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Exploring Devon and beyond: Romina’s half term diary

For the last eight weeks, German participant Romina has been experiencing life working in an English primary school to improve English teaching skills by experiencing the culture and working among native speakers. With a half-term break falling within the 10 week stay, Romina decided to use this time to do some cultural sightseeing and has kindly shared a diary of her experience…

Saturday 26 May

Saturday hurray! The half-term began with a shopping trip; I went to the Willows with a friend. My host mother told me, I should go there because there are some different shops and brands. There’s a big Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer, Next, Topshop… I didn’t find a good piece to wear but my friend bought two trousers and a jumpsuit which fit her perfectly. Then, we went to the Oriental Touch – a Chinese buffet restaurant - where we met another friend for lunch. It was only £6.80 and you could fill your boots (as my guest mother would say)! J

Afterwards, we went for a walk along the beach and climbed up some steep stone paths. It was more hiking than walking, really. However, in the end we were walking along the beach with beautiful weather and when we got back into the city we sat down at a nice café with a view over the coast of Torquay.

Sunday 27 May

On this day, I went to Brixham for the art and craft market and the Brixfest. I bought some lovely souvenir fridge magnets and we went through the different little stalls. It was quite cloudy and dull but still warm. There was also the dragonboat race but we didn’t see much because of the fog and a lot of people. My friends and I ate a crêpe at the harbour which was delicious and we had a funny discussion about the pronunciation of the word “crêpe” because my friend is French. The shopman told us that he heard people say “creep” before. I laughed at the image in my head where someone orders a “creep with Nutella”. :D Afterwards, we just sat there for a while talking about anything and everything. So, this was a rather lazy Sunday.

Monday 28 May

Brixfest again! J I read that there were yoga courses on the beach! So, I persuaded a friend to go there with me. Unfortunately and despite the beautiful weather, it wasn’t at the beach but in a tent next to it. But it was still very relaxing and felt good! I love yoga and I enjoyed doing it in a special place. We also had a whippy at a pink Mr Softee car which was also very nice. We sat at the beach, sometimes putting our feet into the sea. In the evening we went to karaoke at the Spinning Wheel with another friend who’s from Paignton. I met him a while ago and he travels around the world! He has been to all kinds of places like Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Australia, Finland… and soon he will go to Japan. He is from Paignton and just came back to earn some money for the next adventure. I was very nervous to sing because there were so many people but I did it eventually and the evening was so much fun!

Tuesday 29 May

On Tuesday we went to Bygones – we in this case is my guest mother, another Spanish student that lives in our house and me. The Spanish student is 84 years old! 84! She just arrived last week and she is pretty fit and able, that’s really impressive! Bygones was very interesting and definitely worth visiting. It all started with a man who loved collecting things about the world war and trains and the Victorian era – actually so many that his house looked like a museum and his wife thought that they can’t fit any more into their home. It’s quite a funny story and now they share it with the people! You can see that the lady owner and her family have dedicated a lot of time to this collection.

Wednesday 30 May

When I woke I was quite disappointed that it rained on this day and the fog wouldn't clear up. I had planned a trip to Coleton – should I go? Yes, nevertheless, I wanted to go! I packed an umbrella, my raincoat and lunch and was good to go. After a long and lazy breakfast I went to the bus station to take the bus 120 to Kingswear. I knew I had to alight 3/4 mile south-west of Hillhead… but which bus stop is that? I asked the bus driver and he was very friendly and told me which stop I had to get off. First, it looked like a very lonely place in the middle of nowhere but I quickly spotted the sign to Coleton Fishacre. So I followed the way. It was a half an hour to walk and it was very misty and rainy. However, the path was easy to follow, just a bit narrow in some parts therefore I had to watch out for cars. I went into Coleton Fishacre and walked through the beautiful house. Art deco lights and so much love for the details to make it look original. It was really amazing!

Later, I walked through the gardens and despite the rainy weather it was remarkably beautiful. The colours of the flowers were radiant and the smell was maybe even more intense because of the spraying rain! I took my time to explore the different paths, though my shoes and socks got pretty wet after a while. But the stunning views were worth the effort! I looked over the sea and saw Mew Island. Afterwards, I walked up the path to the bus stop again, leaving Coleton Fishacre behind me. The bus comes only once an hour, that’s something to remember.

Thursday 31 May

Good morning!? Already?

It was 5:20 in the morning and I was awake. I got dressed, had some breakfast and checked if I had everything packed. My lovely guest mother has packed lunch for me the day before. I grabbed that and filled my water bottle and then I was off to the coach station in Paignton. I went to London where I met a friend who came over from Germany! I was excited and also a bit nervous because I was all alone at the bus stop… 6:56 am - the bus arrived (still on time but I was a bit worried, I have to admit). But then everything's gravy! ;D

I had almost six hours to drive... but the time went pretty fast and we arrived at the Victoria Station at 12:40. After buying an oyster card I met up with my friend in the hotel who arrived almost exactly at the same time! Perfect timing (or maybe just luck). We planned our next two and a half days together and went into the city centre afterwards to buy something to eat. We had to queue up for dinner at a restaurant (I later heard that this is normal in London at dinner time). I was starving when we finally got to eat something! Afterwards, we bought tomorrow’s breakfast and we sat at Trafalgar Square for a while. Just listening to street performers and looking around at all the lights and the people… indescribable.

Friday 01 June

After our improvised breakfast we walked to the Tower of London. The Tower is really impressive and in my opinion one of the most (or really the most) important buildings in London, regarding the history and the different uses over time. “London is a very big town, with the double-deckers and the underground. Where 99p is almost a pound – London is a very big town!” (Does anybody know this song? I had a children’s CD for learning English and I loved that song on it!) Anyway, the underground and the red buses were there, of course… and yes: we drove with both of them to get the full London experience! Not one of those tourist bus tours, though, those take forever and get stuck in the traffic all the time during the day. We took the bus in the evening when it was less crowded on the streets. We went to see Tower Bridge and we ate fabulous and tasty food at the Borough Market! Afterwards, we rented two of those Santander bikes which are all over the city and rode them through Hyde Park and Kensington Park, where we later put them in a docking station again and went to see Kensington Palace. We had a cream tea at the palace’s café, I was so glad they had that! So I could show my friend a typical English afternoon tea which is traditionally a speciality of Devon and Cornwall. It wasn’t as nice as the one at the angel’s tearooms in Babbacombe but it was still good. In the evening we went to The Montagu Pyke, a Wetherspoon in London, with very reasonable prices.


Saturday 02 June

6 a.m. fire alarm in the hotel - false alarm. That was so annoying and stressful in the morning… didn’t need that for a start.

We tried to get back to sleep but it wasn’t the best rest after that shock so we got up and out of the house where we were going to a café near the hotel called Dulce to have some breakfast. The breakfast was nice and the people working there as well. Then, at 10 o'clock we had to be at the Tower Hill underground station because we booked a London in a day tour. The guide was hilarious, I loved the way he explained historical facts with a funny story and there was a lunch break at 1.20 pm where we had a meal (fish and chips!) in a pub called Walkers. What a perfectly fitting name; we walked about 7 kilometres until then. The weather was a bit funny, it went from hot to cold all day because of the clouds but it didn’t rain at least and it was mostly warm. At 5pm we ended the tour in front of the Houses of Parliament, the palace of Westminster. After the tour we went to the Tate Modern. The museum is really big, so if you really want to make most of it you have to know where you want to go, which art exhibitions you want to see. I loved it! I saw Mondrian, Munch, Monet, Braque, Picasso, Modigliani, Beuys, Magritte, Dalí, Albers, and Malevich… oh so many of the big names and also some artists I didn’t know before but was really impressed by. Some art will always be a question to me but that’s what many art pieces are for: discussion, understanding, misunderstanding, maybe even loving or hating a piece. For me it was a wonderful experience. In the evening we went for a drink in a nearby cocktail bar. At the end of the day I had walked 27,945 steps!

Sunday 03 June

Such a perfect and sunny day! So warm in the morning already! Too bad I had to drive back to Paignton for almost 6 hours in the afternoon…

We went to the same café again for breakfast and walked along the Thames from East London to Westminster for the remaining time, enjoying the sun and maybe I got a little sunburn. I knew I had to sit for a long time in the bus, so we walked around all morning and grabbed a sandwich at lunch time. So, my phone counted about 20,000 steps until I arrived at the bus station at twenty past two. The bus was supposed to leave at 3, but there were already many people waiting for it. So I queued up and got onto the bus as one of the first passengers to choose my seat. I arrived in Paignton again at half past eight in the evening. Wow, the time flies, that was my half-term week!