Friday, 28 April 2017

April Travels

I thought that weekends would be my favourite ever things once I had a job. Turns out it’s Bank Holidays. I haven’t had a full week at work for 3 weeks, and the May Day Bank Holiday will make that 4. A 5 day week, and a 2 day weekend is a dark, distant memory.

The Easter weekend seemed like the perfect opportunity to string a couple of days holiday on to, to make a whole week off – and give us time for a family weekend in Wiltshire, before a couple of sunny days in Devon. I never went to Devon or Cornwall as a kid, so until recent years it was a bit of a mystery to me. I’d heard it had nice beaches, and was amazing in the sun, but that it was a shame it rained most of the time. Until this month, I’d only seen Devon in the grey and drizzle. But clearly the Easter weather gods were looking down on us, and we had 2 b-e-a-utiful sunny days in Plymouth, and a slightly grey but dry morning on Dartmoor.

Not only was this an excellent trip for weather, but also for walks, food and discovering new places. Plymouth is Simon’s university town, and this was only my third visit – but somehow, each time we go, we find somewhere new to explore. This time was a new length of the coastal path, complete with friendly West-country dog walker, slobbery bulldog and pebble beaches. From Royal William Yard, you can see so far round the bays, in different directions, and it gave us some inspiration for longer walks to do another time. It’s easy to forget what real, fresh sea air is like when you live surrounded by seemingly fresh, but actually dangerously polluted, air most of the time. But on sunny days, with a chilly breeze, it feels more refreshing than ever.

I think we walked about 26 miles in about 48 hours. To the other side of Plymouth, to TKMaxx, round a reservoir, up a tor. Sometimes I get sad that I sit at a desk for a really long time, and then I sit on the sofa. And I want to walk places at weekends, and on holiday. By the time we left Plymouth, my feet were sore and my legs were bruised (still not 100% sure why…) but I felt so much better than I had in a while. At first, it made me sad that we live so far away – and that’s difficult to just pop down for a weekend of seaside walks. And then I remembered that I could do that now, closer to home, in Kent or Sussex or Hampshire. But I don’t, and I want to.

I’ve never thought about Plymouth as being a culinary haven. It’s always been the home to pasties that I wish I could eat, but I can’t. This trip was a real game changer. For a start, I had a full on salad for 50p. Sitting down, on a comfy sofa, in a café, with table service. God bless the South West. But the real highlight was a (what I think was) really authentic Japanese meal. It was served by a lady in a Kimono, came complete with Miso, and the chef bowed to us before we left. Oh, and the food was top notch. I had nice fish; I had amazing coffee cake; I discovered a really good range of sparkling elderflower drinks; and I had the breakfast that dreams are made of – vegan coconut pancakes (courtesy of The Hidden Olive, my new favourite breakfast destination). Coming home to shepherd’s pie from the freezer was an enormous disappointment.

Until last year, following a fantastic week in Yorkshire, I don’t think I ever fully appreciated the staycation. I like a holiday to be sunny, to feel like I’m really going somewhere different, and to feel like I’m away. But I’ve learned that you can do that here too. Our few days in Plymouth were relaxing, and easy. I didn’t have to try and convert any currency, translate a menu, or panic that I’ve left my passport somewhere. My feet and my sleep pattern (literally why are all UK hotels SO HOT AND STUFFY?) were ready to come home, but the rest of me wasn’t; I wanted more sea air, more teriyaki chicken, and more time to be outside. 

Here’s to squeezing in more UK weekends away. 

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