Go another way – two-finger salute to Starbucks

I absolutely hate motorway service stations. They’re almost all utterly dreadful – Tebay Services being the very notable exception. It’s on the M6, up north, and even has an organic farm shop.

Most of the time though, it’s all big-brand blandness. Hideous prices, for food that’s about as interesting as a lecture on carpets of the 1990s. Starbucks are good at this, selling some of the most horrible sausages I’ve ever encountered. I reckon they’re safe for vegans due to being 99% sawdust. Then they charge you the earth, then fail to pay any tax on their copious profits. Arseholes.

So, faced with a long trek from Cornwall to home after a family holiday, I decided it was time for an alternative. We had no time constraints, so why not get well away from the motorway and see what else we could find? Cheddar seemed an ideally-placed location for a break, being about two-hours away from our start point.

A curious, and delightful place for a spot of lunch.

A curious, and delightful place for a spot of lunch.

We paid an entire 60p to lodge the XM in a car park, then wandered about town. This quirky arts cafe struck us as an ideal place for lunch. We got the feeling it had only just opened. The floor was made of what looked like old pallets and cable reels, as were the table tops. Lots of arty stuff filled the walls and lunch was served upon roofing slates. It was delicious though. I had superb cheese on toast, while Rachel enjoyed a bowl of soup. There was a huge range of tea on offer and yes, the place mats were old vinyl singles – I got Jive Bunny while Rachel had to cope with Jason and Kylie.

Rachel also bought a mug – a fine selection of pottery was on offer – and including that, we spent just £20. I’d imagine lunch for two would swiftly approach that at motorway services, and would be utterly horrible!

Getting back to the motorway included a pleasant detour along beautiful country lanes (we didn’t explore the gorge this time). We continued until thirst encouraged us to take another break. This time, we were approaching the pretty town of Crickhowell in Wales.

Crickhowell was overflowing with classics.

Crickhowell has plenty of appeal as a stopping place

I’m guilty of having passed through this town many, many times without stopping. More fool me, because it’s a lovely place, with lots of independent stores (and a current campaign to stop Tesco invading the town). Having free, one-hour parking is a smart move too. Park up, stretch your legs and head off again. Perfect. Making the most of such opportunities means leaving the comfort of known brands. Yes, you can buy a coke if you must, but I was of a mood to avoid nasty chemicals – namely sweeteners. So, we explored a few shops before I found what I was looking for.

No, I'd never heard of it either

No, I’d never heard of it either

Brilliant. This amounted to little more than fizzy water with some lemon juice in it. It certainly packed quite a punch, while being nicely natural. It has to be said that the fizzy orange was rather less punchy. It felt good from a taste point of view, and from a ‘supporting the small-time player’ point of view.

I’ll certainly be attempting to keep up this avoidance of rip-off motorway services. Why do so many people put up with paying so much for so little? We’re idiots for our ‘convenience’ ways really. We so often put time-taken ahead of quality.

Not that we’d necessarily have saved time on the motorway. It looked like this just before we came off.

Stationary traffic. Ugh.

Stationary traffic. Ugh.

So, I think I shall keep up my plan to avoid motorway services unless I really have to. After all, fuel is usually much cheaper on normal roads too. We’ll see how we get in with our next roadtrip – Ripon in Yorkshire.

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