I am still wondering how we packed everything in between arriving at 1pm on Weds and leaving at 18.22 on Friday!
The hotel (Premier Inn) was conveniently across from the station and we had only 1 small bag each + there is a bus every 15 minutes from the station into the centre of town and as we have bus passes it's very easy for us. We spent the afternoon shopping separately and met up again at 4:30 to go round the Christmas market. This year it was quite disappointing, smaller than last year with mainly food stalls and only one refreshment tent which was absolutely heaving and not at all inviting. Few craft stalls and the company we got such fabulous tree decorations from last year has apparently gone out of business. The only thing we bought was a tiny bottle of "refresher oil" for the natural decorations (dried orange slices with cinnamon sticks and little silk hearts) we had bought a couple of years ago in Budapest. I have just spilled said stuff all over the kitchen work surface and got it all over my hands and am already a touch sick of it! Anyway, we had an hour or so to wait for our dinner reservation at 6:15 so we popped into a little bar/restaurant called the "Rum and Crab shack" just in time for their happy hour, featuring lots of exotic rum cocktails and enjoyed a cocktail each whilst watching the world go by (in the rain). We also picked up a copy of the Exeter Living magazine and browsed their recommendations for places to eat and drink.
At some friends' recommendation we had a meal in Polpo. It was very enjoyable, with lots of little dishes described as "Venetian Tapas". Not very D friendly as most involved bread, rice or pasta but it's not like I make a habit of it. We don't have anything like that (or for that matter any of the popular chain restaurants) anywhere near where we live, so it's a bit of a novelty for us. It was bitterly cold when we came out and so rather than wait in the wind for a bus, we decided to walk back to the hotel. A 20 minute walk mostly downhill. On arriving at our room we discovered that the window was somewhat badly fitting and the wind was howling through it with a loud whistle. Back to reception where a nice young woman found us a lovely quiet room at the back of the hotel - so we packed up again and moved! It had been a long day as we'd been up since 6 am so we were happily tucked up in bed just before 10pm. I was rather smug as I had completed my Christmas shopping with items I was delighted with (and hope J will be delighted with too), with the exception of one thing still to be found.
Next day we went into town on the bus again, this time we shopped together looking for shoes for Julian. Without actually making a purchase we met up with friends at 11.50. The friends used to live in our town but moved in 1992 to Exeter and although we keep up on face book, we have not seen them in person more than a handful of times since then, so we had lots to catch up on. We had lunch in a charming small independent restaurant called "Rendezvous" that our friends introduced us to, and the lunch was really delicious! Parfait of duck to start with then Hake with some beans and lentils for me. It also came with potatoes, but they were new pots in their skins which I can usually tolerate well and they were beautifully spiced. Very unusual.
After we parted with the friends Julian struck lucky with a pair of shoes he loved + another pair at a 50% discount from Hotter. We then split up again and did a bit more shopping for a half hour or so. We went back to the hotel, had a sit down and a cuppa before going back into town for dinner. This time we stopped into Lloyds Lounge
for a pre-dinner cocktail. It's very trendy, though there were people of all ages frequenting it. It's mainly glass, so great for people watching and as it was late night shopping we were well entertained by people puddle hopping and raindrop dodging!
We had a reservation at Al Fahrid Moroccan Restaurant
that evening. Eeenterestink... as they say! Ring the bell and the door opens mysteriously, we were ushered up to the first floor and settled at a small table that was in fairly close proximity to the two tables either side (most of the restaurant was taken up by a somewhat exuberant office party - in retrospect they didn't bother us). The ceiling has been tented (rather badly) with cheap nylon taffeta, with lots of hanging lamps in Moroccan style, and drapey curtains. On my right the table was not occupied, but on my left were a couple who I'd judge to be in their late 40s/early 50s. Behind them were some floor to ceiling glass windows veiled in translucent over elaborate white fabric, leading onto an area furnished with low sofas, cushions and hookah pipes. I found it hard to concentrate on the menu as it quickly became plain that the couple on my left had met on an internet dating site. We were so close we might as well have been sharing a table. He was telling her his life history and believe me it was fascinating... "so then I gave up my business to look after the boys... and being a single parent is much harder than a business... then I bought her mother a house...." yada yada... but really could have been a soap opera... "and of course when the police went round there, she had cleaned the house and there was food in the fridge".... and then "when she had married him he confessed to being a transsexual". Very very hard to concentrate on our own conversation and I confess that at one point I nearly shushed Julian and said "I want to hear this bit". I also was tempted to lean over and ask questions! It was so surreal! We chose the Mezze menu of 6 dishes and a bottle of house wine for £45. Everything very tasty and accompanied by some flatbread and a very nice salad. Eventually the two got up and retired behind the glass doors to smoke a hookah... they were last seen in a clinch on the sofa eagerly kissing. I did wonder what they'd eaten... whatever it was I don't think we had it...
By about 8.30 we were back on the street and headed towards home.... though on this occasion we spotted "Crocketts"
where we called in for a nightcap to get out of the biting wind - well that's our excuse! We got chatting to the bar man and enjoyed a superb Gin Martini - though we nearly had to take out a mortgage! Fortunately as we came out (one was enough) we arrived at the bus stop at nearly the same time as the bus! So another early and well contented night!
On Friday we were to meet another couple of friends who used to be airline crew like us and now live in Devon. I had booked a table at Cote for noon and we were to meet in a nearby pub at 11.30. They were coming up on the train for the day. We had just settled ourselves when the manager came around asking "is anyone here to meet a couple from X town" and we said yes. He told us they were on the phone and could one of us go to talk to them. It transpired they had arrived at the station to discover that the previous train had run over a pheasant that had blocked up it's braking mechanism and it was stuck on the single line track, blocking all further traffic. It had never occurred to us that they hadn't had our mobile numbers, just our land line! Good thing they recalled the name of the pub! So... we repaired to Cote on our own for lunch! We had the 2 course lunch menu for £11.90. Both had cured Pork Loin with Celeriac remoulade, followed by Sea Bream with flageolet beans, garlic, tomatoes etc. Blooming good! We shared a cheese platter! Left utterly stuffed and parted company for half an hour to shop.... I bought nothing further.
In the end we had about 2 hours to wait to go to the station, so we explored the legendary Weatherspoons in the old Imperial Hotel situated near St David's station in the old Imperial Hotel where we took coffee. It is an absolutely amazing building! Finally we picked up our bags and made our way to the station.... train was on time and we really appreciated our seats in first class (absolute bargain at £27 for the 2 of us all the way to West Cornwall) and I slept quite a bit of the way in the big comfy leather seat!
The trip was really part of our christmas present to each other and we had such a lovely time!