Devon - August 2001
The travelog was written every evening using the cool Palm Vx and the incredible Palm portable keyboard.
Saturday 25 August 2001
Both Michelle and I enjoyed keeping a travelog of our recent holiday in Wales. What’s more some people even read it on our web site! So we decided to keep a travelog again.
We are not in the habit of taking two summer holidays each year, but this year our son Ethan who is now just 15 weeks old, has made the prospect of a foreign holiday too difficult. So we opted to stay at home. We were unable to find the sort of accommodation that we wanted for a fortnight, so we have booked two separate weeks. We took a week in Wales at the beginning of the summer holiday, and now this week in Devon at the end.
This is August bank holiday so we decided to leave home early to avoid getting caught up in terrible holiday traffic. We planned to leave at 6 a.m. this morning. However the packing took longer than anticipated and we did not get to bed until 12.30 am. My wife is very house proud and diligent, but I was surprised to see her polishing at 12.30 a.m. when we had to get up at 4 a.m. a few hours later. She is quite mad! Still she thinks that I am mad for sitting up at the computer late into the night working on the web site - at least we are both happy together even if we both doubt each others sanity.
We rose at 4.30 a.m. and eventually got driving just before 7 a.m. About two minutes later I was stopped for speeding by the Police. They must have been feeling generous, or near the end of the shift, because they let me off with a talking to - they aren't all bad.
We made good progress and apart from some fog patches in Reading we had a fairly clear drive except for some slower moving traffic just after Bristol. Shortly after we got past Bristol we heard on the radio about a 15 mile tailback on the M5 motorway outside Bristol. We arrived in Devon too early to get into the farm. So we stopped off for a snack first.
We are in a cottage called 'Byre' in Wheel Farm Cottages. It is a two story converted farm building, which is handily located right opposite the swimming pool entrance. We had a few provisions but we really needed to go to a supermarket to get some food, however, we were so tired that we decide to make do with what we had and rest instead. We needed sleep more than nice food. Michelle had an omelet and I had sausages. The girls had a sandwich. Unfortunately I was doing the cooking. We I got the oil in the frying pan too hot and it caught fire! After that I had to cook the omelet in a saucepan.
The cottage is clean and tidy. However, it isn't as good as the excellent cottage we stayed in recently in Wales - as Samuel Johnson would have said, that was very commodious. In Wales the owners had thought of almost everything, right down to a radio in the kitchen, an iron and pegs, etc. Here the cottage has the bare essentials, but little else. One of the rooms has a bunk bed in it but no room for any bedroom furniture or cupboards - that is really not good enough - not sure how a room with nowhere to put you clothes warrants a 4 star rating - or are we just fussy?
We are both really tired and it is now 9.45 p.m. and are going to bed.
We made an early start to the day; 4.30 a.m. to be precise and because of this the journey was not as laborious as it might have been. As we arrived in Devon quite early we drove for a while trying to find somewhere to eat, which is difficult without a travel guide especially when you have never visited a place before.
David is very tired and suffering quite badly with his groin strain after playing football yesterday. The children are well travelled now, and are very well behaved. Natasha and Elise have traveled to South Devon, Cyprus, France, Minorca, Florida and now with Ethan to Wales and North Devon.
The cottage is 4 star; the cottage was Wales 5 star. The differences are quite obvious. There is also no great attention to details such as a small radio, sugar and coffee, complimentary toiletry basket and wine. Despite this as mentioned Wheel Farm Cottage is a 4 star establishment and is still pleasant.
Sunday 26 August 2001
A long lie in. We rose at 11 a.m., after about 12 hours sleep. I keep finding things missing from the cottage, and thinking that those things were provided in Wales. There are no bathroom towels. We have also discovered that the dressing table mirror in our room is broken, it can't stay in a position in which it can be used. Also the baby's high chair has no safety harness. There are also very few spare electric sockets, there is only one in the kitchen, two in the living area and one in our bedroom.
We drove into Barnstable - the nearest large town, about 10 miles away. We bought the provisions we needed from Tesco. We had a ready made Indian meal, and the girls - or at least Natasha did - Elise had one mouthful and whined about her non-existent tummy ache. I took the girls swimming. Michelle had to feed Ethan so they couldn't come. The pool was warm, clean and modern. Only complaint was the the water was a little cloudy - a classic sign of inadequate water replacement. This is usually done to cut down the cost of reheating fresh water (one of the side effects of being an Environmental Health Officer is knowing these things).
From our window we saw the wheat being harvested in a neighbouring field. The girls enjoyed that.
After a rationed breakfast using scraps left over from yesterday's uneventful shopping trip to a local convenience shop, we drove to Tesco - where are these farmer’s markets? We made dinner, David took the girl's to the swimming pool and I had to stay to feed Ethan as he won't have a bottle or tinned food. Later we went for a pleasant walk around the grounds.
So far I have enjoyed this summer holiday. I really liked it. When I was upstairs I enjoyed saying hello to people from the balcony. It was a really long drive all the way to Devon. I almost fell asleep!
On Sunday I played on the playground apparatus on the farm. There was some swings, a slide and a really hard climbing frame. I wish I could get the video to work. We chose three videos to bring on holiday: Winnie the Pooh, Roger Rabbit and The Crunch.
I had fun today 'cos we had fun in the playground and in the swimming pool. We had a race in the field and picked some blackberries. We saw the farmer harvesting some wheat. We unpacked our suitcases. We had cheese and jam sandwich and pizza.
Monday 27 August 2001
I went for an early morning swim at 8.30 a.m. The pool is 5 steps from the front of the cottage. The Devon countryside is very pleasing to the eye. Very much a patchwork of fields, all different shades of green. It is coming up to harvest very soon and so it is not as green as Wales was during our recent holiday there.
Got back and headed for Woolacombe Beach. Pure madness. It was August bank holiday Monday and we were stuck in traffic. The journey which should have taken 15 minutes; it took an hour and a half. The girl’s were getting very excited because they could see the beach from where we were sitting in traffic up in the hills.
The beach is a vast blanket of golden sand and very soft. You could almost be in the Caribbean. (Aiya Napa eat your heart out - none of the crowds). We had lunch at "The Stable" restaurant 4 out of 10 for ambience, quality and service.
On the way back we drove through a very beautiful, almost Dickensian village of Georgeham. At the same time it was vibrant with surfers and with sprinklings of café society. A very interesting microcosm of city life in a country village. David would like to live here. I would for 6 weeks of the childrens summer holidays.
Has no one thought of park and ride? Aside from avoiding traffic hell, Woolacombe would so much safer, pleasant and more welcoming if it was car free.
We got up at around 9 a.m. this morning. Catching up on my sleep. Ethan has been really good this morning. I fed him some puréed fruit and he is quite content. Last night Elise woke up and - unusually for her the bed was wet. Luckily we had a unused bed and after washing and hanging out the wet sheet, Elise and I slept together in the spare bed - she liked that.
We went to a local beach. It had to be sandy so we picked Woolacombe. The drive was about 12 miles. Woolacombe is a one road town - only one road goes in and out. Today was what is wrong with British holidays. We had to queue over an hour to get into the only car park in town. To cap it all we were charged £3.50 for the privilege. Has no one thought of park and ride? Aside from avoiding traffic hell, Woolacombe would so much safer, pleasant and more welcoming if it was car free. Why can't we organise things better in this country? The beach itself is wonderful, it is large, sandy, clean and shallow. It even has surf. We had a good time in the sea and on the beach. We built a castle and moat. Some people on the beach built a beautiful sculpture of a dragon.
As the sun faded at around 5.30 we decided to find somewhere to eat in Woolacombe - partially to avoid possible traffic problems. We picked the best place we could find. It was pretty poor. On the way back we decide to drive towards Croyde, to recce the beach. On the way we drive through the large village of Georgeham. This was a really nice village with some envious looking houses, and a village centre that seemed like it had more attraction than usual - very desirable. Shortly after we reached Croyde. This looked trendy, and seemed like it attracted the older 'surf crowd'. If it looks nice tomorrow we may go there.
The girls enjoyed themselves, and in a funny way I suspect that little Ethan did too - if you can ever establish whether a child of 15 weeks has had a good time! Michelle was a bit fed-up with me today. I wasn't deliberately try to irritate her, but it seems I was doing a pretty good job. I think she has forgiven me.
We got back to the cottage at about 7.30 p.m. and had to eat again to supplement the restaurant meal that none of us really liked.
Tuesday 28 August 2001
Today we went to a little beach next to Croyde. The traffic was great today, it must have been because yesterday was a bank holiday. The beach was great. We spent the first hour digging a hole in the sand about 2 feet deep. Unusually the sand was very deep, and not too wet, so that we could dig deeply. We took some photos of the girls down the hole. We even tried Ethan down there and he took it very well! Elise was keen to have the hole filled in with her in it, so we buried her vertically halfway up her chest. Natasha had decided that the hole was a volcano, so she filled the hole with the few stones and shells that we could find. A couple of the stones were well eroded and we decided to keep them. By then we were really feeling the sun and went in the sea. The sea was colder than at the beach in Woolacombe yesterday. We really enjoyed ourselves. The only down side was that Natasha threw sand in Elise's face which got in her eye and it took a lot of TLC to calm her down and wipe the sand away.
Today I again noticed how women always smile at me when I am looking after the girls. They are almost always single childless women. In contrast married women with kids often give me the cold shoulder. This happened a few months back when I took the girls to their ballet school show, I was virtually sent to Coventry (another UK saying - someone who is 'sent to Coventry' is ostracised), yet all the other women seemed to form a self-support club in which it seemed that they were all long term friends and I was the local shunned pervert. Such are the prejudices of modern society towards men.
When we got back I had to clean out the car with a dustpan and brush because it was disgracefully dirty and full of food debris - it is inevitable when you live in the car for a week during the holiday. We managed to get a half an hour of swimming in the pool before it closed. Had a lovely meal of grilled salmon, pasta bake, tomatoes and salad.
Michelle is wonderful how she managed to rustle that up whilst holding the baby on and off is amazing (in case anyone was wondering, I wasn't in front of the telly with my feet up asking for my dinner, I was outside cleaning the car and looking after the girls at the same time).
Today was my Dad's birthday. Were he still alive he would of been 73 today. Dad always used to say that his birthday was on the best day of the year, summer bank holiday, when everyone was happy, enjoying the weather, together with their family, and that this was the best time for some of his favourite foods like fresh strawberries and rock-hard sweet tomatoes. Of course he was right. We had a great family day on the beach, and had some fabulous tomatoes with my dinner! All these years after his death he is still sorely missed and dearly remembered.
Today we went to Croyde beach. En-route we passed the beautiful golden sands of Saunton beach. Couldn't decide which to choose. It was glorious sunshine; in fact the weather was so fine (23°C) that we experienced two mini-tornados on the beach. It was quite amazing watching items on the beach being raised to the ground as it ran its course through its chosen path. Natasha enjoyed surfing the waves on her inflatable ring. Elise a little more reluctant. I was even more reluctant because the water was cold!
We went back to the cottage and decided we should all have something decent to eat so I whipped up a quick vegetarian pasta bake and salmon fillets with salad. David took the girls swimming.
Wednesday 29 August 2001
Michelle Today we took the children to a theme park, Once upon a Time at The Old Station in Woolacombe. It was especially good for the 2- 8 years. Even Ethan had a go on the Saucer ride.
Today we went to a childrens theme park, Once upon a Time. This was situated on the site of the now disused Woolacombe train station. It had some converted train wagons. It's curious that this was the only apparent remains of the disused railway is here. Around the attraction are mostly fields and there are no apparent signs of where the railway tracks ran.
There were lots of rides suitable for young children. Unfortunately the first ride the girls scared Elise. It was one of those swinging pirate boats that starts off gently but gets higher each time. Elise's face got more animated with each swing, and it soon became clear that it was more than apprehension, she was scared witless. Fortunately, the ride operator spotted this and stopped the ride immediately to let her off before restarting it for the other children - very kind. I know how she feels. I have been on the adult version of that ride, and I hated it. I don't get a thrill just an uncomfortable feeling of sickness. It is like paying to make yourself feel like you do when you are suffering from food poisoning.
I'm giving Mr Toilet his dinner.
The rest of the rides were great, boats, cars, trains, and various other kiddie rides. There were also the usual like bouncy castles, ball pits and climbing frames. It was very pleasant and not too crowded. No queues. We left at about 4.30 p.m. and bought a few provisions on the way back. Elise told me today, that going to the toilet, was “giving Mr Toilet his dinner”! I know that every parent is supposed to think that there kids are the best. However, we are so lucky to have three healthy, kind, loving and clever children.
Thursday 30 August 2001
Today we rose late. It rained, so we spent 3 hours in the swimming pool. David tried to teach me how to tread water, if it wasn't too deep but I think I would have drowned had it been much deeper. The girls are very confident in the deep end (1.5 metres deep), with swimming aids. Ethan has also gained confidence, first floating on the lilo and then arm bands.
The sauna was very relaxing. I haven’t had one for about a year. At about 6.30 p.m. we drove to Braunton for dinner at Otter's Bistro. The girls had beans on toast, ham and cheese sandwiches and ice cream! Poor Ethan is suffering with growing pains - teething, so on went the Bonjela and in went the Calpol, which he promptly regurgitated, followed by a feed and then sleep.
David and I had the fish platter for two. Sea bass, lemon sole, prawns, scallops, chowder, followed by crumble and ice-cream.
A relaxing day today. A slow start. I even sat watching childrens TV with the girls. Michelle and I spent a little time trying retrospectively put together a travelog for our 1991 honeymoon in Jamaica. Luckily we, mostly Michelle, made a few notes in a pretty travel log book that my Mum gave to us as a gift. It will take us a little while to draw together our recollections and possibly some photos.
After a late breakfast we went swimming. We were the only people in the swimming pool. We took all the inflatable rings and the lilo as well as the girls water guns. We had three and a half hours of great fun. Ethan enjoyed swimming. He liked the lilo and did a bit of floating with the aid of his armbands. I had to go and get the camcorder to tape it. Elise was a little bit tearful for a while - something to do with me taking the ring off the lilo which she was using for a pretend game. The girls confidence in the water is really developing. I am sure that they will both be good swimmers. I’m really pleased at the way in which they - and Michelle - are learning to swim. Confidence in the water, and swimming, is so enjoyable. It is great to go on holiday and to enjoy the water and each other without worrying about splashing your face or getting your hair wet. Michelle is now a better swimmer than I ever hoped she would be and she also now realises how much fun it can be.
In the late afternoon we drove into Braunton to eat. Our first meal out on this holiday. We found a friendly, homely place called Ragamuffin's Bistro. The food was really good, and the staff friendly. They gave the girls really good colouring books, and even made them some food that is not on their menu, beans on toast and ham and cheese sandwich. Natasha and Elise were very kind to each other tonight, sharing each other's food. Ethan had teething pain in the restaurant. Between Michelle breast feeding and me taking the girls on various trips to the toilet, we hardly saw each other during the meal and the nice food was slightly spoiled by being pretty cold when we ate it.
Today I read another of Oscar Wilde's short stories called "The Sphinx without a secret". An intriguing read which was ultimately unsatisfying because the reason for the intrigue didn't exist.
Friday 31 August 2001
The last whole day of our holiday. We visited the Combe Martin Wildlife & Dinosaur Park. This attraction managed to keep the children fairly well pre-occupied. It is quite difficult to get around if you have a pushchair and impossible for a wheelchair as there are numerous slopes and steps. I might have guessed that the worst was yet to come. The first stop was a sea lion show. They performed various tricks in a concrete construction, and as a reward were given fish. The mechanical dinosaurs trial scared Elise initially. There were various caged animals. The next stop was a falconry display. Apparently dive bombing is perfectly natural in the wild.
I enjoyed the canyon ride. A slightly rickety train takes you 200 metres to the end of the line, and then on the way back you experience a mini - earthquake and a massive water surge which slightly sprinkles the train. The girls enjoyed having their faces painted, and they were very well done. Natasha had a tiger and Elise chose the butterfly.
On the way back to the cottage I rang my ever reliable sister’s to get a small supply of groceries for our return home to London. I do not know how we would cope without the extended family. We packed ready for an early departure in the morning. The girls made friends with Clara and Tom from Winchester who were in the cottage next door. Restriction on people buying second and holiday homes in Exmoor on news today due to people from South East England sending house prices spiraling by buying holiday homes. Therefore local people can no longer afford to buy here.
Michelle is really tired. All the running around, sleepless nights and breast feeding have taken their toll. She had a well deserved lie-in this morning. Consequently we started later. We decided to stay local and go to the Combe Martin Wildlife & Dinosaur Park. It cost us £24.00 to get in. The small car parks are located up twisty roads on steep hills. Michelle was driving and found this difficult. She slipped the clutch so much that the smell of burning clutch was could be smelt.
Once we got in we had a good time. We saw a sea lion display, and a falconry display which I really enjoyed. The it was quite windy so seeing the Kestrel maneuvering and dive bombing at tremendous speed was really exhilarating to witness. We went round the Dinosaur trail, a wooded nature area interspersed with large models of Dinosaurs and taped jungle and roaring sounds. Elise was initially reticent as she found it all a bit scary. We managed to persuade her that she was at no risk. The best was the Canyon Train Ride. This was a miniature railway that stopped in front of a theme park type replica of a US gold rush canyon that exploded and was flooded with water which rushed towards you, getting you a little wet. I'm not sure why it had to be American or why the recorded voice on the train had a deep Southern accent, surely a Cornish accent and hills would have been more appropriate?
Both girls had their face painted, Natasha as a lion and Elise as a butterfly. These were really good quality work compared to what has been done on their faces before. The girls really love having their faces painted and this was no exception. We spent an enjoyable four hours or so here. There were some things that we didn't do, because our children were too young, and in the case of the spider trail, because we had a pushchair. The only downside was that the whole place is precariously located on the side of a steep hill and there are no warnings that much of it is inaccessible for the elderly and disabled. Even as a young-ish fit healthy man, I found getting round with a pushchair for my son was really difficult, with some very very steep slopes, many of which were just gravel or mud covered and even worse some parts were steps only, which required help in lifting both ends of the pushchair up the steps.
Today I read The Model Millionaire by Oscar Wilde. In the evening we hoped to get a final swim, but couldn't manage this before the pool closed at 7 p.m. - which we thought was about an hour too early. Packing commenced in earnest and by midnight we had packed almost all our things and loaded them in the car ready to leave early the next morning.
I would say that we have had a relaxing hand enjoyable holiday. I'm looking forward to get home.