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Fun in Plymouth

I cycled out of Liskeard on Sunday, crossed the surrounding hills, and followed the river valley down to the coast and the village of Seaton. From there I continued along the cliffs past idyllic Whitsands Bay and onto Rame Head until Plymouth loomed up in the distance looking grey and ugly after a week of cycling through the Cornish countryside. I'd now cycled all the way across Cornwall. I caught the Cremyll ferry, an old wooden boat with union jacks painted along its sides, into Devon and carried my bike off in Plymouth.

Immediately, I got lost in the one-way system and kept ending up in dead end housing estates as I tried to escape from it. Plymouth was extensively bombed during the war so much of the city consists of ugly concrete boxes. Finally, however, I managed to find the youth hostel. Having had such a pleasant time in the independent hostels in St Ives and Newquay, I'd decided to skip the YHA in Plymouth and try Plymouth Backpackers. The door was answered by a guy who looked as if he'd been extensively brainwashed and I said I was after a bed and followed him in, hoping I wasn't joining a fanatical cult. We walked past the showers, which looked pre-war and were coin-operated, then he insisted on seeing some photographic id, which I didn't have. I asked why, but he just kept staring at me.

The room I was finally given only had one other person staying in it, but there was a stack of about fifteen empty beer cans and old take-away containers scattered around the floor and it smelled badly. I returned to the brainwashed guy and asked for another room. The room he gave me this time was cleaner, but the paint was peeling, sockets were hanging off the walls, and every matress and duvet appeared to have been pissed on or worse at least once during it's lifetime. I chose the cleanest combination I could find and went into town as fast as I could.

Everything in Plymouth had just closed and people were scurrying home before they got mugged on the streets. The only place open was McDonalds, so I ate there, had a hot chocolate, and sat and read, '500 Mile Walkies', the story of a guy walking the south-west coast path with someone elses dog and without any money.

Eventually though the staff began to stare at me and once they'd stacked every chair apart from mine I knew it was time to move on. Outside I passed a guy gathering any cigarette ends he could find on the street, intending to take them home and construct a whole fag out of the tobacco (as some of my old customers used to do in Dundee). Such was his nicotine devotion, however, that just behind him, he'd missed an unopened loaf of Tesco luxury granary bread which someone had dropped on the pavement (probably at knife point). The only other people on the streets now were either junkies or homeless, and as a police car cruised down the pedestrian area past me I realised that wandering around at this time in Plymouth may not be such a good idea. No-one seemed to be paying me any attention though, and it was only when I got back to the youth hostel and realised that my clothes were liberally sprayed with cow shit which I'd cycled through earlier in the day that I understood why the homeless people had crossed the road when they saw me coming.

The next morning I got up early and left the hostel. I cycled over to the seafront and there found Plymouth's saving grace. It was a beautiful sunny, calm morning, boats were leaving the harbour, and a soft mist was lying on the water. I spotted an outdoor cafe, The Coffee Shack, ordered a latte and a toastie, and sat for a long time looking at the view.

I'd planned to spend the day wandering around town, but I now realised that this was the last thing I wanted to do. I had to get back to Bristol on Tuesday and it felt sad that the journey, for now, was at an end and there was no more cycling to do. So in a Bernard Moitissier kind of moment I decided to get back on my bike, get out of the city, board the ferry, and cycle back through Cornwall the way I'd come the previous day. It was the best decision I could have made and I had a wonderful time cycling back to Looe from where logistical support picked me up and took me back to Merryfield for a sauna, swim, and Chinese take-away.

Comments

You should have gone clubbing as all the students are party animals down there!

Yay! Well done for discovering the Coffee Shack. I've been visiting it for a year and a half, approx, and it's a lovely place. Chris, the owner, is really nice.
Plymouth is quite ugly in the town centre, but some parts are nice. It's a shame you didn't see them.

Zo there are no nice parts to Plymouth it is a
utter s**t hole. No doubt u will say the Barbican
which would be ok if u remove the drunks the violence, the litter, 90% of the take aways.
Lenin built the city centre with advice from Stalin and Blue Circle cement !
Even down the CCtv everywhere it is very Orwellian
indeed.
60's tower blocks litter the horizon. It has two
of the most economically deprived areas in Europe
I felt more apprehensive in Swilly than I did in
Marseille Arab / docks quarter.
No wonder everyone is on smack !
No wonder the pilgrim fathers set off from there it was either a dangerous sea crossing in boats often not over 60ft in length with round bottoms
or topping ones self.

Bron u were well to leave Plymouth it has no saving graces and ranks as one of the ugliest
cities in Europe.

Some man now wants to knock most of it down best of luck to him it is the only way forward.
The only bit of colour was Lenkevitch the painter
but he's expired too bless him, wish I'd bought a painting of his while they were cheap !!!


S in P

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