In doing general research on travel forums I noticed that Cornwall kept coming up. I then realized that everyone (really, EVERYONE) from work seemed to take their holiday in Cornwall. What's all the fuss? It must be the greatest thing ever so we'd better give it a try. [I'll save my summary until the end so be sure to scroll down.]
So, we set off on our third long road trip of the year . . .
Day 1 (Friday)--Travel
and this one
Minack Theatre. The Minack is a famous open-air theater which has been carved out of the stone along the sea. They unfortunately had a matinee going while we were there so we couldn't explore very closely. I opted not to take in a show ourselves for a variety of reasons (one of which is it gets quite cold at night!).
Day 2 (Saturday) -- Sennen Cove and more Land's End
Our B&B host at the Glencree House in Penzance gave us lots of good information. Based on that we decided to take a beach day at Sennen Cove. We heard lots of good things about Porthcurno as well, but we wanted to pick a place that rented some gear.
Yes, they did get in the water.
The adults? Nope. We don't do cold. Notice the windscreens that people also put up.
and again, but from further up
the cliffs towards Land's End
my one photo and my wife decides to make me small
closer shot of cliffs
pretty wild flowers and the Loch Ness monster?
Alex finally got the courage to feed them directly
really hairy rabbit
Day 3 (Sunday) -- St. Michael's Mount and some village walks
High on my list was to visit the UK version of St. Michael's Mount. Recall that we visited the one in Normandy just a few weeks ago. Some info from the Wiki link.
I got a chuckle out of this on the walk from the parking lot (trash cans are called bins here).
having arrived -- yet another "interesting" smile from Alex
Yes, Virginia, there are palm trees in England
They had some sailing competition or at least club event going on. Nice views from SMM.
ready to go in after climbing to the top
I liked the clouds and water combo in this one. That's Penzance at the top (middle).
The village of Marazion back on the mainland. You can see the covered causeway footpath as well.
neat cork model of the castle inside
aforementioned sailing competition
clotted cream & jam). Yummy. We had this one other place as well.
a hazy view back across the bay to St. Michael's Mount
We were kinda pooped so we took the bus back. It started to rain as well. Best £8.70 I spent.
Day 4 (Monday) -- St Ives
We decided to head to another popular picturesque and artsy town for the day: St. Ives. Weather was a little dodgy though not miserable but we opted for some indoor activities. After trawling through some of the shops along the beach front we ended up at the Tate St Ives art museum. It's a smallish museum that was pretty much converted into an Alex Katz exhibit. Personally, I've never heard of Alex Katz (an American) but that's not saying much. Kuk enjoyed it and it was fine for the rest of us as well.
partial view of St. Ives on approach
a beach on the other side (Porthmeor, I believe)
the big hit was the promise of going to the leisure centre (indoor pool) which the kids enjoyed -- I would unfortunately get badgered the rest of the week to return
rainbow from our B&B
more palm trees -- this time in a church yard in Penzance
Today was the day to head slightly east for our Falmouth base. We picked another largish beach (Praa Sands) to stop at along the way.
Beach level view of Praa Sands. Though large enough for facilities (of sorts) and a few cafes, they did not have the setup for gear rental so we all went without (which meant minimal water interaction).
but still some fun in the sand
our next B&B hosts (Poltair) were heading out for the night so we checked in around 1:30. Their cat Oscar was there to greet us
given our early check in, we had time to walk to nearby Pendennis Castle, shown above
I had found out that there was a special event going on so that made it even better. There was certainly a festive atmosphere.
The castle is more small fort than actual castle. It was one of the many established by Henry VIII to protect the coastline. Here's a view looking back at Falmouth Harbor.
a better view of Falmouth from up top -- the land for the castle juts out such that there is water on all 3 sides. Folks are getting in place for the main event (jousting).
Alex manning a very large gun
Nicole waiting on a hill
trying to get a good view of the jousting though decided it was a little too precarious in the end
I was wondering how they were going to do the jousting bit. They had 4 competitors and did actually joust on horseback. The trick was the jousting poles essentially disintegrated on contact. The shortest remaining pole "won" the round.
another action shot
they even had a set of minstrels/singers -- "Bravely ran away, away, bravely ran away . . . " (too much Monty Python in my memory banks)
Alex holding a small sword and looking like he's going to clean out the guy's nose
link for the morbidly interested). Glad we've moved on from that.
A fine day turned nasty in a hurry. Of course, we had brought all our gear but I hadn't hauled it with us on this particular outing. Lesson learned. Here's the disposable poncho picture of shame (purchased in the gift shop).
Day 6 (Wednesday) -- Falmouth
Another questionable weather day has steered us to try some indoor activities. We started at the National Maritime Museum and then we walked around Falmouth.
The Maritime Museum had some good hands-on activities as well as some nice exhibits on survival and rescue. Alex had a turn at controlling a sail boat (his Dad doesn't have much knowledge to pass on here).
Got to make some boats with some miscellaneous supplies
Sorry, not too many photos of the exhibits inside. We were unfamiliar with the Robertson family story about surviving 38 days at sea on which there was a nice little exhibit. (Wiki and other links).
It happened to be Falmouth Week (sailing) and there were many special activities going on. We caught this biking demo right before the skies opened up. One guy could balance his bike on all sorts of obstacles and another was a jumper. Glad we caught it.
Getting some air. Fortunately Alex had wormed his way closer to the front.
Notice the bar. He jumped it (sideways) from a stand still.
Nice shot if I do say so myself.
Reminded me of a nice YouTube video of Danny MacAskill in Scotland (link)
We ate well during the week -- lots of seafood as you might expect. I'll spare you most of the food shots but I couldn't pass up this "Shack Stack" for 2. Crab, mussels, oysters, squid, scallops and prawns (shrimp).
Favorite restaurants were Oliver's in Falmouth and The Bakehouse in Penzance (ate there twice).
Brown Crab. You can see the bottle of tabasco for size reference (big fella).
Once again, Alex is his mother's son. He loved the crab and would meticulously dig out all the meat. Can't wait to get back to Maryland for some blue crabs. Summer 2014??
Day 7 (Thursday) -- Trelisseck Gardens and St Mawes
Once again, not the best forecast but we decided to have a go outdoors while we could.
We wanted to visit St. Mawes, a small village across the bay (only 2.5 miles from our B&B in Falmouth) but we decided to fit in Trelisseck Gardens as well. That involved driving up to the Gardens (near King Harry on the map), taking the ferry over and driving to St. Mawes. It made for a nice day.
Trelisseck Garden is a National Trust property in the northern part of the Falmouth estuary along the River Fal. Here are the kids in front of a large Japanese cryptomeria (or so the guidebook says).
hydrangeas were certainly in bloom
bird's nest (empty)
Alex and a large tree
we couldn't decide if they were dancing or wrestling
Alex was in the picture posing mode for some reason
the green cones on this one looked like eggs on the branches -- more flower shots below
Next was St. Mawes, another picturesque village (and one we liked). We parked in town and walked up to the castle. This is looking back at the village.
This is another fortress and is essentially the twin to Pendennis on the other side of the bay.
another small peninsula and lighthouse -- we decided not to take the ferry across to it as we thought that would be a little much
enjoying the castle grounds (and stiff breeze)
cool (presumably tourist) ship coming into Falmouth harbor
another canon shot
looking back to Pendennis through the clouds and haze
Nicole resting on a canon
both kids on canon row (and a rare calm moment together)
another "shot" back to Pendennis
Falmouth Harbor across the way
We awoke to the worst weather day yet: horizontal rain and 25+ mph winds. I had a few things on my list that we had yet to work in (Helford River, Lizard Peninsula, etc.) but alas today was not the day. Gear or no gear, walking around in that weather is not much fun.
After a week of "Pool? Pool? Pool? Pool?" from Alex, we decided to head to the Ships and Castles Leisure Centre in Falmouth. The good news was that they had an indoor water park of sorts. The bad news was a lot of people had the same idea. We had to wait about an hour for our alloted slot and were only given about 75 minutes. But it was still fun. Seems a waste to come this far for a pool outing, but the kids did like it. Heck, Kuk and I got in on the act this time too.
After parking back at the B&B and a short walk to Gylly Beach, we had a nice lunch in the cafe. We (Kuk) then decided we weren't going to waste the day and we set out for a short walk along the coast. Nicole observed that the lifeguards must be tired today as they set the swimming flags really close together (see red/yellow above). [On a day like this, who'd be out anyway? The hardy Brits, of course!]
Good attitudes and waterproofs helped. That said, we did cut it a little short (2 miles) and headed back to the B&B.
Since the drive down wasn't as tortuous as I thought, I decided to fit in the Eden Project on the way home. We could have done it from Falmouth (~1 hr away) but it made more sense to catch it on the way home.
This was a really cool place. We really enjoyed it. From the wiki link:
The Eden Project is a visitor attraction in Cornwall in the United Kingdom, including the world's largest greenhouse. Inside the artificial biomes are plants that are collected from all around the world. The project is located in a reclaimed Kaolinite [clay] pit. The complex is dominated by two huge enclosures consisting of adjoining domes that house thousands of plant species, and each enclosure emulates a natural biome. The domes consist of hundreds of hexagonal and pentagonal, inflated, plastic cells supported by steel frames. The first dome emulates a tropical environment, and the second a Mediterranean environment.
started off with the ferns and the pre-flowering era
then come some flowers and the giant bumblebee
A view from the inside
a very large pan of chickpea stew being prepared in the cafe (why? not sure)
these guys (I assume the light colored ones) have sweet seeds so that ants are attracted to them and therefore carry them below ground. As a result, they aren't burned during fires but do work their way up after a fire passes through -- cool!
Scoville Scale" used to measure such things. The Dorset Naga (habanero) is by far the hottest. Eating one would require hospitalization!
some interesting sculptures inside as well
moving on to the very hot/humid rainforest (go figure) and a pretty flower (when Kuk says "oh, this one is nice" that's a translation for "Steve, take this picture")
funky tree (sorry, missed the name)
fruit with a tail
sugar pod (?) tree
cooling off by the waterfall
back outside and the sunflower farm
I can't let my slug fans down. As you might have gathered, it did rain a bit while we were here so we did have a few of our slimy friends following us around.
As usual, we had a good time and were glad to partake in the quintessential British (or at least English) holiday. That said, I wouldn't personally rank it up there with Scotland, N. Wales, Ireland or Normandy. So why not?
1) perhaps we are finding out that we are more mountain people than beach people. We like history, too, and didn't manage to fit as much in (though there were some options)
2) we aren't English! Part of the charm must be that folks come here as children (every year), become quite familiar with the area, and enjoy sharing it with their own children, etc. It's hard to capture that in a one-time visit.
3) it helps to fully commit to the beach. That means buying and hauling the gear (wet suits, chairs, body boards, etc.). We saw quite a few overstuffed cars with trailers, roof racks and carrier tops. If you are coming regularly then that makes sense to do. If you have to rent/hire the gear then that limits you to more populous beaches.
4) the weather -- not that terrible but not great either. We've had some good luck (in Scotland particularly) but I don't think our Cornwall experience was that atypical. Had it been nice every day and we fit in all my outdoor activities perhaps it would have ranked higher. Hard to separate that aspect out.
All in all, it was still a nice week away. Alas, summer is drawing to a close. We have a 3-day weekend next weekend and then it is back to school for Alex and soon after for Nicole.
Have a good week everyone.