Totnes, England

 

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I’m enjoying a springtime stay in Devon, a county in the southwest of England. As you know, throughout this journey I’ve been renting private apartments in the cities where I stayed for more than a day or two. The cost of “self-catering” apartments (as the English have long called vacation rentals) is very high in Great Britain so this week and next I’ll be staying in the homes of ladies who I’ve found on AirBnB.

For five days I’m staying with Denise in an in-law apartment in her home in Totnes. Denise met me at the train when I arrived, showed me around her home and chatted with me over a cup of tea. Later we walked about three-quarters of a mile to a huge country inn that claims to have been in business since the year 1320! Its restaurant is a highly-regarded and innovative “gastro pub.” Some of Denise’s friends happened to come in and we invited them to join us at our table for four. I really enjoyed the conversation and the company. After dinner, as previously arranged, other friends of Denise picked us up at the pub and took us to see a movie in a theatre created in a barn on a famous local estate. On the ride home they had many questions for me about our presidential election and Donald Trump. I loved the evening shared with such friendly people.

British people have been very open and helpful to me. A man who departed the ferry when I did shared his taxi to the train station with me. The taxi driver, an older man, had lots of questions for me. The conductor on the train made sure I didn’t miss my stop and helped me with my luggage.

Yesterday a lady struck up a conversation with me on the street. The people at the next table at lunch did the same. The cab driver told me about his plans for the future. Maybe it’s just because I’m back in the land of English-speakers but I think it’s because the people of England are really friendly.

While in Totnes yesterday I discovered much about the history of this old town which dates to a time before the Romans. At the city museum I saw coins minted here 200 years before William the Conqueror arrived in 1066. The museum is located in an Elizabethan house built in the 1500s. The town’s Guild Hall (closed for the winter but I saw the exterior) was built in 1553 on the foundations of a medieval priory founded in 1088.

The best, however, was the beautiful Anglican church built in the 1400s. Originally united with the priory (monastery) next to it (where the Guild Hall is now) the church has a rare and beautiful “rood screen.” Once members of religious orders worshiped near the altar in what’s called the “choir” of a church, while the townspeople were kept in the nave. Rood screens were commonly used to divide the two parts of churches. These have mostly disappeared in Catholic churches on the continent but are relatively common in England. Most are made of wood however this one is delicately carved from stone. There’s a picture or two of it below. The church also has many large and old stained glass windows. There are a few other gray-weather pictures of Totnes.  I hope for better ones today. I’m planning lots of walking and looking while the sun is shining. The forecast for the next three days is terrible!

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Under an old arcade that provides cover to a block of stores and cafés in Totnes High Street.

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The friendly lady who talked with me a while about the town. Look carefully at the classic British phone booth for a 21st century update.

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A row of old shops on Totnes High Street

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A view of the 15th century church. Note the wooden ceiling and the rood screen before the altar.

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The rare carved stone rood screen.

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Each perpendicular column of the rood screen is decorated by one of these ornate brackets. Originally they held small sculptures, now long lost.

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Libbie

About Libbie Griffin

For several months recently I've been traveling around Europe. Write to me at in.my.suitcase.too@gmail.com if you would like to receive a very short email each time I post new words and pictures here. I would love for you to tell your friends who love to travel about this blog. And I would be very happy to read about your experiences, your suggestions and your questions in the comments section. Let's make this blog a conversation! Thanks! Libbie Griffin
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4 Responses to Totnes, England

  1. Elinor Moore says:

    What a really lovely view of Devon. Thanks for reminding people that the Brits are very friendly and outgoing – I loved living there long ago, but missed America too much.

    Like

  2. Ben says:

    Great photos, sis, as usual. I’ve always found all the “cousins” – English, Irish, Scots, and Welsh – to be very friendly folks. I’ve had no trouble communicating in the South or in Ireland, but the further north you go, the more trouble you’ll have. I’ve had to point at the menu many times in Scotland and Northumberland. But at least we all find each others’ accents charming, if a bit odd…

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    • Hi Ben,
      I’m noticing that the accent here isn’t that different from New England, though some words are. I asked my hostess if they have lilacs here. I pronounced it “lie-lax” and she didn’t know at first what I was asking. Then she said they have “lie-lucks.” Funny!

      Like

  3. Ben says:

    By the way, that “friendly lady” does look just a wee bit British, doesn’t she? Love those specs….

    Like

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