soon discover that when it is warm enough downstairs, it is boiling hot in the bedroom — and not in a good way.
The sun is shining so we head off to explore Peppercombe Beach, which is a short hike.
Beautiful, but the beach is all rocks.
Pro: We can get Internet service at the closest pub. A pint was never so tempting!
A FEW HIGHLIGHTS OF WEEK ONE
We are intrepid! We are undaunted! We can’t wait to get out of the cottage! We gamely set out to explore Devon and Cornwall — rain and shine. Some favorite places:
PORT ISAAC (The”Port Wenn” of Doc Martin) is very pretty, despite heavy rain and wind that’s blowing my umbrella inside out. That’s why there are so few photos. Watch the show to see it at its best!
On the way home, we discover Camel Valley vineyard (Cornwall’s largest vineyard), where the tasting room manager is very hospitable and gives us generous pours since we’re the only people to stop by on this rather dreary day.
THE EDEN PROJECT
The Eden Project, an educational charity, is designed to raise awareness of changes in our environment.
The visitor site in Cornwall, nestled in a huge crater, features a group of massive Biomes, stunningly planted to replicate select environments along with natural inhabitants such as native birds. It houses the largest rainforest in “captivity” and serves as a backdrop to striking contemporary gardens, concerts and year-round events.
Worth a visit if you’re in the area, the village is privately owned and no cars are allowed, owing to its extremely steep cliffside location. Supplies are delivered on pallets dragged up and down the hill — or on donkeys!
A beautiful stately home built in the 1820s, Arlington Court features carriages, extensive grounds to explore, fancy furniture, and typical crap that rich Victorians used to collect, such as vast quantities of ordinary-looking shells, all lovingly displayed on velvet trays.
I’m particularly fond of the grand staircase…
and the estate’s sheep.
OUR LOCAL. It’s not the closest pub, but it’s very welcoming, has good food, and we can sit for an hour checking e-mail with free WiFi and nobody giving us the stinkeye.