Kenyon College

Friday, April 9, 2010

Honiton; the Sea Tractor

I was walking down to St David's train station today, taking the wooded footpath and weaving through a residential area, and everywhere there were daffodils in bloom, and profusions of other colorful flowers, and the air was a perfect balance of cool and warm. It is finally starting to feel like summer could be around the corner; yesterday I didn't even have to wear a jacket into town! That is a first, believe it or not.

I took the train into Honiton, a weary old town that still has a unique charm. I prefer this sort of charm to Exeter's, which is loud and attracts everyone. Honiton seems to know that it isn't as popular, and is in fact a little crumbly around the edges, but the shops are small and friendly, and it has, most importantly, a Boston Tea Party. The purpose of my visit to Honiton today was to visit this Boston Tea Party, the last on my list to visit. I've sat and had a coffee, whether by myself or with friends, at every Boston Tea Party in existence, the one in Bath, the two in Bristol, the one in Barnstaple, and the one in Exeter.

I wouldn't keep going on about this cafe if it didn't hold such an important role in forming my experience abroad. I would go to the BTP in Exeter whenever I could, and I would always order the same thing: a large Continental. I experienced a moment of joy when one of the servers there was able to predict what I would order the other day. Me: "Can I have...." Her: "A Continental of some sort? Large?" and it was good.

Most of the time I would take my reading for class there, or I would work on a creative writing assignment. Sitting, a little oasis of calm on the edge of a bustling, happy room of people sharing conversation over coffee and food, I could relax and feel like a part of everything. It was as though I could connect, if only for a little bit, with the energy of the city and the people in it. In this microcosmic state, it was easy to let my mind wander to creative tasks, or to concentrate on and really understand what I was reading. It may sound silly, but by seeking out this place in Exeter, I felt like I could let go of my identity as an American student for a little bit, and become, perhaps, a British student, or just a person living and working in Exeter, taking their lunch break at the Boston Tea Party.

To commemorate the importance of the Boston Tea Party, and of visiting the last one on my list, I bought a mug emblazoned with the tea-sipping gent of their logo. The great thing about these cafes is that each one is different, having carved out its place in a strangely shaped building, with its own array of tables, chairs, and sofas, perhaps an upstairs, perhaps a back garden for nice days like today. Like the cities and towns they inhabit, each Boston Tea Party has its own character.

On Tuesday, Claire, Logan, and I went with Professors Laycock and Carson to Bigbury-on-Sea. There were surfers in abundance, as well as the occasional kayaker and windsurfer. It was a beautiful day that day, as well, and an excellent time to ride the sea tractor! The sea tractor is a large-wheeled beast that trundles folks across the sandy causeway between Bigbury-on-Sea and Burgh Island, when the tide is high enough to cover the causeway with water.

After spending some time on Burgh Island, and getting lunch at the Pilchard Inn, which was manned by an eccentric Italian (?) bartender, we took the sea tractor back across the causeway, which, as the tide receded, was becoming traversable by foot.

Another walk along the coast followed, in which we saw sheep, and lambs! The wind was strong, and both I and my sniffles were thankful for the hot chocolate and warm car at the end of the excursion.

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