So there I was sitting on the quayside and I heard someone say ‘walk on’ and hey presto, in front of me was not a beach holiday donkey but a full-on shaggy coat alpaca.
This was some Devon village.
About a month ago EA had rounded up a group of us and regaled us with tails of her cousin’s idyllic seaside cottage in Devon. How could we resist? So last weekend, through windscreen-beating West Country rain, I drove the hour and three quarters from Bristol to Appledore, a not-altogether-tiny village on Devon’s north coast.
Flush to the quayside, the cottage was a holidayers dream: clean white paint, seaside stripes and a walk in shower. And Appledore itself is, as the name suggests, sweet. The only slight tarnish to its wholesome appeal is its status with London weekend runaways gasping for a breath of country air.
Being exactly those kind of people (this was my London friends and I), we sucked in the air all we could. We walked, once on the Appledore side of the estuary in spine-warming sunshine and then, in pissy, misty rain the next day on the opposite side at Instow. Though not quite as picturesque as Appledore, Instow definitely wins the better beach prize.
And once had we walked, we ate. Boy, did we eat. The day started off with avocado, salmon, spinach and the discovery that making poached eggs is troublesome if you don’t have a whisk, vinegar or a slatted spoon. Thankfully, the bread from Johns Deli, about three steps down the road and open all hours of the day, saved us. It had the kind of middle that you can indent with a gentle finger press and a crust that broke with a lovely paper scrunching sound.
Next on the days menu were corn chowders (chowder seemed to be quite the thing down there) and an interesting but good orange and polenta cake washed down with Hot Ginger Beer that turned out not to be the kind of hot I’d hoped – rather just more spicy than in a mug and steaming. It was local Luscombe label stuff though and very zingy too.
We finished off the day’s nearly seamless feasting at The Seagate. It was rammed. When we arrived we snatched the last table by the door by pure luck, and were told it would be 45 minutes for food. Five minutes later this had become an hour. Go here, but go here with people you have a lot to talk about with and arm yourself with a large glass of red at the bar.
It was, however, totally and utterly worth the hour’s wait. Lemon sole oozing in butter, which melted off the bone, topped with a wadge of celeriac mash and samphire. Others had pulled pork (the best I have tasted. No question.), steak and a spicy tomato Italian fish stew which well deserved its title as house special.
Sunday was less gastronomically spectacular but just as delicious. A second helping of breakfast goodies from Johns was followed up by the (very active – see picture above) Instow walk, a dive home for dry trousers and a sharp dash to Susie’s Tea Rooms. But not for tea. Substantial cereal bowls of tomato soup were the only thing that could redeem the weather. We followed them with an intense Scrabble game (I-won-by-two-points-but-who’s-counting-hey) and cups of dark hot chocolate. All very Famous Five. Even without the Scrabble, the chocolate was fun enough in itself. It involved a huge cube of chocolate on the end of a stick which you swirled into hot milk. It was the feeling of being five again in a rather chi-chi glass mug.
Rotund tummyed we snuck into the second hand bookshop (declared “mostly Danielle Steele” by my literary friend GB) and curled up on the sofa to watch Charlie’s Angels (YES) and read the papers.
It was only as I was turning into the narrow roads of Clifton again that I realized we failed in one crucial aspect of our Devon weekend: we may have seen an alpaca but we hadn’t had a Devon cream tea. That’ll be next time then!
The nearest station to Appledore is at Barnstaple, about a 20 minute drive away. You can find cottages to rent here.
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