Huzzah for British banks, Marks and Sparks, and floating hotels…


The British must really love their banks. I mean really, really love them. Americans celebrate their patriotism, the French their liberation, India celebrates the end of the Raj, and Canada celebrates the birthday of the grandmother of a Queen who’s country used to rule them but doesn’t anymore.

Each of these countries designate one day a year as a holiday to celebrate those occasions. One day.

England has 8 bank holidays… which means they like their banks 8 times more than Americans like their patriotism. That’s a whole lotta bank love.

The day after the convention in Chepstow was the “Whit Monday Bank Holiday”, so we were prepared for a busy and crowded day of travel with the rest of the holiday travelers. We had an early breakfast with the golfers and said our goodbyes to the actors and other Robin of Sherwood fans before making our way to the Castle Cary train station for a four hour train ride to Plymouth by way of Newport and Bristol Parkway train stations.

The Castle Cary station was almost deserted, but it is a small station and I was expecting that, but when we arrived at Newport, I was surprised to see a fairly small crowd and all of the services at the station were open. This was good because the hotel we were just at was isolated and we were eager to get provisions for our long journey.

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The train trip was smooth, on time, and scenic, so we settled in for the ride looking at southern Wales, and the coast of England as it sped past our windows.

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We arrived at our last UK stop, Plymouth, at 1:41pm. Our ferry for France didn’t start boarding until 8pm. Six hours in Plymouth, on Whit Monday (Yay for Banks) Holiday with a pile of luggage at a train station with nothing to do.

Google and GPS told us that there was a grocery store nearby, so we followed the little man and the arrow on my “smart” phone and headed off down the road with packs strapped to our backs.

Due to a dumb operator using his “smart” phone, I got the directions wrong somehow. But I found the ocean, so we knew where that was.

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Wandering around the area, I am reminded of Winnipeg’s exchange district…

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On one of the maps in the area, I noticed that there was a Marks and Spencer’s nearby, so we followed the little arrow to that. It led us into a large shopping mall called the Drake Circus that was a bustle of shoppers. I guess the people of Plymouth don’t stay home to celebrate their banks.

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The front of the Marks and Spencer’s looked like any other department store with mannequins in sweaters (or as the British say, jumpers) and pants (or as the British say, trousers) and underwear (or as the British say, pants). But in the back, there was a very large grocery so we stalked up on foodstuffs including sandwiches, bread, and a full metric tonne of cheese (all in bite sized packages).

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After a stop for a coffee, and a small wander around the mall, we found a bench outside in the courtyard and plopped down to enjoy a Whit Bank Monday feast.

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We must have looked very odd because we received many strange looks from the locals who were curious about what we were doing, and kept trying to steal our cheese.

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Upon the completion of the feast of the Holy Bank upon the courtyard of the Circus Drake, we flagged down a carriage to take us to our schooner at the dock.

Again, I was expecting crowds of people rushing to get to Bank Holiday celebrations, but the ferry terminal was almost empty when we arrived at 6:30, and there were only about 50 people when it was time to board.

The Armorique is a monster ship with 11 decks that can carry 1500 people and 450 vehicles, with 247 cabins, 1200 reclining lounge chairs, a restaurant, a cafe, a very large bar, a casino, a video arcade, a reading room, a souvenir shop, a liquor store, and two movie theatres.

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We had booked staterooms… well, actually they were closets with a fold down bed and attached armoire that contained a toilet sink and shower. I had to open the door and stand in the hallway in order to take this picture.

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After stowing our stuff, we had a pleasant meal at the restaurant, and then headed to the deck outside to wave goodbye to the UK and look ahead to the English Channel and the French countryside that awaited us the next morning. Roscoff… Bretagne… France.

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