It has been 9 years since I last went to Exeter and as our friends now lived there, we decided to plan in a trip to Exeter as part of our holiday. As they both work full time and the only Saturday we were in the South West was whilst we were still camping in Cornwall, we actually took the train from Penzance to Exeter instead of going from Devon, which would have been more logical!
One of the advantages of getting the train though, was being able to appreciate the incredible scenery of the South Devon coast. We’d been along a short stretch of the Cornish coast a few days previously and as always when travelling by car, the driver doesn’t get to see all that much as they go along so this was a perfect opportunity for us both to appreciate the beauty of the Cornish and Devon coastline.
We got the first Exeter train from Penzance that morning and since we knew it would be a long day, had splashed out on First Class tickets with comfy chairs and breakfast and a snack in the evening provided which was a nice treat. We were blessed with good weather too, meaning our views were perfect over Mounts Bay and St. Michael’s Mount at dawn to start our journey and they continued in this fashion all the way along. We got a perfect view of the Tamar Bridge (one of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s masterpieces) as we rounded the headland of the south bank of the Tamar Estuary and appreciated uninterrupted sea views straight out of the window when coming along past Dawlish and into the Exe estuary.
We were greeted at Exeter St. David’s station by our friends and headed up into town which took about 10 or so minutes. When we arrived, we found that we’d come to town on the same day as Pride. Funnily enough, when our friends came to visit us in London a couple of years ago and we’d headed into the city, we’d also been in the centre of London the day of Pride without realising.
As we dodged our way through the crowds and watched snatches of the parade, we headed up Queen Street and to a café called Boston Tea Party for drinks and brunch. This fantastic, forward thinking café served a range of excellent food with sustainability and ethics right at its forefront. You can only buy take-away drinks from there if you bring your own receptacle (they pride themselves on being the first café in the UK to ban single use cups) and their menu heavily features local produce and its importance to the company. The company started in the South West and now has branches across the South West and West Midlands. I’m now patiently waiting for them to continue spreading East and ideally open a store in Cambridge at some point as I’d really like to go again!
Once we’d finished our delicious brunches, we headed back out to see a bit more of the Pride parade before exploring some of the independent shops along Gandy Street, one of the best ones we found being Mounts Bay Trading Company. It sold a range of clothing, home furnishings, trinkets and toys and we really enjoyed exploring its basement store. Unfortunately, when going to find a link to it, I’ve found that this shop has since closed which is a shame. There is however their original store remaining open in Penzance which would be well worth a visit.
We then wandered up towards the Cathedral, via the interesting ruins of the St. Catherine’s Almshouses on Catherine Street and onto the Cathedral Green. We admired the architecture of the Cathedral, especially it’s incredible West Door.
Our next stop for the afternoon had been pre-arranged by our friends and we were excited to be heading there. We had a table booked at Board, Exeter’s Board Game Café for the afternoon. We settled into our booth, ordered some excellent milkshakes and smoothies and got started, with our first choice of game being Betrayal at House on the Hill. I had seen this game played on Will Wheaton’s TableTop Youtube channel a while back and always wanted to play it and our friends had played it with other friends before so with over 3 hours of time, it was a perfect opportunity.
The game starts out as co-operative as your characters work together to discover rooms (tile cards that slowly reveal the board) in an abandoned house, continuing to work together until The Haunt happens. At this point, one or more characters become the monsters and you then work as two teams to try and either eat the humans or defeat the monsters. The best thing about this game is there is an extensive list of scenarios that take place when the Haunt happens, meaning you would have to play the game a considerable amount of times before you play the same scenario.
Once our friends and I had [by the skin of our teeth] defeated my Monster husband, we had plenty of time for a second game. This time the choice was Rails and Sails. This is a variant to the Ticket To Ride Games (made by the same company) and although it seemed a lot more complicated and at times a bit stressful (I don’t have enough trains!!), it was a really enjoyable take on the classic Ticket to Ride Games. The idea is to build routes across the world by train and boat to various destinations, ultimately ending up with the most points from completed routes and use of trains and boats to win the game. If we’d have had more time, it would have been great to play a second time once we’d got our head around the rules and managed to understand the strategy needed in comparison to normal Ticket to Ride games.
Once our time at the café was done, we had one more place to visit before our time in the city was done. We headed down to the Quayside to visit one of our friends’ favourite pubs in the city. Exeter Quayside is really pretty with a range of shops in the old boathouses along the riverfront (we didn’t visit this time but I remember them from before). We went to the Samuel Jones for dinner and had an excellent meal. We all had variants on a burger of some description and all the food was fab. One of the highlights was the crab-topped chips. They were very tasty chips and the crab meat was delicious, especially with tartare sauce! The pub itself looks out on the quay and due to the hot weather, most of the outside seating was already taken, but the décor inside and service was great so although we weren’t in the sunshine, it wasn’t a big deal.
Overall, we had a wonderful day in Exeter, it was mainly due to the opportunity to see friends we don’t often get to see, but it was really nice to explore the city, visit some of the places that came highly recommended by them and some of the places I vaguely remembered from my last visit there at least 9 years ago! We enjoyed our return trip on the train as the sun set and got back to Penzance tired but feeling very content.