The Age of Steam
Just come back from a fantastic weekend in Devon. Stayed at The Grand hotel, 99 years since Agatha Christie had her honeymoon there and I’m sleeping in the very next suite. Walked down the passage to reach our door overlapping history and actual vision in my mind. The hotel is shabby with age and in need of some TLC but is chic and very comfortable; staff are excellent. Bar is fab with large sofas everywhere and great views of the sea through tall windows that dominate the exterior walls. It’s a short hop from Torquay to Paignton. Old-world train station, part museum, part cafe – the guy there makes and sells Cortada – my first one in England. There’s rolling stock from the classic days of steam and a wonderful burly locomotive, green plate and bulging curves, metal, metal, metal. Called Hercules, it spent a couple of decades rusting away on the sidings until some volunteers took on the task of restoring it. A massive mound of coal and the muffled shoomph, shoomph, shoomph as everything ticks over whilst the beast takes on water. Then we’re off. Riding the coastline and punching through squalling rain. It’s bleak but beautiful because of it. It’s very Rebecca (Daphne Du Maurier / Hitchcock). The journey is 30 minutes. You arrive in Kingswear after crossing several viaducts and the river Dart opens up to your right. Across the harbour is the small wonderful town of Dartmouth. Get off the train, walk 50 metres from the platform straight onto a ferry that takes you across. Fish and chips and a pint of real ale in the Royal Castle hotel. It doesn’t get better than that. Apart from later, back in Torquay, going for sunset walk, smothered in clouds and increasing rain, the waves crashing and booming against the harbour walls; then getting back to the Grand and flopping down in wingback armchairs in the library, in front of a roaring open fire, supping a large whisky and Drambuie (Rusty Nail). Bliss.
Here’s a video stitching together bits of the journey with plenty of steam
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