No stress at all for ‘the driver’ today as we’re leaving the car at the station and travelling by train to Plymouth! Thanks to ‘Lockdown 2.0’, it’s also our final FULL day here as we’re heading home tomorrow (instead of Saturday). I shan’t miss those narrow, twisty-turny roads at all! 😣
10.05am: It was a quick drive to Totnes station to catch the 10.19 direct to our destination. Our transport was on time and we had Coach C all to ourselves!
10.45am: We arrived in Plymouth in just 20 minutes – easy-peasy! Now, all we had to do was to get into town from the Station. Three choices: Walk it, Taxi it or Bus it. We chose the Bus – and the grumpiest driver we’d met in a while! It’s not as though he was under pressure, but he found it hard to be helpful and raise a smile when faced with our questions about exactly where the Drake Circus Shopping Mall was located. 😣
Luckily for us (or not, depending on your viewpoint), we were befriended by a local drunk who was also on the Bus. He clearly wanted to be our friend as he moved from the back of the Bus to the seat opposite! 🤔 His slightly slurred speech, hindered by his mask and broad Scottish accent, meant it was almost impossible to work out what he was saying, but we deduced he was trying to do what the driver hadn’t – point us in the right direction! He was a friendly soul who had an air of ‘Special Brew’ about him, and by the end of the journey, I think we were within ‘a nats’ of him becoming our ‘Guide-for-the-day’! 😮
As the Bus pulled into our stop, some nifty footwork by Ann saw us take refuge on the local TK Maxx – and our ‘special friend’ headed into the distance!
More of our shopping experience later, but next, a short history lesson about the ‘high street’ here…
The ‘old’ Shopping experience
These days, the shopping experience in Portsmouth is split into two ‘types’. You have the ‘old’ area which still looks like it’s stuck in the 70s and where there are many units that look like they’ve been empty for a long while (even pre-Covid!). The ‘usual suspects’ of Poundland, Subway, Primark and TK Maxx will give you sense of the sort of shoppers it attracts. And, just when you think you’ve got a measure of the place – and its people – bizarrely, there’s the Rolex shop! 😮
In some ways, the area looks frozen in time, just as if someone or something stole most of its trade. And then you realise who the culprit is…
The ‘new’ Shopping experience
Nearby, there are a number of ‘Malls’. The nearest is the sparkly ‘Drake Circus‘ opened in 2006 and boasting 425,000 of covered retail space. It’s easy to see why many might prefer to shop here! 🤩. Nearby, there is the slightly older Armada Shopping Mall.
Back to our shopping experience today…
10.45am: First stop was TK Maxx – one of its larger offerings. It was enjoying a good trade, but even we didn’t manage to bag any bargains!
11.10am: Then it was onto nearby Debenhams that turned out to be the opposite of TK Maxx – deathly quiet (apart from the cafeteria) and looking like the whole place was on its last legs. A great shame to see a once staple of the high street looking so sorry for itself. It’s never a good sign when a retailer devotes a WHOLE FLOOR to reductions and Debenhams was offering a massive 70% off. Ann bagged a few bargains and we finished our Debenham’s experience by joining the masses in the cafeteria and enjoyed a toasted bacon sandwich!
12.15pm: Our final stop before lunch was good ol M&S! It was enjoying a busy period especially the food hall, where they had introduced a very strict queuing and one-way system to manage the numbers! We picked up some Christmas Cards for next year at a really good price.
After saying goodbye to M&S, we discovered Drake Circus – and most of the local population!
It certainly didn’t look 15 years old… very shiny, very bright and in many of its areas – very busy! 😊
It was good to look around the two floors of retail. We could also see that the top floor was devoted to eateries.
1.00pm: Lunchtime, and we decided to support the ‘older’ part of the town and head away from Drake Circus. It wasn’t probably our best move as there wasn’t that many places to choose from, but in the distance, we could see ‘Slug and Lettuce’ (their foods is always fine, but I’ve never been convinced about the name!!! Is it just me or is it weird to have the word ‘lettuce’ in your title?? 😉).
We were soon seated – and encouraged to use their App for ordering and paying. It started well and I soon had the App on my phone, but it refused to reveal any menus and the search function always came up with ‘nothing found’. Back to the ‘old school’ method of actually talking to the Waiter then! 🙄
Our Waiter was friendly and on-the-ball. We haven’t eaten at a Slug & Lettuce for a while, but when our order arrived (a sharing platter) either the Chef got imperial and metric measures confused, or their portion sizes have become more generous – it was massive, and could easily fed 4-6 people.
1.55pm: Stuffed as staff from Stuffville’s Christmas Party! 😮 As we waddled out of the restaurant, our old friend was back – not our ‘special’ one from inbound bus journey, but that (now familiar) wet stuff from the sky! As I checked my phone for the time, we worked out that we had enough time to WALK back to the station and catch the 2.15 back to Totnes.
Something else was immediately noticeable on my mobile too…
Tech-Head Warning!!! Look away now, if you aren’t
remotely interested in data transfer speeds!
It might have been raining, but that didn’t dissuade me from carrying out some data speed tests. After all, this was the first area I’ve been to that had actually got a 5G network!!! This was a very special day!!!
An ‘up’ speed of 23 and a down speed of 168 is none-too-shabby. As a comparison, my fibre-connection at home manages 12 up and 52 down.
Welcome back! With my ‘techy-moment’ over, we followed the signposts back to the Station. Within 20 minutes, we were on the platform, which turned out to be perfect timing for the departure of the 2.15 – first stop, Totnes!
2.45pm: We were soon back at the Cottage, where we started to get packed for our journey home tomorrow.
All-in-all, it’s been a great break. The Cottage has been excellent, very well-equipped and built to an excellent standard. Its only downside was that it was located in the back-of-beyond, requiring nerves of steel and rapid reaction-speeds to get to it by car in one piece. On some days, the weather wasn’t on our side, making the driving even more challenging. Was it worth it? Oh yes! We’ve seen some beautiful sights and eaten well – I’m pretty sure we’ll be back to this area in the future, but most likely during warmer weather. Standout location for me? Buckfast Abbey!
Click on the button below for the photo gallery of the whole holiday