England: Day 4

I’m frightfully tired this evening, so this update may be even a bit less lucid than usual. (Fair warning!)

Today’s adventures started at 7:40am, when [Chris->] came by to get me so that we could go pick up rental cars. Five things made the driving throughout the day particularly interesting for me:

  1. I haven’t been driving with any regularity since starting work at the University
  2. I haven’t driven a car with a manual transmission for several years now
  3. Traffic Circles (or roundabouts, as they’re called here) give me the heebies. They’re abundant in England.
  4. I’ve never driven on the left side of the road
  5. By American standards, both cars and lanes are extraordinarily narrow, which provides a pretty constant harrowing “just missed” feel whenever driving anywhere.

We did, however, make it back from the rental place without incident, other than a few scraped sidewalls on the tires as I misjudged the distance to the curb. After picking up the rest of the family, we proceeded on to Topsham, where we caught an excursion boat out to Exmouth. Once again, the guide exhibited a good deal of wit in his presentation as he explained the history of the area, discussed specific castles and other structures we passed, and generally made the trip a delight.

At Exmouth, we went down to the beach, gobbled up the delicious sandwiches Becky’s mum Betty had provided for our lunch, and played along the water’s edge for a good while. The water was too cold for much serious bathing, but the kids enjoyed playing among the dunes and making sand castles. We were very impressed with the number and variety of shells that had washed up on the shore — far more and nicer specimens than we generally find on the gulf coast. (Pictures constructed from the shells were a common sight along the water’s edge.) As the afternoon wore on, the wind picked up dramatically. Chris and I played a game where we’d toss his hat straight up into the air, wait for the wind to take it, and then see if the person 75 feet down the beach could catch it before it landed. The kids were finally getting sandblasted enough with the dry sand and wind that we decided to retire from the lovely coast setting, take a train back to Topsham, and retire to a nearby pub.

While the process of getting to The Double Locks Pub was a ridiculous and frustrating comedy of errors, we all eventually arrived and enjoyed a few pints and some dinner. Dad ordered The Ploughman’s Lunch, a standard working man’s meal, which included chutney, salad, various cheeses, some meats, and a pickled onion, and which I’d been keen to try. The pub itself was beautiful, situated on a canal, with only a very small road with a harrowing bridge providing automotive access, but with easy availability to pedestrians, bikes, and boats. (It even catered to swans and dogs!) We enjoyed our time there a great deal, and hope to get back again before our time in Exeter is done.

Note: you can see all of our posted England photos so far right here.