One of my favourite aspects of travel is the exposure to new things, ideas, and perhaps best of all, new food. And the food you’re exposed to can be taken home – not literally because of the difficulties of quarantine issues in my island country, but virtually. Recipes and flavours can all be taken home, adapted into your life, and twenty years later they become part of who you are. This is especially true as the world gets smaller, and as exotic ingredients become readily available in our supermarkets or specialty food stores. So when we travel, we try to sample local specialties, to discover something new and divine, something that we can absorb into our lives back at home.
When in Devon, the local specialty you have to sample is a Devonshire cream tea. They were advertised everywhere, and we took advantage of them as often as we could. We reached Devon only two days after arriving in England, and so we found ourselves still reeling from the ubiquitous, huge, English breakfasts. This meant that lunch could easily be skipped, leaving us perfectly prepared for a Devonshire cream tea later in the afternoon. The scones were similar to scones we got at home, the scones my mother used to make, and that were one of the first things I learned to bake. The jam was the same as strawberry or raspberry jam at home. Not so exotic, then, I hear you saying?
But the clotted cream was unlike anything I had eaten before. I’d always assumed it was just a variation of whipped cream. But no. It was very dense and heavy compared to whipped cream, with a delicious, caramel, nutty flavour. The combination of the floury scones, the sweet jam, and the unctuous cream was to die for. It was a good thing we only had a few days in Devon, and that we were still in our 20s. I fear our hearts (or arteries) wouldn’t survive another visit to Devon.
In between gorging on Devonshire cream teas for lunch or afternoon tea, we drove through Dartmoor, a beautiful, barren part of the country. We saw ponies running wildly on the moor, unusually marked cattle that looked as if they’d been pre-marked for the butchers, dramatic stone outcrops, and wild moors. I could envisage Heathcliff and Cathy out here, and I loved it. We stopped for a cream tea in quaint Moretonhampstead, with its whitewashed houses and White Hart pub lining the main street, and its church and graveyard overlooking the village. In the very middle of the moor, we walked across the clapper bridge at Postbridge, dating from the 13th century, which seemed impossibly ancient for 20-somethings from a country only a hundred and fifty years old itself.
We then ventured into Cornwall before driving the north-west coast of Devon, stopping at Clovelly, a tourist-trap of a private village. We sensed we wouldn’t like it as we parked next to a tourist bus and paid the entrance fee to walk down the steep streets of what was once a lovely fishing village, but now smacked of Disneyland-like commercialism. Clovelly though was pretty, with white-washed cottages winding their way down the hill to the coast. The tourists snapped photographs, and puffed their way back up to the car park.
We’d had a long day, and we tired as we drove on, around the north coast of Devon. Reaching Lynton, we decided to look for a hotel. No sooner had we decided than we got to the top of a hill, and saw a pub. My husband stopped, I checked they had a room, and we entered. The proprietors showed us to a room, with a stunning view of the sea below us. After settling in, we headed back to the bar, for a drink with the locals before a quick dinner. The sun went down on our visit to Devon, as we looked across the sea to twinkling lights on the south Wales coast.
This is written by memory, almost 20 years after the visit, with only a couple of references to Google Maps. I therefore apologise for any inaccuracies, especially to any Devon-dwellers who might read this. (She knows who she is.)