On my last morning in Plymouth, I walked down thru Plymouth University (enrollment 32,000) past Drake Place to Drake Circus. Noticed that the mall has an Apple store; two great franchises joined together! Went into M&S and treated myself to a new shirt. Picked up my laundry on Mayflower Street (pilgrims are another big franchise here), packed and caught a train east to Exeter (map). Why? Because Exeter has an airport, and Plymouth doesn’t.
Towed my suitcase up St. David’s Hill to the Oakcliffe Hotel, and went on to the Exeter Cathedral to join a free walking tour. This lasted for two hours and was very interesting; I regretted not allowing a couple of days to explore Exeter.
The site has been occupied for 2,000 years. Two-thirds of the city’s wall (which is partly Roman) still exists. Like the bark of an ancient tree, the face of the wall bears the marks of past events. One section is made of small fragments of rock. During the English civil war, the Parliamentary city sent artillery to confront the Royalists; but they captured the cannons, and smashed the city’s wall with its own guns. After the war the wall was repaired, using the bits left lying around from the attack.
The cathedral, we learned, was enhanced by a screen of carved figures. At the bottom, angels; above them, kings. And, across the top, saints. In medieval times they were brightly painted. The austere beige look is a modern aberration. In nooks and crannies, such as the open mouth of a statue, the old paint can still be discerned.
We heard many other wonderful tales; a locally famous pipe-smoking dog immortalized as a gargoyle on the cathedral is just one of them.