Tuesday, September 15, 2015

London trip 2015: Day Two 22 June

From the seaside town of Paignton, my travelling friend, Heather, and I rode a steam train, the Greenway Halt, to Greenway House, the summer home of that famous mystery writer Agatha Christie.

 The steam train -- looks a bit like the Hogwarts Express, eh?

The steam train itself is not called the "Greenway Halt" but rather the train car.  

On the ride to Greenway House, watching the country pass by, I found myself very grateful that Heather was able to make this trip with me.  I had originally planned to do this whole trip on my own; I've done that before, but I'm quiet and would not have had much conversation with anyone; I would have been stuck inside my head almost the entire time.  It's nice to have someone to talk to once in a while (I'm not particularly chatty with anyone usually) and to go on a trip with someone who enjoys the same things as you.

Here's Heather showing off her Hufflepuff scarf

Unless, of course, you have your own means of transportation, there are a few different ways to arrive at Greenway House: steam train and walk, ferry and ride in a vintage bus or steam train and shuttle bus.  The only caution is to make double sure of all time tables; for example,  Heather and I were going to go by ferry/vintage bus, but, when planning the trip, I discovered this service is not available on Mondays.  For the steam train, I believe you have to book your train ticket online in advance.  Tickets for entry into the house and grounds may be purchased onsite.  On most days, you may also choose to ride the steam train to Churston station and from there take a shuttle bus to the house or ride the steam train to Greenway Halt and walk through the woods to the house.  Heather and I chose the latter.  

The website for the steam train warns that the walk from Greenway Halt to the house is 30-minutes; Heather and I decided they overestimate.  It only took us about 20 minutes, if that, the first time.  

If you like nature, as Heather and I both do, the wooded walk to the house is absolutely lovely, a feast for the eyes.  I would say it's an easy walk, but there is a lot of uphill/downhill.  There are two gates one must pass through; admittedly we city-gals had a bit of a problem opening one, but there was a kind family, also on their way to Greenway House, that helped us out.

Greenway House was Agatha Christie's summer house and had been used by her family until 2004 - there are family pictures throughout the house.  And it was a summer house, so Christie never actually worked (wrote her novels) in the house, nor was it very much considered home: like any other summer house, it was a place for family and friends to gather, relax and enjoy each other's company.

 View of the quay (pronounced "key" remember) and the River Dart
 lovely, lovely tea things and dishes
 The drawing room where they played games.  Visitors are to stay on the rugged/carpeted areas as much as possible, and no one is allowed to touch any of the items laying around, not even those who work at the house because the natural oil in human hands would cause everything to deteriorate very quickly.  Occasionally one sees a worker carefully dusting the items; they must all wear gloves.  There are workers scattered around the house to answer any questions one may have regarding Agatha Christie and the house.
 If you're poor, you're a pack rat, but if you're rich, you're a collector.
 Dishes!  Aren't they lovely?
 the kitchen
 Agatha Christie had a Sue; she called hers Nursie.  This is her portrait.
 Agatha Christie's bedroom:  a recording of Christie speaking about writing was playing on loop.
family pictures

There are a few gardens to tramp through at Greenway.  The first, the Camelia Garden, isn't what I would call a garden so much as a Camelia Walk.  Heather and I traversed the footpath and concluded "this is the garden."

There are also two walled gardens, one of which contains a greenhouse and a tent with telescope for stargazing.  I found the walled gardens heavenly (no pun intended).

Also at Greenway there is a gift shop, a shop that sells pieces from local artists and plants and a small cafe.  (If you're a picky-eater like myself, the cafe doesn't have much to offer, so I can't recommend it one way or the other, though even if you're not a picky-eater, the menu was very limited.)

Heather and I had decided to take the train from Greenway Halt back to Paignton instead of catching the shuttle bus to Churston station.  So we made our way back across the wooded-lane to Greenway Halt stop.

For those who have been paying attention -- this was interesting.

We wait and wait at Greenway Halt.  A couple had arrived at the stop shortly after us and said they had requested the train to stop.  There are some train schedules where the train only stops on request -- there's a button one pushes.  That was all fine.  I studied the train time table and noticed, the train doesn't run from Greenway Halt to Paignton.  I pointed this out to the couple who informed us we'd have to ride the train to Kingswear (the other direction), hang out there for 30 minutes and then catch the train to Paignton.  Oh.

Like most Americans, I arrive everywhere by car or by foot.  The only public transportation I've had dealings with here are the school bus and the trolley in San Diego; with the former, you have your stop and time and that's it; with the latter you mostly go one way or the other and it stops every so many minutes.  I find public transportation schedules hard to understand because they're not something I've had to "figure out."  

Heather and I debated the decision: take the train to Kingswear or race back to the house for the 1:10 (or 13:10) shuttle bus.  Neither of us really wanted to explore Kingswear for half an hour, so we trekked the wooded-lane for the third time that day.  (Honestly, this whole England trip, I got enough exercise -- for me -- for two years.  Haha.)  We made it back to the house to learn we had to make a dash for it to the estate entrance in order to catch the shuttle.  Those lovely people working for the National Trust (the organization that owns and runs the house) were hot on it: Heather and I made it a few paces from the visitor center when a man in a car asked if we were the ones trying to make it to the bus; he drove us down the drive -- we'd never had made it and would have had to hang out for another hour or so -- and had us there just as they were boarding.  It turned out they were going to hold the bus for us.  Well done National Trust.  I'm impressed, and it is NOT an easy thing to impress me.  So we rode the bus to Churston Station, all passengers working together to figure out which platform we should be on and how to get there, and then back to Paignton and the lovely seaside.

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