If I seeks, I geeks; and oh boy have I been geeking out recently! As we prepared our luggage and loaded the car in Swanage, we had two main objectives for the day. First, I couldn’t leave the Jurassic Coast until I had visited one last natural, nerdy destination, Charmouth Beach. A significant source of paleontological history, and a continuing wellspring of fossilized remains to this day; I decided I absolutely had to try my luck at finding my own fossilized souvenir to commemorate my time on the Jurassic Coast.
So, when Helen and Ian arrived home bright and early (after nearly 24 solid hours of travel) we welcomed them back home, but wanted to get out of their hair and on our way, so that they could get some much needed rest, and we could get on the road. After hearing a bit about their holiday and sharing some of our more memorable moments of Bugsy and Spike with them, we thanked them for their hospitality and packed up the car. Before we left, to thank us for taking care of their pups and home, they gifted us with some really delicious Australian macadamia nut honey, and a beautifully painted boomerang (which Ian confidently told us he knows how to throw… I think we’ll find a nice place on the wall of our future home to hang it up instead). After patting Bugsy and Spike on the heads, and thanking Helen and Ian once more, we were on our way to Charmouth Beach, a bit over an hour drive down the coast.
Unfortunately the farther west we went, the worse the weather got; and, once we got to the beach (which was being pelted with rain and a swirling wind), we found the ocean churning with powerful waves. Though the tide was supposed to be technically going out, the height and power of the waves negated any discernable tidal change, and we were forced to skirt the very base of the cliffs to get into a more fossil-rich area of the beach. Alas, after almost two hours of hunting through the rocks and clay along the very back of the beach all the way up to where the waves rushed over the sand, all I had found was the imprint of an ammonite fossil in the soft, clay-like slate which the cliffs were predominantly made up of.
Slightly disappointed, I trudged back over the slippery clay to the parking area for the beach; but by god, I was not going to leave without a fossilized trophy for my endeavors. At the edge if the beach sits the Charmouth Heritage Coast Center, and right under it is a small shop, packed to the brim with fossils of all shapes and sizes, available for purchase. Searching about for a moment, I spotted the exact type of fossil I had been hoping to find nestled on the beach: an ammonite fossilized in pyrite! Although I was not the one who discovered this little fool’s gold sea creature, I will still remember my time picking through the sand and rocks of Charmouth (as the high surf threatened to swallow me whole) every time I look at it in the future. If we ever plan on coming back to the area, I think I’ll try to make sure the trip is at low tide and with better weather next time. 🙂
Back in the car, we continued our path west, even though our next house sit was to the northeast. As I tried to warm up and dry out my sea-soaked clothes, Ian directed us to Exeter, another hour down the road. Why did we drive two hours out of our way, you may ask? For the most awesomely geeky lunch-date I can realistically think of! We were on our way to… The Cauldron Inn!
For those who do not know, The Cauldron Inn is a “Harry Potter themed” restaurant and bar in downtown Exeter. Though they deny being a “Harry Potter themed” establishment (for copyright reasons mostly), items on the menu as well as décor around the three-story pub harken back to classic, magic-inspired films, such as Hocus Pocus, The Princess Bride, and yes, even Harry Potter. Although there are several “moving portraits” like you might see in the halls of Hogwarts, there are numerous other magical references made throughout the building. That being said, the upstairs of the restaurant includes rooms like “The Common Room”, a “Potions Room”, and a room which is a kind of “Astronomy/Divination” classroom, which all seem like something you may find in your average school of witchcraft and wizardry.
I may talk-up the décor, but I’ll be honest; the main reason I wanted to visit this place was for their drink menu. For a pair of people who only very rarely drink, that’s quite the statement; but the cocktail menu had such an intriguing list of “Potions and Elixirs” that we had to try a few of them out. As I said, we really did come in for food as well (it was lunchtime after all), so we both ordered a bowl of the beef chili, and we shared a side of their house mac and cheese, and seated ourselves with our drinks. Ian had ordered the Crackling Cackle (butterscotch schnapps, Frangelico, and caramel syrup with a Poprocks garnish- kind of a riff on Butterbeer) and I sipped on an Amethyst Cup (peach schnapps, vodka, blueberry slush, and grenadine with a “magic wand” garnish. Everything was delicious, and the food (and drinks) really helped warm us up.
After we finished eating, we ordered one last drink to share (a Miracle Max’s Mead: cider, cinnamon schnapps, blood orange vodka, and grenadine, with a squeeze of honey) and we took a tour of the entire restaurant. Being the only visitors (2:30 in the afternoon is really quite early to be frequenting a pub) we had the whole place to ourselves, and we got to take our time checking out each room, and taking pictures as we went.
Ian always complains that I take way too many pictures, and way too much time doing so, but I was in a world of magic and geekiness that I will remember and savour for years to come. But, all good things must come to an end, and we eventually had to leave the wonder of The Cauldron Inn behind. In a perfect world, we would have sat there in that pub all day, tasting our way through the magical concoctions on their drink menu; but, the two drinks that I had ordered were quite strong, and I was definitely feeling them as we walked back through Exeter to our car.
I was so affected by the magic of our experience (and maybe the drinks as well, ok?) that I even spotted a Whomping Willow on our way back to the car! Several, actually; but this one seriously looks like it was taken right off the screen and planted into someone’s garden! (I know, “Nerd Alert!” hahaha.)
Though the day may not have started off all that great (not being able to dig up my own fossil and almost getting washed out to sea and all), our experience at The Cauldron Inn more than made up for it. The food and drinks may not be top notch, but the décor and atmosphere of the pub was so thoughtfully put together, that I would happily go back in a heartbeat. I mean, there are still another ten potions on the menu we have yet to try! 😉
Even if it’s not a true Harry Potter destination, The Cauldron Inn was a great way to kick off the magical mood; especially as we were on our way to an actual Harry Potter filming location the very next day! I won’t say too much here (you’ll just have to come back for more on Monday), but I definitely had a moment of pure bliss when I was able to walk the paths which Alan Rickman (and I guess Dan, Emma, and Rupert too, but mostly Alan Rickman) once walked.
Geek you later, guys!