Room 13 overlooking the graveyard

Trip Start May 27, 2009
Trip End Jun 17, 2009

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Damian says that if he were writing this blog, he would start it with the hotel we had reserved for Friday and Saturday in Totnes. "You could imagine someone hanging themselves from the beams of that place," he said when we were safely away from it.

Claire and I had arrived at the Totnes station shortly after Damian had gotten off the train from London, and we spent the afternoon walking around, poking into shops, and getting the feel of this Devon village which is where the Transition Town movement began. (Transition West Marin is inspired by this movement committed to reduce carbon emissions to cope with climate change. Kinsale, Ireland, where Claire and I visited last summer, is also a place where this theory has been explored. We seem to be constantly, though not purposefully, connecting with this movement.)

Though we'd been sad to leave Dorchester, Claire and I  were looking forward to meeting up with Damian and to the next few days in Devon where we'd reserved two rooms at Dartington Hall in historic accommodations set around a medieval courtyard. I imagined it would be a cross between Pilgrim's Progress (the good parts) and Pride and Prejudice (the part where Elizabeth falls in love with Mr. Darcy as much for his house and grounds as for him) plus croissants, raspberry jam, and the pressed, high-thread-count sheets we'd quickly gotten accustomed to in our two nights at the Wooden Cabbage. 


I don't consider myself a superstitious person, but there it was...the eve of June 13...and I had been assigned Room number 13 which overlooked a graveyard. Call me picky, but try as I might, I couldn't get comfortable, even with the frolicksome wedding party that was beginning to spill out of the church on the grounds below and cavort in the courtyard. 

If we stayed here, Claire and Damian would be down several staircases, over a stained carpet, and through a couple steel doors. I tried to imagine how I would feel in the middle of the night, and it wasn't good.

Warning: Don't be fooled by photos of historic exteriors. If a hotel doesn't actually show photos of the rooms on their web site, there's a reason for that. As they say, a  sucker is born every minute, and in this case, that giant sucking sound was emanating from me. Claire, on the other hand, thought she was having trouble breathing. I called the front desk and said we might be having a medical emergency, and that I would let them know for sure in half an hour.

Bless Damian, who got on the phone and began trying to find alternative accommodations. Finally he reached a Mrs. Corfield at Kingston House. She had a voice straight out of Gosford Park (upstairs). "Well," she said, when Mr. Thomas (as she called Damian) mentioned our dissatisfaction with Dartington. "even the trustees won't stay there," she said. "But you'll like it here at Kingston House."

The trustees she referred to were the administrators of Dartington Hall trust, which  I admire in threory for Its professed aims of supporting the arts, sustainability, and social justice. But Mrs. Corfield was right. We did like Kingston House better. She set us up in the old stone coach house, which is now a two-story cottage with every cottage-y amenity you could want, from toile upholstery to Blue Willow china. 

We dined that night in a 14th century pub where the village church towered overhead, and a fire crackled in the fireplace. 

The next morning, our breakfasts were delivered to the coach house as I sat outside watching a jackdaw announce the day. We toured the gardens on the grounds and snapped photos of ourselves and finally got on our way to Riverford Farm where we would have lunch and take a tour of the farm fields.
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