The response I usually get when I tell people I’m from Exeter is: “oh yeah, I looked at Exeter”. But this is a city with a rich history – one that stretches far beyond the open days and a university that fills the nightclubs with Oxbridge rejects, who are somehow all called Jonty.
A friend of mine from Glasgow used to complain that his night out in Exeter was the most boring he’d ever had, but I have to disagree. There’s a Fever, just across the street from a Spoons, it’s bigger than the one in Oxford, but just as sweaty. There’s Timepiece, a club so old that my mum used to go to it, but you do have to be prepared to dodge all the fourteen-year-olds on the podiums. There’s Vaults, the LGBT club, which is pretty much just a sticky basement with glitter in it. Cavern, just down the street, is where my alt-rock friends dragged me once. And if you prefer a trip to the pub, Imperial is the best spoons I’ve ever been in (did I mention that it was the first one?).
If you want to experience some of Exeter’s history, then there is nothing better than a 3am trip to McDonalds, just across from Cathedral Green. Sitting on the grass with 20 chicken nuggets watching your friend throw up in a bin in the shadow of such an imposing building is nothing less than a big fat mood. I’ve lived in Exeter since I was 3, and had failed to appreciate the Roman walls, although my A Level history class cheered every time the city scored a mention in our Tudor history textbook.
The less said about the University the better.
One of my favourite places in the city is Magdalen Road (pronounced Mag-da-len). Wholesome little hippy shops line this street, unlike the centre, which is basically a collection of different failing department stores and shoe shops. The High Street’s saving grace is its two Waterstones, although one of them is a little bit burnt after the fire at the Clarence (a mediaeval hotel) a few years ago.
A trip to the Quay in the evening is a date night staple. On the Waterfront is a nice but claustrophobic pizza restaurant that everyone goes to for birthdays. There’s a tenpin bowling alley that serves the least convincing meat I’ve ever eaten.
Most of the real beauty is outside the city. Living in Exeter means that you have easy access to pretty much every English landscape imaginable. Twenty minutes to the beach, and in the opposite direction, the rolling hills of Dartmoor. If you can stomach the horrible roads or the tiny uncomfortable train, the trip to North Devon is typically worth it – especially if you are a keen surfer. If I were a romantic poet, I’d love it here.
The best thing about Exeter, despite all its other attributes, remains that it is leagues above Plymouth in every conceivable way. I regularly thank God I don’t live in Plymouth.