A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Monday, 10 December 2012

South West Coast Path. Days 10 & 11: Dawlish To Sidmouth

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.

At Sandy Bay sprawled one of the biggest caravan parks I'd ever seen. It was huge. And through some unhinged reasoning it had been sited next to a military firing range. I could hear gunshots for at least two hours, and in a deranged moment felt I had strayed through some wormhole into Afghanistan. 

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. 

A final, dismal view of the holiday park and the military firing range on Straight Point. Soon I reached Buddleigh Salterton, then crossed a narrow causeway dividing a flooded river delta from a brackish lagoon. The river had breached the path in several places and I had to wade through furious water currents over a foot deep.

Approaching Sidmouth. Of course, the rain had started pouring down once more.


Vagabonde said...

My French cousin gave me a little electric specialty pan which is for cooking a type of Savoie fondue of cheese, potatoes, ham, etc. You are reminding me to take it out and use it for the holidays. Today I watched your photos with the Complete Chopin Noctures by Maurizio Polini (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V60USaluxGA) it softens nature well.

The Solitary Walker said...

Yes, I remember last year (while walking the French Camino from Geneva) eavesdropping on a big gathering with a fondue in a restaurant in Haute-Savoie. And feeling envious — because I was on my own. Now, don't get me talking about about food. I'd never stop, as it's a big passion of mine!

The Solitary Walker said...

And, btw, those nocturnes are just sublime.

Ruth said...

Spectacular once again! Glad you had time to enjoy Exeter with its charms.

The Solitary Walker said...

Yes, I found Exeter a seductive and friendly city, Ruth.