Sharp Blue: A week in Torquay


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For the last week, I’ve been on vacation with my family in Torquay, a seaside town in the part of Devon sometimes called the “English Riviera”. It was a lot of fun. We’d hired a wheelchair so that my dad’s inability to walk more than a few hundred metres at a time wouldn’t prevent us from visiting places and doing things, and when the weirdness wore off it was just like a family holiday from my childhood.

We spent quite a lot of time just wandering around the towns of Torbay - Torquay, Paignton, Brixham - and watching the sea and boats and, at least in my case, buying rather too many books. (Speaking of books, my sister is going through a Jane Austen phase at the moment so I actually had someone with whom to discuss literature too.) We also found time to visit some of the standard tourist destinations:

  • We had a great time at the National Aquarium in Plymouth, which has the deepest tanks in Europe (and which is now the home of Robo-Shark 2). While we were there, I opened up diplomatic relations with cephalopodkind by exchanging (hand-simulated) tentacle signals with a tank of cute little baby cuttlefish. I also marvelled at the pickled giant squid they have on show.
  • We spent a day at Paignton Zoo, which is much more impressive than it used to be thanks to a grant from the European Union’s Regional Development Fund. The highlight, as at most zoos, was watching other primates. On returning to our hotel, I found myself with sunglasses but no regular glasses. I hadn’t ever been unable to find my glasses before and was surprised how helpless it made me feel. Vikki and I drove back to the zoo’s carpark, which was the last place I knew I had them, but they were nowhere to be seen. Fortunately, it turned out that they’d somehow fallen from my pocket into the (folded) seat of the wheelchair when I lifted it into the car. I still have no idea how such an unlikely thing happened.
  • The strangest place we visited was the House of Marbles, which has extremely impressive pieces of artwork in which marbles run through elaborate machineries.

Another highlight of the holiday was looking out at Mars over the harbour at Torquay, and wondering if one day people will look out over a Martian ocean at Earth.

Finally, I have to put in a good word for the Inglewood Hotel. At first glance, it’s an unprepossessing place to stay which doesn’t stand out from the many dozens of other hotels in Torquay. The staff, though, are uniformly excellent. They were practically falling over themselves to accomodate the difficulties caused by my dad’s illness. Such service makes all the difference.

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