I only made two bus journeys today, but they were both long ones – from Plymouth over Dartmoor to Exeter, and from Exeter to Weymouth along the Jurassic Coast of Dorset - so in fact they took up most of the day.
The day started badly, however – as, frankly, any day would if it started at Bretonside bus station in Plymouth. This subterranean drain, which some architectural basket case decided to build underneath the main road into Plymouth's joyous central shopping area, must rank as one of the most unpleasant, dank, and downright awful bus interchanges in the UK. Grotesque just doesn't do it. It is elaborately and mysteriously fluid-stained, it feels positively dangerous even in daylight and I just couldn't wait to leave.
Unfortunately, I had to wait because the bus, despite actually starting at Bretonside and not being delayed by previous passengers and traffic en route – and this was early on a Sunday morning, after all - was late in arriving. No reason was given and I assumed the driver was just as reluctant to be there as his passengers - and frankly who could blame him.
We made excellent time, however, and were soon up on the slopes of Dartmoor in wide open moorland (apparently, as we were actually in a heavy fog at the time). The fog began to clear the higher we climbed onto Dartmoor, however, eventually revealing that classic landscape of rocky tors and wiry moorland grass interspersed with groups of damp Dartmoor ponies.
Overall, the views from the bus were just stupendous – and if it had been a double decker they would have been even better (First Bus, please note). There was a lot of scenery to enjoy before we left the moorland heights and began the long, woody decent into Exeter.
I could happily live in Exeter. It's a fine, clean, attractive and well-ordered city which I found difficult not to like. I kept coming across ruined churches in the city centre, however, so perhaps it's a little more dark and boisterous than it seems...
The X53 from Exeter Bus Station (which is definitely not a drain) took me on the long run along the Jurassic Coast of East Devon and Dorset - so called because of the wealth of seriously big and important fossils this coastline has produced over the last 150 years or so.
You don't have to be a transport enthusiast to enjoy this journey. Freed of the responsibility of driving (or navigating) I was free to just take it all in, and it was just as well. Every single village we passed through today – Lyne Regis, Seaton, Bridport, Abbotsbury – was insanely and elaborately picturesque. I mean, real jaw-dropping, gasp out loud gorgeous, chocolate box stuff,with a picture post card around every single corner. It's incredible. How can one area of the country get to have so much obvious beauty in such a small area? Doesn't seem fair, somehow.
As a result, today's journey on the X53 was an absolute treat, despite the misty grey weather. What must it be like on a sunny day? Pretty amazing, I'd think.
But if it's amazing you want, then that first view of the extraordinary seven-mile long Chesil Beach from high, high above Abbotsbury could leave you utterly speechless. It's stunning, viewed from such a height it's just like an aerial photograph - and I think this view alone is probably worth the price of the bus ticket.
Eventually, more than three hours and no less than three driver changes later, the bus pulls onto Weymouth's elegant Georgian seafront. It's been a breath-taking trip today, but the West Country is disappearing behind me now and frankly I'm sad to see it go.
Tomorrow I set sail across Poole Harbour on an open-top bus... and I think I forgot to pack my wellies. Oh, well....