The drive down was surprisingly smooth, given how congested the motorways all were. I rerouted us around all of it, and by the time we reached Stonehenge, it was uneventful driving. Further into the dark of Friday evening, I spotted several deer grazing nonchalantly by the side of the road. The stars were so vivid, we stopped to admire them.
Plymouth is a city of assorted sections. There is the newer shopping area, whose buildings primarily spanned the 1930s to the 1960s. Its central greenery includes a labyrinth (underfoot, in stone); a large sundial/fountain; and, on that particular day, a pavilion demo’ing the Nintendo 3DS.
Over at the Barbican, the old heart of the city, along the Plym, we lunched at an informal Tanner Brother venture, a café attached to the Plymouth gin distillery. It’s an area of winding streets and narrow shops, with eclectic art shops, restaurants, and rather good ice cream from Langage Farm. I have never had rum-and-raisin made from real rum, and the vibrancy of its flavor sang through the creaminess and the cold. The distillery tour featured a three-story alembic, fantastically-scented air, component herb and spice tasting, and G&Ts.
Inevitably, we were Mayflower tourists, taking in the Mayflower Steps and their concommitant memorial balcony and plaques. We admired the sheer variety of fabric making abilities represented among the passengers and, without having read too much about the voyage since elementary school, wondered if the Thanksgiving story of needing native help with farming then they arrived in the New World was because their collective skillset was all in clothing, and not in the pragmatics of farming in the first place. In the gloriously-ceilinged cocktail bar above the distillery, we noted the sign commemorating where the Pilgrim Fathers spent their last night in England. No note on where the Pilgrim Mothers slept that night.
The highlight of seeing Plymouth was from the sea. We took an hour’s boat tour of the inner Sound and up into the Dockyards. Plymouth Sound is an enormous area of protected water. The Dockyards, in the mouth of the Tamar river, are mind-bogglingly extensive. Looming covered drydocks dwarfed the massive navy ships they were maintaining for what felt like miles on end. The cool weather drove 3/4 of the boat passengers downstairs to tea and coffee, leaving the views on the return voyage to a select few of us.
On Sunday, we did a minor bit of exploring. In Newton Ferrers, we watched the harbor in the estuary of the Yealm. A pleasant bit of woodland ran down the hill to perch well above the tidal waters. H. admired just how much of a contrast the quintessentially English woodland was in contrast with the tide-change in the estuary beneath us. At lunch, we had our own private millbrook to sit by while dining, at least until other people without reservations joined us at the outdoor tables. The Millbrook Inn is in the picturesque village of South Poole at the head of yet another estuary, this one narrow and delicate in comparison, at least until it meets the rest of the Kingsbridge estuary. The church is dedicated to Saints Nicholas and Cyprian - we are still following up on this intriguing pairing.
The rain held off until we were done using the outdoors directly, and only showered lightly as we headed back home again, stopping for dinner at the Heston Blumenthal-revised Little Chef. It’s a compliment when I say that the macaroni cheese and salad I had was as good as I can make at home.