Eight Things I Got out of a Trip to Cornwall

How I missed you, Cornwall!

It had been a while since we’d had a proper pasty, sampled Cornish Rattler, clambered over slate cliffs, and stumbled over discarded surfboards on Polzeath beach.  A refresher course was long overdue.

The lessons began before we got there.

1 Don’t take the road past Stonehenge.

Stonehenge sign

By the time you spot this warning sign, it will be too late, because you’ll be stuck on the A303, which has been a single carriageway at Stonehenge since time immemorial, just as the Druids left it. In front of us was a Bedford van spray-painted with hippy daisies and fuelled only by flower power. The guys in the back of the van gave us cheery peace signs as they sat cross-legged in air-conditioned comfort (aka holding hand fans).  We were lucky. Behind us was a broken down Austin Maxi, complete with a couple in 80s style dress trying to get it going again.

As we inched along, we had ample time to speculate on what a henge is, and why, according to popular culture, you get a different number every time you try to count the stones. It may depend on what you’re smoking at the time.

"Stonehenge back wide" by Frédéric Vincent - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Stonehenge_back_wide.jpg#/media/File:Stonehenge_back_wide.jpg

2 You always forget something, no matter how carefully you pack.

On one trip, we’d omitted to pack bookends, much to the distress of my eldest son, then 7 years old, who found he had nothing to hold up the extensive collection of Usborne books he had brought. 

This time it was toothpaste, an oversight easily remedied by visiting the Spar shop in Boscastle, where we also chatted to the locals and their dogs. After that, we had some of the local falling-down juice. And left the toothpaste in the pub.

3 It’s always rainier and windier than you remember.

Wind turbines, photo by Martin Boose

The number of wind farms had doubled since my last visit, and the rainfall had gone through the roof. Quite literally, in the case of the Boscastle flood of 2004. On August 16, 440million gallons of water swept through the town, flooding nearly 60 properties and destroying several of them.

This is Boscastle now, which shows how well it has recovered.

Boscastle Harbour from the bridge

4 There are huge numbers of saints.

Like Saints Hydrock, Petroc, Enodoc, Buryan, and of course Austell and Ives. Some of them are exclusively Cornish, while others arrived via other parts of British Isles. There are even more here.

As you might expect, there are also many churches, most of them small, beautiful, and well worth a visit.

5 Don’t wear flip-flops on cliff walks. 

Slate is slippery when wet. On a windy coastal walk you might want to invoke one or two of those saints I mentioned.

photo by Jeremy Grundy

6 Cornwall is the most haunted part of Britain.

There are said to be haunted jails, streets, castles, even hotels

I didn’t see any ghosts in Jamaica Inn myself, or a single smuggler, just tourists enjoying a hearty Sunday roast. We did however stay in one of the haunted hotels. While I am personally highly sceptical, I can report an unearthly noise outside our door early in the morning, around about the time the staff delivered our newspaper. What are the odds, eh?

7 Take lots of coins, because any place by the sea requires money for parking.

And places away from the sea often come with a sign like this.

cheap camping sign

As thriving as tourism appears to be, further inland towns like Bodmin have hit the buffers. Industry has gone and the heart seems to have left these communities, at least judging from the dilapidated houses and bored teenagers hanging around. Sad sights, and I don’t know what the answer is.

8 All the same, some of the most beautiful places are inland.

bridge in Cornish village

No, I’m not giving away the location of this village. All I’m saying is that it’s not by the A303.

 

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Seven Lessons from a Honeymoon

Honeymoon Mark II got off to a promising start.  For one thing, my mother didn’t come along this time.

The years since my first marriage had rolled forward like breakers on the shore, too many to count, so there were other changes too.  I learnt a lot in just one sunny week in the Med.

1.   It’s a good plan to tell the hotel it’s your viaggio di nozze, not least for the complimentary fruit and fizz in the room, plus free entry to the spa.IMG-20130927-00545

2. Italian is a language that comes back easily, even if you never studied it before.  New Husband went native.  By day two, he could say ‘Bon Jovi’ and pinch my bottom at the same time.

3.  Russian is a must if you want to chat to fellow hotel guests.  It had been a few years since I’d stayed in a resort hotel.  Nobody told me the oligarchs had bought Italy.

4.  Champagne can be sold out even when it costs 5,000 Euro a bottle. Yep, conspicuous consumption is the name of the game, and they don’t just drink vodka.

5.   Someone’s changed the print on every single map, menu and guide book.  We should have brought a magnifying glass.  It would also have been useful after a rash encounter with a prickly pear, especially if we’d packed tweezers as well.

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6.  It was low season for humans, though not for insects.  Without repellent, female mosquitoes zoomed in on New Husband’s legs and feasted on a lavish buffet.*  More gorged themselves next day.  Had the mozzies given him a rave review on TripAdvisor?

7.    It’s not such a good idea to hot-brush your hair when your other half is feeling romantic.  Your hair wand could singe his, er, wand.

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Although my mother wasn’t with us, we managed to entertain ourselves.  Every morning, a date palm burst into activity as parakeets squabbled until they evicted one or more.  But you know what large families and overcrowded flats are like.  The respite was temporary.

People-watching came into its own at dinner.  When not admiring Russian molls in their pink patent platform heels and the worst of Cartier’s excesses, we were amused by Monsieur Langouste.  Moustachioed, combed-over, and looking for all the world like a TinTin character in his black vest, he began every meal with five lobsters, which he’d repeat for the main course.

Most people took advantage of the extensive menu, piling their plates high with rack of lamb, aubergine parmigiana, sea-bass, Brussels sprouts, tuna carpaccio, pizza, plus a side salad.

Oh, wait. That was us.  Which may explain the souvenir we brought home.  Excess baggage.

* Link to Are You a Mosquito Magnet?  http://www.webmd.com/allergies/features/are-you-mosquito-magnet

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