True to form, after yesterday's good weather, today was wet and windy again, and the camera stayed in my pack. I followed the road to Dawlish Warren and Starcross. Last night Dawlish had been dire, but ironically I'd stumbled across some the best food I'd eaten on the whole trail — at the bijou little restaurant Jack Sprat's. But now my immediate concerns were quite other than gastronomic ones: eg was the Exe ferry working between Starcross and Exmouth? It was not. Oh well, you win some, you lose some. So I took a bus to the bridging point at Exeter — where a wall had collapsed after torrential rain and where someone would die the next day after being crushed by a falling tree.
I really liked Exeter. The Christmas market had just opened and it was superb. I was quite happy meandering through the maze of stalls sampling a little mulled wine here and a German Bockwurst there. The best stall was run by two delightful French girls who were cooking the most tasty food — the Savoyard speciality Tartiflette, which is a mixture of melted Reblochon cheese, potatoes, onions, bacon and cream. So warming on a cold day — and absolutely delicious, confirming once more my belief that French cuisine is still the best in Europe.
Then I spent a happy hour or two looking round the Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery (RAMM), which is this year's Museum of the Year, receiving the £100,000 Art Fund Prize. And well deserved it is too. I don't think I've visited such a stimulating and imaginatively-arranged museum for a long time. It's simply wonderful. Dragging myself away from the coins and costumes and paintings and ethnographic artefacts, I caught a train to Exmouth on the other side of the river Exe, where I rested. The streets were awash, and the rain persisted throughout the evening and all through the night.
|Looking back towards the Exe estuary: rainbow, pyramid sculpture and moody sky.|
|The changing colour tones of the cliffs were fascinating. As the route progressed, the colour of the rock went from black to red to yellow to white and then to black again.|
|Approaching Sidmouth. Of course, the rain had started pouring down once more.|