a once in a lifetime experience…

… or, why I will never attempt to drive in the UK again!

The rental company was kind enough (HA!) to give me an upgraded, i.e, larger, vehicle. I never learned to drive a manual transmission – and of course, the smaller cars were all manual. I ended up with a small SUV/minivan that just seemed huge, especially driving in town, trying to park (agh!), and driving around in the countryside!

We decided that we had to see Exeter Cathedral and explore the town a bit. How often do you get to see a building that’s been standing since the early 12th century anyway? We found our way back into town from the rental place at the airport and followed signs to a parking garage, since there was no way I was going to attempt parallel parking on the streets in those tiny little spaces. Well, the parking garage wasn’t much better and I had quite a few choice words while attempting to pull into various spaces in the garage. Even if I managed to pull into one, there was barely enough room to open the car door!  We ended up near the top floor of the garage where there were numerous empty spots. I even backed into a space, knowing it would be easier to pull out if anyone ended up parking next to me!

By this time it was well past lunch time. The garage was connected to a mall, and while I’d hoped we would find some cute little restaurant in town, we ended up at the food court. I did have a very tasty sandwich there but it wasn’t how I expected to spend my first day in the English countryside.

The camera in the car…

Remember when I backed the car into the spot in the garage? Well, the camera was in the back of the car & only accessible from the back end. Like most vans, the door opened “up” and we were parked too close to the wall to be able to get to the luggage. After the very stressful parking experience, I wasn’t about to pull the car out just to get to the camera. And of course, by that time, someone else pulled into the spot next to us, so I just decided I’d live without the camera. So we did miss some fabulous pictures of Exeter Cathedral and the Cathedral Close. I know any interior photos I took wouldn’t have shown the magnificence of the place, so check out wikipedia’s entry.

We shopped in some stores around the Close then headed back for part II of the car experience.  Unfortunately, we missed seeing Exeter’s historic quayside and decided to get on the road to Torquay, about 22 miles away. Highway driving was fairly straightforward though I never did learn all the road signs!

We were doing great following signs to the Riviera Centre until they stopped. We had to pull into a gas station to ask for directions, turn around, and then head down the road to the shore. I spotted our hotel, the Grand Hotel, and we pulled into the entryway. Parking was in the garage (oh no!) next door or across the street in one of a few spots reserved in the train station lot. There were a lot of empty, skinny, spots at the train station, so I navigated into one and heaved a sigh of relief.

I’ll skip Torquay and the Grand Hotel for now to continue the car driving saga, which picks up on Sunday morning… We’d rented a car because we wanted to drive out to Cornwall. Train & bus schedules just didn’t seem to work given the time we’d have for exploration during daylight hours.

The plan had been to drive to Penzance, see St. Michael’s Mount, head to Land’s End, then come back along a northern route (toward St. Ives), that would take us across some moors and through Dartmoor Forest before we ended up back in Torquay. It was supposed to be a 2.5 hour drive to Penzance. Ah, best laid plans.

Next… looking for Laurel’s castle


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