Friday, 30 May 2014

Thursday Evenings

I think the best Thursday evenings are the ones where you come in from work, see the chaos the builders have left (who knew ripping out a whole kitchen, rerouting a load of plumbing, knocking down a wall, and installing a new one wasn't something that happened in the click of a finger!?), and breathe a big sigh of relief that you are heading to a friend's.

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And I think one of the best things about being a grown up is arriving at your friends' house and being greeted with general chit chat, closely followed by the question "What would you rather have? A nipple-sized penis, or penis-sized nipples?". 

Being presented with a glass of strange clear brandy that your friend had literally bought from a woman at the side of the road on holiday in Montenegro the previous week to sip while prepping a supper of chorizo and chickpea stew doesn't hurt either.

And topping off the evening with a shower (because you have no water at home) and planning summer theme park trips?

And okay, it may not have been quite so picturesque as that image- but it wasn't far off.

Unexpectedly fun weeknights as a grown up are my favourite.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Hello June

I know I'm a couple of days early, but given that I'm posting about what I'm looking forward to in June, it seemed to make sense to write about it before June.

Or at least, it made sense to me. And that's the important thing.

I have a super busy June coming up. Busy to the point that I'm potentially not seeing J til the very last weekend. I'm not looking forward to that bit- 5 weeks without him? Nope, I'm needy and like seeing him at weekends. But sadly, this just isn't to be.

But I have plenty to keep myself occupied. And since we all like a list (isn't that one of the prerequisites of being a blogger? A lover of lists and either a tea or coffee addict?), I thought I'd list a few little things I'm looking forward to in the month ahead....

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1. Seeing Jenny, Bess, Ellie, Emma, and Emily. Okay, so that's technically just before June starts as I'm off to stay with Bess on Friday, BUT I'll be with these girlies on 1st June and that counts. I cannot wait to see their little faces and give them all big squeezes.

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2. A cheeky work trip. Okay, it will not be fun and games at all, I can imagine- but I have never been on a work trip before, and even if this one is only to the party capital of North Wales- Llandudno- I don't care. It has a pier, and I'm excited.

3. A new kitchen!! We are currently having a new kitchen fitted- including knocking down a wall between the kitchen and what is currently a dining area. Eek. All being well, it should be finished by the middle of next week and I cannot wait to have a kitchen big enough to dance in.

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4. Longer evenings, lighter mornings. I love this time of year. However much I like winter, and cosying up indoors and being all warm, I bloody love the long light evenings in June. I mean, I'm writing this at 9:20pm, and it's still not properly dark outside. Isn't that brilliant!?

5. Planning. Mama CupandSaucer and I should, hopefully, be booking a little trip away on Monday, hopefully to Barcelona. (Can anyone recommend a great hotel there, by the way!?) I love an excuse to plan. Clearly I'm a control freak.

What are you looking forward to in June?

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Enough

How is it that even the long weekends never seem quite long enough?

I really do like my job, but recently, I've been finding myself with rather bad cases of Sunday-night-itis, lying in bed grumpily wishing I didn't have to get up the next morning. 


It's just the weekends are never enough. Maybe it's me being greedy. I mean, two sevenths of our working lives are given over to us as completely gratuitous free time- time to run off and play in the sunshine, or hole up on the sofa, or lie under the stars. So maybe asking for more is just a bit selfish? Who knows.


This weekend was a fun one. After a reasonably-okay-not-quite-terrible journey from Cardiff to Exeter Friday night was spent demolishing cocktails and burgers, chatting with new people, and generally enjoying being 24.



Saturday involved my favourite smoothie, a potter around town, a drive to Mama CupandSaucer's house, a good long catch up, and a curry that left me feeling almost as food-comatose as the burgers had the previous night.


Sunday included introducing J to my dad for the first time (!!!!!), celebratory steak sandwiches for lunch, baking carrot cake, cosying up on the sofa, setting Mama CupandSaucer's new iPhone up properly, baking a Badass Chicken and Leek pie, and a cinema trip to see the new X-Men film (it's the one superhero franchise I can properly get on board with. And I'd really recommend this one).



And yesterday? The sun put his hat on, so we slapped on suncream and walked the six miles to Tavistock. We were sitting in the sun drinking tea when we got a text from E, inviting us to come and meet his and A's new sproodle puppy, Lila. She is honestly the cutest puppy I think I've ever seen in real life, and next time I visit I might just try to squeeze her in my handbag and steal her away back to Cardiff. 



So to be honest, the weekend was quite enough. Just enough relaxation to make me feel like I've been put back together a little, and enough sunshine to get some Vitamin D without getting burnt. It was just so lovely, I wish it had been another ten days long. But I suppose if we had three day weekends all the time, we wouldn't appreciate them so much, would we?

How was your weekend?

Monday, 26 May 2014

Happiness Is... (Vol. 68)

Another bank holiday?! We really are spoilt in May aren't we? I'm certainly not complaining- last week was my first five-day week at work for one reason or another, and I'm pretty pleased that culture shock will be cushioned by a four day week this week.

I know I say this all the time, but time is racing past at the moment. I appear to have blinked, and suddenly we're in June. I'm quite happy I took to keeping a diary (as in, an organise-your-life type, not a journal type- though I suppose this counts too) so I can see what I've actually done with my weekends the whole way through the year so far. 2014, it seems, has been a pretty good year.

But anyway. I'm aware I've been neglecting this online world a little recently- time isn't something I have an abundance of, but I'm trying- so we'll start in the place I'm most familiar with. This week, happiness is...


... time out. As I've just mentioned, I've been non-stop recently. I seem to feel uncomfortable just doing nothing- but yesterday afternoon, J and my mum ganged up on me and told me I needed to take the afternoon off (from life, it seems). And it was lovely. Of course, we did still bake, and play Would You Rather, but it was nice to just relax in J's company and do nothing of note.

... late night cinema trips. J and I went to see X-Men: Days of Future Past last night (I highly recommend), and the showing didn't start til 9:30. I don't think I've ever been to the cinema that late before, and it was hilarious coming out at midnight and seeing Plymouth's finest all yelling in drunken stupors outside of the Oceana three doors down.


... blueberry and ginger smoothies from Boston Tea Party. I know I've mentioned these before, but oh my god. Waking up in Exeter on Saturday morning, all I wanted was one of these bad boys. I'm going to have to recreate them at home sooner or later, they're just that delicious. They go well with scrambled eggs too.

... J. Yes, unbearably soppy to include him in one of these lists. But just being around him makes me happier than I've been in ages, and given that I know he reads this, he deserves to see his own name here. Or at least his first initial.


... burgers and half price cocktails. Hub Box, I love you with your enormous slider platters I made a huge dent in. Southernhay House half price cocktails? I love you more (get the SH Garden Martini. You will not regret it). P pouring me a very large G&T made with The Botanist gin when we got back? Best way to top off a Friday night. 

What's making you happy this week?

Friday, 23 May 2014

If I Had A Boat


I'd sail away and never look back. I would bob along the coast, hop from island to island, making friends with the fish and the fishermen. 

I'd live a life without my mobile phone. Without the Internet. With far fewer possessions than tie me down now.

I'd lie on the deck after the sun went down, watching the stars twinkle back at me. I'd sail into Plymouth on the second Tuesday and Wednesday of August and watch the fireworks over the Sound. I've always wanted to do that. 

I'd learn to tie knots, when to duck, how to anchor, which way is port and which is starboard.

I'd learn to weather the storms. Because the storms in my life would be literal, not metaphorical, and no one could tell me they were just in a teacup. 

I could run away whenever it all got a bit much. I would be able to stay away from the dramas. I could harden my heart to goodbyes, because I'd say them so often. Home would be my little boat, moored anywhere for the night. It would be expected for me to be external. When I was around, it would be an occasion, not an annoyance.

I could get away with wearing endless stripes, because that's what sailors do, and everything would smell of salt and sunshine.

I wish I had a boat. 

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Shakshouka


Shakshouka is probably my favourite "I need to eat something and I can't work out what I want to eat" supper. It's not woefully bad for you, contains a good lot of vegetables, and is a good way of using up whatever you have in the fridge. It's also extra delicious when you eat it outside. What more do you want?


Shakshouka is often served as a brunch dish, but to be honest, a) it's pretty great whenever you eat it and b) jentacular foods are my favourites, and I'd prefer it if I just ate breakfast three times a day.

I was inspired for this by Smitten Kitchen and The Londoner for this one, so can't take full credit- but trust me, this is delicious, and if you don't make it at some point over the bank holiday weekend, you're missing out.

This quantity could happily serve two for brunch, particularly if you're having other delicious things alongside, or if you're me, it serves one for supper. 


Shakshouka

1 clove garlic, crushed
A chunk of chorizo (or a couple of slices of smoked bacon is great too)
Half a red pepper, sliced
A few mushrooms, chopped
A tin of chopped tomatoes
Paprika
Chilli powder
A tsp honey
Fresh coriander, chopped
2 eggs

In a saucepan, fry the chorizo/ bacon and garlic, then add the peppers and mushrooms, and sautee for a couple of minutes. Then add the tomatoes, a good shake of paprika, a good shake of chilli powder, and a teaspoon of honey. Simmer until the sauce has reduced and thickened, then stir in your coriander.

Pour into a small ovenproof dish, then crack two eggs into the top of the dish. Bake in a preheated oven at 200C for 10 minutes, or until the eggs are cooked to your liking. 

For real indulgence, add some boursin when the dish comes out of the oven. But regardless, serve it with crusty bread for soaking up the sauce. 

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Down By The Sea

Do you know what's lovely? Getting a phonecall from your brother at just before 9am, saying "You and mum should come to Widemouth for a barbeque today!"


My brother's fiancee and her family are lucky enough to own a home at Widemouth Bay, one of my favourite beaches on the north Cornwall coast. When the tide is out, it's a long, smooth stretch of sand, pockmarked with rocky outcrops with rockpools you could lose a day to.


We arrived at the house jut after noon (it's only an hour from Mama CupandSaucer's house, but I'd spent a chunk of the morning visiting Papa CupandSaucer and Little L), and basked in the sunny garden over glasses of apple and elderflower juice, while P cooked up a feast on the barbeque. 

The weather doesn't look great in these pictures, but trust me- it was hot and sunny enough for me to burn the one patch of shoulder I missed with the suncream so spectacularly that two days later, it's still fuchsia.  


After lunch, we made our way to the beach for a stroll and a paddle. It's literally a stone's throw from the house- and I don't have a particularly strong throwing arm either. Even a detour to visit the most adorable twenty-seater chapel in the village only added an extra two minutes to the walk. 

We meandered along the shoreline, chatting about E and A's upcoming nuptials, my life in Cardiff, and how we could all happily stay on the beach there forever. Honestly- I couldn't think of anything I wanted to do less than drive back to Cardiff that afternoon. Fortunately, I've since adjusted to being back.


And what would a trip to the beach be without a local ice cream? Nothing. Nothing at all. Even if we were still stuffed full of barbeque food...


Monday, 19 May 2014

Happiness Is... (vol. 67)

I'm going back to work today feeling ten times lighter than I did this time last week. I'm not going to lie- the last few weeks have been unbelievably stressful, but it seems that things are starting to settle down, sort themselves out, and just generally get back to some semblance of normal- and I'm incredibly grateful for that. 

I don't have much more to add other than that, actually- so without any further ado, this week, happiness is...


... unexpectedly lovely weekends. I decided on Thursday evening that what I really needed was a trip back to Devon, and it's one of the best weekends I've had in ages. I'm sure I'll fill you in on the details during the week, but it involved seeing J, a picnic/ afternoon out with some of my favourite friends in one of my favourite places, supper out, coffee with papatron and Little L, and a day at the beach. All in two days.

... long days. I love this time of year for the bright mornings and long, light evenings. I drove across the Severn Bridge last night at gone 9pm and the sun was just setting. Isn't it blissful!?


... ice cream season. I bloody love ice cream. I don't eat anywhere near enough of it. This weekend was all about the mint choc chip (a flavour I almost never have), and the raspberry pavlova flavours. You really can't beat local ice cream in the South West.

... spending more hours outside than inside. Which is exactly what I did this weekend. Hello Vitamin D, browning limbs, and a sunburnt shoulder (I missed that bit with the SPF 30)!!

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... picnics. Eating outside on a blanket is the best way to eat, in my opinion. I found my picnic basket at home yesterday, and have brought it back to Cardiff with me. I'm warning you now- expect plenty of picnic-y pictures if this weather holds.

A particularly seasonal edition, I'm sure you'll agree. What's making you happy this week?

Friday, 16 May 2014

Al Fresco

Last night I ate supper outside for the first time this year. HURRAH!!



Eating outside is my favourite thing. Mostly because I love food and I love being outside- combine the two, and you're on to a winner in my book.

I made myself a spring-y risotto (roasted yellow pepper and tomatoes, with green beans and peas), piled it high in my favourite bowl, and took myself outside with parmesan and water, only to be joined moments later by M and M with homemade burgers and a bottle of rioja (I wasn't jealous at all).

We soaked up the last of the sunshine, swapped stories about our days, and chattered about how much we love this unexpected glorious sunshine, and how happy we are not to be revising right now. Being a proper grown up is great sometimes.

Next on the list? Breakfast outside. My heart might explode from the happiness.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Boston Tea Party

I like breakfast. I like brunch. I just like food, actually. Seriously- I'm quite scared to stand on my scales at the moment because I KNOW I am well over my comfort weight and I'm not very happy about it. But I like food, so, well, I probably won't be losing weight anytime soon.


J and I are on a bit of a mission to try out all the awesome breakfast and brunch places in Cardiff and Exeter, and Boston Tea Party was next on our list. I've been before for coffee, and I always thought that Boston Tea Party was independent, or unique to Exeter. Turns out, there are loads of them- primarily in places beginning with B (Bristol, Bath, Birmingham, Barnstaple....), but generally scattered around a bit. I would suggest you find your nearest one and go.


Unfortunately, we'd had a late supper of pizza the night before, and I was feeling slightly grim as a result- so I couldn't stomach my normal brunch of Eggs Benedict. Instead, I went for a blueberry and ginger smoothie, grapefruit, and a cute little cup of granola. J, on the other hand, went for The Boss- which was a ridiculous huge Full English. He'd recommend. 


The Boston Tea Party in Exeter has a few little tables downstairs, and a great big open upstairs with big tables you could share with total strangers if you so wished- and given that I'm a big fan of communal dining, I'm a big fan of this set up. It attracts a great mix of people too- on the morning we went, there were students revising, people perusing the morning papers, mothers and children, and a scattering of couples and groups of friends. It made for a great atmosphere, and a lovely place to spend an hour or so- even if I was stropping (I probably was).


Other great things about Boston Tea Party- they  like free range, they like sustainable, they have the most ridiculously enormous list of teas I've seen almost anywhere, and it's just generally a nice place to be. Great breakfast, good atmosphere, nice morals, tea. What more do you need?

Can you recommend anywhere else for breakfast in Exeter or Cardiff?

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Things I've Learnt This Week


This week, I've learnt that I can play table tennis equally well with my left hand as my right hand.

I've learnt that you really don't ever forget how to ride a bike, even if you only do it once or twice a year.

I've learnt that not closing my curtains properly means I get woken up by daylight- and that's more than okay.

I've learnt that I'm awful at replying to emails.

I've learnt that bottling things up never ends well.

I've learnt that sometimes, the hardest conversations are the ones you need to have the most.

I've learnt that none of us talk about our feelings enough.

I've learnt that what we often think is unique to us is actually often felt by others too.

I've learnt that letting myself take a break might be okay sometimes.

I've learnt that I don't hide my emotions very well.

I've learnt that people are nicer to me than I deserve.

I've learnt that I do not always treat the people I love most as well as I should.

 I've learnt that forgiveness is a beautiful thing.

I've learnt that moving forward, blindly feeling our way and hoping that things will work out is just about all any of us can ever do.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Happiness Is... (vol. 66)

I'm still in the midst of my six weeks without doing a full week at work. Seriously, I feel like a bit of a part timer at the moment- it's all these bank holidays, plus a couple of days of annual leave. I'm not complaining though- it's just a shame that the same amount of work needs to be done in three days, instead of five. How do people who are actually part time ever get anything done!?

I'm enjoying it all though- I thrive on being busy, so I like having packed weeks, full weekends, and plenty to do in between. That said, I also need a little bit of alone time to recuperate every now and then- it's all about balance, after all.

So yes. Busy bee, but enjoying every minute of it. And aside from that, this week, happiness is....

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... freshly painted nails. I am terrible at letting my nails chip, then forgetting to take the polish off for a pretty long time after that. So I love that day just after I've painted my nails when they haven't smudged, or chipped, and I look faintly polished for once. 

... the Frozen soundtrack. Yes, I'm a child inside- no, I really don't care. I bought this the other day, and now any solo car journeys involve me belting "LET IT GO, LET IT GOOO" at the top of my voice, much to the amusement of pedestrians when I'm waiting at traffic lights.

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... escaping the rain. I know I've mentioned this before, but it rains a lot in Cardiff. Seriously. And as much as I love walking to work, I do not love being rained on. Which is why it's particularly brilliant when I have to drive to work (for a meeting or suchlike) and therefore escape the rain. And there's something about watching the rain from the inside of a car, isn't there?

... doing what's right for me. I'm quite guilty of waiting for others to do things, wanting other peoples' approval, worrying about hurting people. I'm happiest when I do the thing that's right for me, and I've been doing this a bit more recently- I'd strongly recommend it, actually.

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... croissants. Terrible for you on every level other than being good for the soul. But so so so delicious- one of these days, I'll finally get around to making some from scratch, and then I will be the size of a house. But it will be oh so worth it.

What's making you happy this week?

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Compost Cookies

Or “oat, fruit, nut, and chocolate chip biscuits” if you want a slightly more descriptive name.


I’m indecisive. It’s one of my real flaws as a person, actually. Give me a big restaurant menu and I’ll panic, thinking “But everything looks so good!”, struggling to pick and inevitably getting food envy when someone else orders something I was dithering over. It’s why I’m a big fan of tapas, or mezze, or anything sharing, actually- you get to pick at a little bit of everything and no one feels like they’re missing out.

These cookies were born of my indecisive nature. I wanted to make some sort of biscuit but I couldn’t work out precisely what. Cranberry and white chocolate? Oat and raisin? Chocolate and nut? So to save myself the hassle of deciding, I made them all. In one brilliant biscuit.



I think Compost Cookies are an American invention and they tend to include strange things like crushed up crisps or pretzels to add some saltiness to them. But I decided that might be a step too far for my work colleagues, who benefit from the fruits of my labour on a fairly regular basis, and decided to just call my “cookies containing everything I had in the cupboard” Compost Cookies for want of a snappier title. And I didn’t have crisps or pretzels in the cupboard, either (I’m a sweet girl at heart- if you told me I could never have crisps again, I swear to god I wouldn’t bat an eyelid)


You can be incredibly flexible with what you put in these. If you just want them to be fruit and nut, or chocolate and nut, or just chocolate, or anything- go for it. Just keep the quantities the same, and you’ll be fine. Seriously- whatever you have in the cupboard will work. I would strongly recommend keeping the oats though - they add a lovely texture to the cookies, and hey- anything that contains oats is instantly healthy, right?

I also measured in cups because the recipe I based these on did. And I think cookies are a bit more forgiving with the cup-measuring method than cakes are, which is why I’m quite happy to have a go with that every now and then.

This made 40 palm-sized cookies for me- and I’ve halved it before without any problems.


Compost Cookies

8oz butter (this is basically a whole block of butter, minus one tablespoon, if you really don’t want to weigh)
1 cup soft brown sugar
1 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
A glug of vanilla extract
1 ½ cups of plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
2 ½ cups of oats
2 cups of "additions" – 
(I did ½ cup white chocolate chunks, ½ cup dark chocolate chunks, ½ cup mixed raisins and cranberries, and ½ cup mixed nuts (which I then roughly chopped) )

Soften the butter, and cream with the sugars. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Add everything else to the bowl, and using a wooden spoon/ spatula/ implement of your choice, work in to the butter mixture. Now. I always start with a spoon, but to be honest, I find it far, far easier just to get my hands in their and mix it all up properly.

When everything is combined, you'll have a sticky dough. Scoop dessert spoonfuls of the dough out, roll into a rough ball in your hands, and place spaces well apart on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake at 170C until pale gold.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Steak With Butter, Thyme, and Roasted Veg

I am a big fan of cooking well for myself.


I'm all for cooking delicious things for others- duck breasts with red wine and cherry sauce; slow cooked steak and ale pie; pork and mushroom stroganoff- but to be honest, the person I'm really cooking for in those situations is me. I'm just using the other person as an excuse to make something a little more time consuming.

It feels very decadent to cook lovely things for myself- though to be honest, I do tend to cook well for myself regardless. It's my way of loving myself- if I'm not doing so well, cooking goes out of the window. I deprive myself, making myself more miserable.

Of course, I come to regret this decadence when I look in the mirror while trying on a bikini and I feel like this, but at the time? Totally, completely worth it.


Does anyone else remember Diane von Furstenburg giving Whitney boy advice in The City? No? Just me? Well, DVF says to her "The most important relationship in your life is the one you have with yourself. Because no matter what happens, you will always be with yourself". This is my way of making sure I have a positive relationship with myself.

Is this indulgent? Yes. But I genuinely don't think there's anything wrong with a little indulgence every now and then, though if you disagree- you could grill the steaks and feel a little better about it. BBQ-ing would work very well too.

This is a recipe for one. It could, of course, be increased to share with someone you love, but if not- there will be enough veg left over for at least two days worth of lunches, particularly if you mix it with couscous or quinoa. I did this- and added a handful of chopped fresh parsley, mint, and chives too. 


Steak With Butter, Thyme, and Roasted Veg

2 sweet potatoes
A red pepper
A few mushrooms
A large onion
A handful of cherry tomatoes
Half a head of broccoli
A few asparagus spears

Steak of your choice (I went with sirloin)
A knob of butter
A few sprigs of thyme

Salt, pepper, olive oil

Peel and chop your sweet potato. Put into a large roasting dish and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Put into the oven at 200C.

Slice your pepper, mushrooms, and onion, and half half of your cherry tomatoes. After the sweet potato has been in the oven for about ten minutes, add this to the pan, mixing well.

Chop your broccoli into small florets. Snap the woody ends off of your asparagus, and half the spears. After the peppers etc have been in the oven for 10 minutes, add the broccoli and asparagus. Cook for a further ten minutes.

Once your broccoli and asparagus have gone into the oven, you can start prepping your steak. Season the meat with salt and pepper. Pick the leaves off of the thyme, and chop them, if you want. Sprinkle the thyme over the meat. 

Melt the butter in a frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add your steak, first holding it fatty-edge down to start crisping the fat, then cook on each side for a couple of minutes until cooked to your liking. While cooking, spoon the butter over the steak occasionally. Once cooked to your liking, remove from the heat and dear god please let it rest while your veg finishes cooking. Spoon some more of the melted butter/ fat over the meat, if you want.

Serve with some of the roasted veg alongside.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Exeter to Starcross

Starcross is one of my favourite place names ever, I think. Right up there with Crapstone, but that's a favourite for entirely different, less romantic reasons. Starcross is just such a pretty place name, evocative of Romeo and Juliet and other such star-crossed lovers, tu ne pense pas?


Anyways. Starcross is about 9 miles from Exeter, and a walk between the two is a rather nice way to spend a sunny afternoon. Though I would recommend doing this in proper trainers, rather than the black ballet pumps I did it in- J caught me off guard with this, and I hadn't packed a pair of trainers/ converse/ similar for my weekend in Exeter, so a pair of ballet pumps it was.


In the simplest terms, if you set off from the Quay in Exeter, and just follow the canal/ river/ water for 9 miles, you will reach Starcross. It could take you as little as two hours, if you walk pretty quickly and you don't stop at the pubs you'll pass on your way. But let's be honest, wouldn't that be a little dull? Taking all afternoon and stopping at both pubs for a drink by the water is a much nicer way of doing it.


About two miles from the Quay, you will come to Double Locks, the loveliest little pub I've come across in a long time. Get a glass of Pimms (they have it on tap, which I'm not entirely convinced is a good idea), and maybe some food (their burgers are excellent, if undignified to eat, from previous experience), and park yourself on a bench outside- around the back they have the most enormous seating area, with a BBQ in the summer too.



Once you've had your fill, carry on along the canal, keeping it on your right- you can cut through the beer garden back to the path. You'll have to cross the road at the Swing Bridge, and the water should then stay on your left for a good while. Walk along and admire the peace and quite, and forget you're near a city (until you come across the M5 flyover. Sorry about that)



A couple of miles later, you will come across Turf Lock, and The Turf - a pub you can only get to by boat or by foot. You'll know you're getting close when you see all the boats moored nearby. Cross the lock, grab yourself half a cider (proper Devon cider only, please, none of this Koppaberg/ Rekorderlig crap that tastes like fizzy squash), and take yourself outside to admire the setting and other people's children/ dogs. Or your own, if you take them along for the ride.



Leave the pub (if you can drag yourself away), and continue keeping the water on your left- the canal ends here, and the estuary begins, and keeping it on your left is about the only thing you can do, really. Admire the views across the estuary to Exmouth. Wave at the people you know there, or jut stare into the distance wondering what they're up to.


Try to avoid the escaped cows. Don't make loud noises around them, even if they do it to you. It isn't polite, and cows are a big fan of polite.


Cross the railway line at the level crossing. This is how you know you're nearly at Starcross. Resist the temptation to lie in the middle of the track and pretend to be a damsel in distress- it really is quite dangerous, even if trains don't run along this track particularly regularly.


Arrive in Starcross. Trains run roughly once an hour from Starcross to Exeter, though remember there are three train stations there- St Thomas, Central, and St Davids. Central is, oddly enough, the most central. You can either go for another drink in The Atmospheric, the most old-man pub around, or get fish and chips and eat them on the station platform, while you wait. As my grandparents live nearby, we popped in to see them while we waited. But we made sure we had enough time to come back and admire on of the prettiest settings for a train station in England.


Perfect Saturday afternoon fare. Also easily doable on a bike- much quicker, though much wobblier after a few ciders.