I'm pretty sure that if I mention that my camera's broken one more time, the internet will rebel and delete my blog. So I'm not going to use that as an excuse for the influx of throwback posts that will be written over the next few months (PhD studentship income and ambitious camera goals do not mix). But in any case, I hope you get the idea. I also figured that it'd be nice to write about our summer with Valentine's Day coming up, as something ppprrreeetty special happened for Michele and I last August. If you don't know about it, I won't spoil it for you (if you haven't guessed already that is!)
For our fifth anniversary (FIFTH!), I decided to take the reins and organise something to celebrate. Considering that our relationship began somewhere between Milan and Rome, our first anniversary was celebrated in Venice, our second and third in Milan, and our fourth by the shores of Lake Superior, there was a fair amount of pressure for me to come up with something at least semi-decent.
I think I did ok...
When we first met, we bonded over our mutual love of walking. Thinking about it, I feel so lucky to have found someone who enjoys traipsing across the countryside and up mountains as it has always been one of my favourite things to do in the world (even if I do moan like a little bitch every time we have to walk uphill). So on the day of our anniversary (3rd August, let's not forget how late I am posting this), we bundled into our little car (RIP) and drove out to Exmoor.
The walk was a circular one from Simonsbath, all along the Barle Valley (this one here). It took us through lush meadows, along the side of the river and past an imposing copse of pines that looked ever so slightly like the setting for a murder scene. But my favourite bit was the gentle incline that led us out onto the moorland, surrounded by heather and cows. We settled down for a picnic of homemade cheese and sundried tomato scone-things (it was meant to be bread) and braced ourselves against the good old British summer wind!
Our next stop after the walk was the wonderful Lynton Cottage Hotel, where we were staying for the next two nights. We pulled onto the seafront at Lynmouth and began the ascent to Lynton. Let's just say, it was a very steep road. I had to shift down into first gear and even then our arrival at the summit wasn't guaranteed. There were so many escape channels at the side of the road in case of break failure, pretty scary!
But when we arrived, it was all so, so worth it. This was the view from our bedroom and our bathroom:
I know. It really does not get much better than that.
We were staying in the C.S. Lewis Suite (named for the author who proclaimed the view from Lynton "beyond everything I have seen") which has since been converted into the C.S. Lewis Balcony self-catering apartment sleeping up to 6 people. I'm so glad we visited when the room was still just for 2 people as it was just the most perfect place to celebrate five years together. With those sea views from the bath and the bed, we could have spent the entire few days just lying around, watching the distant sea roll in and out.
Us being us, we didn't do that. We spent our first evening exploring the town (after a good hot bubble bath to ease the aches away from our earlier walk) and our second day walking the South West Coast Path for 15 miles! Understandably, a lot of photos can happen in 15 miles, so I'm saving that for another post.
(How creepy is the Valley of the Rocks Hotel? And it appears it is indeed haunted if these Tripadvisor reviews are anything to go by [these made me laugh A LOT. I just love how everyone chips in as if they're discussing something as ordinary as the breakfast buffet]).
Ghostly happenings aside, Lynton is a beautiful little town. Despite it being August (supposedly peak summer time if you can believe it from the sky in these pictures), it was very quiet and sleepy which was surprising given how stunningly beautiful the views were from the town's clifftop location. We also found plenty to do there and in the surrounding area, with lovely restaurants (the Vanilla Pod was exquisite for our anniversary dinner), plenty of little shops for browsing, the beach itself down in Lynmouth, the National Trust's Watersmeet and too many walks for us to squeeze in during our short stay!
Luckily we managed to scurry inside just in time to avoid the deluge!
Our second day was devoted to tackling as much of the South West Coast Path as we could manage in a single day but as I said, that needs an entire post of its own! On the morning of our departure, we strolled down the hill to explore Lynmouth a little more. In 1952, Lynmouth was hit by a devastating flood after heavy rain on higher ground caused a wall of water to tear through the valley towards the sea, taking houses and lives with it as it raged. Today, you wouldn't be able to tell that the town had been hit by such a tragedy, with no remaining evidence of damage visible to the tourist's eye. However it is still very much present in the collective conscience of the town, with a museum dedicated to the tragedy and a locally produced book sharing the stories of those involved available in our hotel room.
We spent a lazy morning ambling across the shingle and skipping stones out to sea beyond the grey skies. After the slightly retro feel of the hotel (I definitely felt like I was stepping into an Agatha Christie story!), it almost seemed as though we'd rewound through the decades for the duration of our minibreak, back to a time when Lynton and Lynmouth were one of the most popular honeymoon destinations for British newlyweds.
Although we'd been before, I really wanted to visit Watersmeet before we left. It's a nice, gentle walk along the riverside for a couple of miles, past pretty little B&Bs and lovely stone cottages (serious house-spotting occurred) before disappearing into the woods and following an undulating path through the trees and towards the tearooms.
Watersmeet always reminds me of the style of houses built in the Lake District, one of my favourite places in the whole world. In fact, there was something about Lynton and Lynmouth that made me think of the Lakes during our stay there. Something to do with the stone cottages and the winding little roads in the towns and the friendly little local businesses and the greenery and the birdsong and the quiet. We just about had enough time for a quick bite to eat at Watersmeet before we needed to race back and move the car (the owners of the Lynton Cottage Hotel had very kindly let us use their carpark until the next round of guests were due to arrive - we of course, left it until the last minute, trying to squeeze every last second out of our stay).
So we stood in the car park and leaned against the wall, looking out for one last time at that incredible view, taking in the immensity of the bay and the huge cliffs against which distant waves seemed to break in slow motion. We watched the sunlight and shadows move across the water which shimmered between azure and turquoise and royal blue. And then we folded ourselves back into the loaded car and drove away from our wonderful stay in Lynton.