The next day, we went to Honiton. We were definitely in Jane Austen country now.
Honiton is an ancient town, famed for lace and antiques. It was a dreary wet day, and perhaps we saw the town at its worst, with a sad little market, a great number of charity shops, and a general down-at-heel air.
We also went into an estate agent, staffed by a young woman whose ample bosom was falling out of her frock in a most 18th Century manner, to register for any suitable properties coming up in the future. But this too was such a dismal and discouraging experience, due to the young woman's inability to grasp that I wasn't interested in newly built estates, or to try too hard to listen, that we decided to move on, sharply, after picking up some property brochures from a second, slightly more encouraging agent, but still feeling slightly downcast.
But before we left Honiton, we found a cafe whose name I forget, but it was old and large, with a long garden to the rear. We found we had enthusiasm enough for a pot of tea and a most delicious slab of orange and almond cake. And as Rose loves antique shops, we browsed a few before we left. In one, protected by perspex, was an exposed section of wall, showing the original wattle and daub construction.
I suspect that circumstances and weather were against this little town today, and that we may have judged it too harshly; sorry, Honiton - we did like your cake though.
We made a detour to look at one thatched house, mostly to find out why, despite its beauty, it was on sale for such an attractive price. And we did: what was described as "tucked away" meant that emerging from the concealed driveway would lead both motorist and pedestrian straight into thundering traffic on a main route to Exeter, or possibly straight into a fatal road traffic accident. Not ideal for one such as I, with cats that she would like to keep.
Next, the seaside. I love the sea in winter. So off we went to Lyme Regis. Yes, you do know it: you saw it in films of John Fowles' 'The French Lieutenant's Woman" with Meryl Streep in a truly dreadful wig, and of Jane Austen's 'Persuasion'. Louisa Musgrove fell off The Cobb at Lyme Regis. Silly girl; however, the incident did advance the plot.
What a delightful visit! Despite the weather, this was probably a good time to see this lovely little place, as it is packed out with visitors in summer. Today it was empty, wet, fiercely windy, and very atmospheric. I loved it.
It was so blustery that I had to hook my arms through railings to take photographs, clutching the camera in both hands, for fear that we might be blown out to sea, and only when home did I notice that the street lamps have decorative features in the shape of ammonites. This is fossil country.
And fossil shop country too. Fascinating, even mind-blowing, and astonishing to think that anyone can walk along the beach and find something perfectly recognisable that could be 180 million years old.
The Cobb looked wonderful in the deepening dusk, as we set off for home. I might not want to live in Lyme Regis, but I would certainly want to come again.