A week in Exeter, in the off-season, is a long time. We had reached the end of what was nearing 8 weeks away from home, and wanted our final stop to be somewhat more relaxing, with less packing and repacking, and more time to enjoy one place.
We booked a full week at a hostel in Exeter – a much better rate than the cost of seven individual nights. However, it was nearing the end of October, and for a resort town, the tourist season had long ended. We spent a few days wandering the shopping district of the city, determined that it was far from our favourite place, and started investigating the train schedules for day trips into neighbouring towns.
For any Fawlty Towers fans – that British comedy featuring a luckless inn owner and his annoyingly always-right wife – the inspiration for the hotel in the program was found in Torquay, another resort town on the English Riviera. Though turned into a Best Western, the Gleneagles Hotel was once the spot of choice for the cast of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, until the cast experienced unspeakable rudeness from the owner. Instead of simply checking out, John Cleese turned the experience into Fawlty Towers.
Although we did not end up seeing the Gleneagles/Best Western, we did take the train into Torquay, a pleasant, 45 minute trip from Exeter.
It was a cold, blustery day, and the sky alternately threatened rain and revealed the sun. However, all was not lost; a man was sketching images into the sand on the beach, toured the trinket-filled, tourist-targeted shops, and stopped into the tiered library, which was definitely a highlight.
We had great coffee at Coffee #1, a British coffee chain, less well known than Caffe Nero or Costa Coffee, but better overall. The pier offered excellent views of the choppy ocean, and we wandered among sailors tying up their boats.
Certainly in the tourist season, Torquay would be well worth a stop, for the beach, and the cafes. As it was, we enjoyed the train ride, which was very straightforward, and spend a lovely day taking in the ocean air. All in all, there’s nothing wrong with visiting in October – just bring a jacket.
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