Tuesday, June 30, 2015

England Vacation - Journal - Part 3 - Totnes

June 2nd, 2015

11.40 p.m.   Great excitement for me first thing.  Very early this morning I saw my first English Robin.  He was in the bushes when I first spotted him, and when I saw movement I immediately went to the window to get a closer look, which scared him away.  But I had seen him. 

I honestly can say I don't remember seeing one when I was growing up, but I think this is because I never took notice, as I certainly wasn't interested in birds as I am now.  I knew of them, of course.  I think every child in England did by their illustrations, and those always seemed to be on Christmas Cards that popped through the letter box each December.   But as a child I only noticed the much larger birds like seagulls and crows.  As far as I am concerned this is a lifer for me.  

(The next day I bought some bird seed and put it down, but it attracted a couple of other birds, like this Common Wood Pigeon...

and the male Blackbird.  They seemed to make the Robin even more scarce as later they brought all their relatives.)

 (During our vacation we discovered our Robin was a daily visitor to the garden.  I suspect he/she had a nest in the bushes.  Maybe I was actually seeing two Robins, never at the same time.  I really don't know enough about their habits.  My niece was awakened by a tapping outside her bedroom window all through our time at the cottage, and when she looked outside it was the Robin on a small branch resting on the glass.  A nice early morning alarm clock.)

Our sightseeing today started off in Totnes.  At this link it says that Totnes' recorded history starts back as early as 907 AD, when its first castle was built, and that it was already an important market town.  A fascinating history, it was one of five Devonshire towns originally mentioned in The Doomsday Book, and was considered one of the wealthiest towns in medieval and Tudor history, second only to Exeter.  

In the above photo you can see the East Gate Arch which was rebuilt after a devastating fire in 1990.  The original gate dated back to the early 16th century, when Totnes was a walled borough and it was the main entrance way coming up from the port.  

The clock was installed by the town council in 1879 when they leased this part of the building from the Duke of Somerset. Sadly, in September 1990 this structure, along with a couple of neighboring buildings, was devastated by a fire which threatened to engulf the whole town center.  Fire crews from all over Devon were called in and by the time they had the blaze under control, all that was left of the East Gate was the stone shell.  Fortunately it was insured and it was recreated using as much of the traditional materials and techniques, a process which took almost two years.  

I had friends who lived here before I moved to the States, and used to visit them occasionally on weekends.  

My family and I also liked to shop in Totnes and we would occasionally bring our dog until he had an unfortunate incident when we were walking towards the East Gate Arch. He was just a puppy and we were passing a small terrier that attacked him without provocation. 

It bit our dog's nose so hard it bled profusely. Our poor pup, for the rest of his life, hated small dogs and never got over his fear of them. Whenever we approached one we always had to shorten the leash, bend down and try to calm him, but the poor thing never got over that distressing incident.  It's not only humans who have long memories.

There were still lots of dogs being taken shopping today. I noticed everywhere we went on our holiday, how many dogs were escorted by their owners everywhere we went. I heard the little dog below tied up in the alley next to the shop we were visiting.  He was whining and yipping a little bit and he stopped and stared when I talked to him.  His human came out of the shop and I saw them both walking down the hill a little while later. Shhhhh....don't tell him he was having a bad hair day.  I thought he looked cute anyhow.

This little girl was taking her cat for a walk.  I did a double take seeing it bumping down the road and it took me a moment to realize it was a plush toy.  I think her mum was concentrating on where she was going.  

I love taking pictures of kids though I have blurred faces to protect privacy.  In the following photo you can see a group of school children making their way down the high street. 

Most of them were all carrying a bag.....

and I realized later when I looked at the photo below, that they were heading for the RSPCA charity shop.   What a super project for a teacher to organize.  

The shops were fun to browse around.....

and I enjoyed window shopping.

We stopped and had lunch in one of the pubs, the King William IV, and discovered how much we liked cider.

The food was also very tasty.  Our niece took photos as she wanted to show her friends how good our English meals were.  (During our vacation we always had delicious choices and never had any complaints.)  Our niece had a chicken dish....

and nephew and Gregg ordered a Thai Chicken Curry.

I had the Steak and Mushrooms Pie in Merlot....

and we shared the Cajun-seasoned onion rings.

I also liked the sign on the wall.

Well fortified we continued to look around the town and pop into one or two shops.  Gregg spotted a W. H. Smith.  He loves their stationery and purchased a couple of fountain pens.  I liked the look of this cheese shop but didn't go in.  

It was all uphill, we got our exercise.  In fact, I had forgotten how hilly everywhere we went was.  We were always climbing up or climbing down, with plenty of steps in between.

It was nice to see the smaller, family-style shops instead of the huge supermarkets we are used to.

There were many pretty courtyards we passed by on our way back to the car.....

and we walked over the River Dart.

There were kids rowing down the river.....

and it was fun watching them for a while.  School was still in so P.E. class?  Now that's the kind of P.E. class I would have enjoyed.  A teacher was in the last boat and there was at least one adult in the others.   I also noticed that a rope tied each boat to the other.

The river sure was very pretty.

And even the crows were interesting to look at.  Added note on the bird.  Thanks to Stewart of Paying Ready Attention - Photo Gallery, I now know this bird is actually a Jackdaw.  Thanks Stewart!

One more photo not too far from the car.  Let's just say the name of this street really tickled me.

Before going back to the cottage we went for a ride into Torquay as my niece wanted to go to the aquarium.  However, by this time the clouds had darkened and it was so wet and windy, with huge white caps on the sea.  After almost being blown over trying to walk down to the aquarium, with heavy rain stinging our eyes, we decided it would be better to go another day, and come back when it was at least dry.  The walk was invigorating but you can only take so much of invigorating walking.

One last stop at the three village shops, which are all joined together.  There was a newsagent, a hair salon and a general store for essentials.  They have been there for as long as I can remember.
The man behind the counter of the general store was amused as we all walked into the shop in single file, and asked us to join the conga line.  It was a small shop with not much room to move around as the waist-size freezer containers were also in the middle of the shop.  Our purchases were cider, two six-pack packets of eggs and bars of chocolate.  The lady thought our purchases were funny and asked if that was all we were going to get.  With a smile I told her that I thought we had covered all the necessary food groups (not telling her we had done our main shopping the day before) and she laughed.  These shops are just up the hill from where we were staying, and Gregg enjoyed a walk each morning to get the newspaper and also any necessary items we might need before we started our day.  We were all in a good mood after our day out.

Off to bed and an end to another lovely day.

In case you miss vacation posts I will be adding a link to the previous ones.

Part 1 here.

Part 2 here.

(To all the hosts of the memes I love to participate in, I will posting my journal for a while but will be back joining in once these are over with.)

Monday, June 29, 2015

England Vacation - Journal - Part 2 - Paignton

June 1st, 2015

8.16 p.m. and it has been a lovely day.  We started out sitting in the kitchen talking with our niece and nephew for a couple of hours.  Then it was decided we should drive into town as everyone wanted to have fish and chips for lunch.  

We walked down to the front (next to the beach) in Paignton, first stopping in the old fish and chip shop that my parents loved going to.  

Gregg found a friend.

Hello again My Lovelies!

It was so much fun to be in familiar territory. My niece remembers this area well from her childhood, and that is yet another thing we have in common.  

More nostalgia food!  These icons are everywhere around town. 

Our nephew-in-law treated us to an ice-cream.  

My choice was a scoop of vanilla in a cone, with a small Cadbury's Flake stuck in the top. 

The young lady almost forgot to add it.  She just did not understand how important it was to have that Cadbury Flake. It just wouldn't have been the same without it.  The ice-cream is like a soft-serve from Dairy Queen, a little firmer but not so firm like regular ice-cream.  Definitely nostalgia for me as I remember happily walking down that same street with my mum, dad and sister, when I was eight years' old.  Happy memories!

And we really enjoyed our ice-cream, nostalgia and all, and others were not forgotten either.  During our stay I noticed that lots of shops and even restaurants had put water dishes outside for their customers' dogs.

This is a seaside town and like many of its kind, it is very kitschy with lots of souvenir stores and eateries, and plenty of arcades for big kids and little kids to enjoy.  

There are gorillas sitting on the sidewalk.....

and Disney characters.

When my family and I first started coming to this area they rented a caravan at Waterside Caravan Park.  I am going back over 50 years here.  Our caravan was parked on the top of the hill.  We walked down to the train track where we had to go under the bridge to get to the beach, and climb over huge boulders which was our path down to the sand.  It worried my mother who did not like such things for her children to clamber over, especially at the high rate of speed as eager as we were to get down to the beach.  I seem to remember it being a rocky beach at that time, with lots of tide pools to explore.  We were never without one of those small fishing nets on a pole that I see kids with today.

This day, when we got down to the front we walked by the old theater and up to the pier. 

It started to brighten up the longer we were out but the first few days were chilly and rainy.

Others are enjoying a walk along the seafront but....

it is colder than last year and very windy.  I am sure I saw that seagull laughing at the cold.

My niece's husband didn't seem to mind either, judging from that lovely smile.  We were all enjoying the sight of the ocean even with the chilly weather.

I always seem to pack not quite enough of what I should have.  Like a thicker jacket or a woolly cardigan, that would have been nice. 

There were donkey rides being offered on the grassy part next to the sea. All dressed up in their finery.  They were beautiful donkeys.  

When we finally got back to the car we drove towards Newton Abbot where my niece had heard of an orchid garden.  It was a lovely place called Burnham Nurseries.  If you go here it will take you to the photos they have on Facebook. You can also look at their website here.

It reads, "We are a family run nursery, orchid specialists for over 60 years, with the widest range of orchids in the UK."

It was a fabulous place to browse around and I saw orchids I have never set eyes on before.  I will do a whole post on it sometime.  I can't remember how long we spent there but it seemed quite a long time.

After that we went to Sainsbury's and shopped for groceries, brought them home and my niece fixed a lovely dinner of scotch eggs, pork pie, sausage roll bites and veggies.  A delicious feast and more nostalgia foods.  (The vase of red roses was a welcome gift from the owner of the cottage.)  A conversation I heard in Sainsbury's at the fish counter, chap in white coat and hat, to customer, "Hello Love, what can I get you?"  Lady replied, "Hello Love...." and I missed the rest of the conversation as I didn't want to just stop in my tracks and be obviously perceived as eavesdropping.  I thought to myself, wonderful being back in England.  "Hello Love!"

After dinner I went into the next room where my niece showed me all her orchid photos.  She had taken some real beauties. I was going to look at mine but I ended up dropping off to sleep on the couch, being aware that my iPAD was in danger of slapping me in the face.  I am horizontal with my feet up, and it hovers as I try to stay awake long enough to read the article I am reading. I must have put it down just before I fell asleep.  It has been known to hit me in the face, which always startles me awake as I rub the sore spot on my nose.  I awoke to the sound of my family chatting in the kitchen and I joined them.

More to follow.

In case you miss vacation posts I will be adding a link to the previous ones.

Part 1 here.

(To all the hosts of the memes I love to participate in, I will posting my journal for a while but will be back joining in once these are over with.)