Cornwall (Devon) The Third – Plymouth

Ok, you’ve probably had enough time to weigh the likelihood that I was either crippled or running laps after the trek to Looe. If you said ‘crippled’ – you are correct! My legs! Definitely feeling the burn as I hobbled to the bus stop the next morning.

We took several buses to get us into Plymouth, which is actually not in Cornwall, but the next county over – Devon. We would spend the day here & stop over for the night before heading home. We passed through a lot of small towns & as it was Sunday nothing was open. Saltash, being a slightly bigger town looked pretty happening for 9 o’clock in the morning, & we found a slightly questionable looking cafe to have a fry up. Pro tip – if there are a decent amount of people eating there, it’s probably got good food.

 

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Our aim was to drop our bags at our hostel in Plymouth & then catch a train to Gunnislake for some exploring. Why Gunnislake? Why not Gunnislake? Literally it’s the middle of nowhere & there is nothing there, but it only cost a fiver for a return ticket, wasn’t too far away & it gave us something to do. Plus it has an interesting name, which is usually how I pick the places I’d like to see. Plymouth – Devonport – Dockyard – St. Budeaux – Bere Ferrers – Bere Alston – Calistock – Gunnislake (end of the line).

Fun fact: Gunnislake is actually in Cornwall. It’s like we never even left. We spent a couple hours hiking along some foot path. As if I need to walk anymore.

It is 9:45am the next morning. Adham keeps looking at his phone & then he abruptly disappears from the breakfast table. He is gone for a while. When he comes back, he tells me that we have missed our return coach back to Leicester. BY THREE HOURS. What? How has this happened!? I am really confused because why would we have bothered booking a breakfast if they don’t even start serving breakfast until 7am & we had to be on a bus at 6:45am. Why would we do that? How, for the past several days, have we both been thinking that the bus left in the afternoon? Well, that dream has come true, as we are now booked to return home on a 3:30pm coach.

Ok. Well I will just have a wander around then. God, Plymouth is really ugly. I mean, I love everywhere in the UK, but I can definitely say that this is the first place that was just so…dingy looking. I don’t know what it was, but it was just so boxy? Concrete? Plain? There was not much aesthetic appeal. I’m sorry people of Plymouth.

I decided to go to the Plymouth Mayflower museum & then walk along the waterfront, while Adham went off to look for records. Honestly, I was so unprepared to be in Plymouth because I DIDN’T THINK WE’D BE HERE; I always like to have an idea of where I’m going, what I want to see / do, how much it will cost, etc. I had nothing to go on!

Only about 9 hours behind schedule, we finally arrived back home around midnight. So glad I didn’t have to work the next day because I was shattered & still a mess from walking so much. Some minor mishaps, but all in all a good break. One more area of England that I can cross off my list.

Cornwall The Second – Polperro & Looe

We took a train back to Liskeard, where we then got the Looe Valley Line to: St. Keyne, Causeland, Sandplace & Looe. For some reason the LVL was around the side of the station, with it’s own special platform which was made to look old-timey. Even the man running the information booth was in costume. I think. Although, maybe he dresses like that all the time.

In my last post I had some gratuitous seagull photos. Now here are some gratuitous photos of myself, that don’t really fit anywhere, but are fun so I want to get them in.

From Looe we needed to get to the wee fishing village of Polperro, were we’d booked ourselves for a couple of days. We’d just missed the bus which only ran every hour, so we jumped in a taxi with a random couple who were also headed in that direction. The taxi driver said it was cheaper to go by taxi, but in retrospect it really wouldn’t have been; doesn’t matter, since this couple insisted on paying the fare. Win!

For such a small place, would you believe we couldn’t find out B&B? The only address given was ‘The Coombe.’ That’s it – just the street name. On a street that had no sign to begin with. Google Maps – get! it! together! You are at your destination. No…that’s somebody’s house. The owner must have thought we were stupid, having to ring up for directions.

Polperro is such a tiny village & like straight out of a novel. It’s main source of income is from summer tourists who will rent out cottages. It is car-free, so visitors have to keep their car in the car park at the top of the village. It’s only a short walk, but there are milk-floats designed to look like trams, which trundle people back & forth. Aside from the one main road, many of the houses are built up along the cliffs & hills, so I don’t see how a car could even get through. There is one corner shop, a post office, a bakery, a sweet shop, a couple of cafes, a couple restaurants, several B&B’s, some botique-y type shops, a museum, and about 3 pubs.

The harbour was full of junky little dingy-boats, some more sea-worthy boats, seagulls & people fishing off the seawall. We had a gander at the main tourist attraction – the museum, which didn’t allow photos but was choc-a-bloc with stuff. Mostly nautical. There was too much to read & it had been typed up in a really difficult font to look at. But I did learn that a lot of smuggling went down in Polperro back in the day. Again with the pirates!

So once the season ends, there is basically nothing happening here & it becomes deserted. Which means that pretty much everything closes, so people are out of work for several months. The cafe where we had breakfast (since our B&B was only one B) was actually closing for the summer the very next day. I guess most of the tourists had trickled out by now. We spoke to a local woman who said often people who move to Polperro end up leaving once the winter sets in because it becomes far too isolating. And then they just never come back. And of course because it’s so small, everyone knows your business.

We had dinner in a pub and I just about had a heart-attack because a couple with two black Scottie dogs came in & sat down at the table beside us!! Forget the food – let me engage your dogs! They were so quiet, they just lay down on the floor, blended into the shadows and slept. The man offered me one of them, to which I said “Adham look! We can have a Scottie!” then his wife realized what he’d said & retracted his statement. Oh. 😦

So who’s athletic? Not me! What seems like a good idea? Walking from Polperro to Looe along the Coastal Path! This was my original intent & at the time it sounded delightful. Looking back, it really wasn’t too bad. It just took longer than we thought it would. The pamphlet said 2 hours. 2 hours. Yeah okay there, Speedy McGee. It took us 4 hours. Now, to be fair there was a detour & we did stop a couple of times. And the path was pretty inclined in spots & it was winding. Luckily it was warm & sunny (I actually got a sunburn) & clear blue skies. If it had been anything but, I think I’d have been pretty ticked off.

One of our pit stops was Talland Bay, where I combed the beach for sea glass & Adham sat on the rocks & tried to pick up an internet signal. While the views were absolutely stunning, I kept hoping that we’d be in Looe around the next bend. I was beginning to think we’d veered off track somehow, because we were well passed the 2 hour mark. Turns out we’re just bad hikers.

Ok, so the only reason I wanted to go to Looe was because of the name. Once I searched it though it did seem like a nice little town to amble around. We investigated some rock pools where I was pretty excited to find a giant red crab. Except then I noticed it wasn’t moving & when I poked it with a stick I confirmed that it was dead. All along the pier people were crabbing & I don’t mean vocally! Ey oh! They would put some bait on a long string, lower it into the water & when brought up there would be a few small crabs attached. I assume people would eat them, since they were collecting them in a bucket.

Looe is actually divided by a bridge into East Looe & West Looe. The east side was pretty happening, with the west being more residential. And by happening, I mean full of touristy shops, since like Polperro it relies quite a bit on tourism. We punctuated our long-ass walk with ice cream in innovative flavours such as: vodka pink grapefruit & Cornish salt caramel. Delicious! And I bought probably the best souvenir ever: a wooden fish that has “The Loo” painted on it, which hangs on our toilet door. The Loo, from Looe. That really cracks me up!

We were sensible & got the bus back to Polperro, which took a round-about way in order to service the various little hamlets dotted about. Tune in for Part 3 & find out how my body fared the next day: totally fine or a broken mess?

 

 

 

Cornwall The First – Penzance

Last summer we went to Cornwall. It is now summer again, which means a year has passed & I have not yet posted anything about my trip. The gap is unforgivable. And inexcusable. However, I will attempt to make it up by providing suitable anecdotes & neat pictures where applicable.

Picture if you will: early morning, the sun just coming up. A train pulling out of the station. And there I am, 10 minutes into my journey, spilling coffee on myself. Bravo. My jacket will never be the same again. From Leicester to Birmingham, where we ate a quick breakfast in a tiny cafe before boarding a coach for the next 5 hours: to Bristol, Exeter & then Plymouth. Our secondary mishap occurring when we purchased sandwiches from Tesco & Adham left his card in the machine. Luckily we were just sitting outside enjoying our lunch in the sunny, balmy weather that is the south of England, so the man that came running out was able to find us quickly. Bravo again.

From Plymouth we boarded a train: to Liskeard, Bodmin Parkway, Par, St. Austell, Truro, Reduth, Camborne, Hayle, St. Erth & finally Penzance. Yes, Penzance. As in The Pirates Of. Although let me just say that I found absolutely zero reference. For those of you unfamiliar, I’ve provided a link where you can watch the major-general deliver some sick rhymes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1dy44jV8EM

The most westerly major town in Cornwall, Penzance is located right on the water. If the wind was blowing just right, I could smell the salt in the air. And the water was not your typical sludge-brown coffee colour; it was blue. Like tropical ocean blue. And there are palm-tree like trees. Maybe they are actual palm trees, who knows. Either way, Cornwall definitely doesn’t look or feel like England.

It was another early start, as we had a full day ahead of us. I woke up Adham at 6 a.m. & in his disoriented state, he hit me in the head. Early mornings are not our game. We took a short bus ride east to Marazion, whose draw is a tidal island. In the entire lead up to this trip we’d been calling it Mar-ay-zee-on; turns out it’s pronounced Mare-ahz-eye-on. Close enough.

St. Michael’s Mount, which can be seen from Penzance, is an island (with a castle!), which can be accessed via a causeway during low tide. Ever the prepared, I’d checked the tidal times, to ensure that we on time for the reveal. It took a lot longer than I thought it would for the tide to go out, so in the meantime we had an amble on the beach, scrambled around on some rocky outcrops & poked around the tide pools. For the record: barnacles are really strong.

Slowly the water pulled back, leaving wet cobblestones in its wake. Eventually we got tired of standing & waiting for the water to recede, so we just shuffled along behind it as it disappeared. The closer we got to the island, the more impatient we were, so eventually we decided to make a run for it. As the island is quite close to the mainland, it is possible to swim the distance. And if for whatever reason you happen to get stuck on the island, there is a land-to-water boat which can take you back across.

This island is actually a tiny village! Literally, people live & work on the island; mostly maintaining it & working in the gifts shops & cafes & as part of the National Trust. The castle is also occupied. After hours, things get pretty quiet though. And in winter it can be especially isolating. Adham inquired & you can’t just live there. It’s a package deal. That’s fine. I could live & work on an island. There are currently no vacancies.

As we made our way to leave, the island started filling up with people. Late-comers, tsk. We decided not to tour the castle, since we still had places to be. Back in Penzance we caught an open top bus to take us to Land’s End. Not the best idea – sitting up top – since it turned decidedly windy.

Then the bus got in two traffic jams. Two. These single lane country roads don’t seem built for traffic. An extra wide tractor was coming at us & there was no where to go, so the bus & several cars behind us had to reverse back down to a crossroad & into a farmer’s driveway. There are not many crossroads, or side roads or driveways in the country. Once the tractor had rumbled past we make up a bit of time, until a coach was coming at us. There were too many cars in either direction, so both drivers pulled as far to the side of the road as they could & then scraped past each other. Literally there was like an inch between the buses. Some slick manoeuvres, to be sure. Everyone up top of our bus was hanging over the edge, directing the driver: “go, go, go…whoa stop! stop!” And then we look up, directly into the eyes of some stranger. Hello!

We safely made it to Land’s End, albeit a bit late. No wonder our bus was not on time to begin with. Land’s End is the most western point in the UK, and the start (or end) point of the John O’Groats / Land’s End trail; an extreme traversal of the length of the UK from north to south, which is often cycled or walked. It takes a couple weeks by bike, & months by foot. The iconic directional sign that indicates the most western point is actually behind a barrier, which was a bit disappointing. But if you complete the Trail you can go right up to it. Watch for me this coming summer…j/k! I would probably die trying to do that.

For whatever reason there was a Shaun The Sheep Experience here & of course I went in. It was obviously meant for kids & just full of giant replicas of characters, but whatever. The first time I saw Shaun The Sheep was years ago, when Adham & I were visiting friends & they put the telly on for their kid. Trying to hold an adult conversation while my eyes slide to the screen; silently making a memo to Google later. Then I discovered that Shaun was made by the creator of Wallace & Gromet! No wonder I love it!

Instead of heading back to Penzance we decided to get on some bus & just go to north to St. Ives for kicks. It was getting chilly, but we walked about on a white sand beach & then I dumped out a bunch of crisp crumbs for a seagull, who would come close to me, but not too close. As we were leaving the beach I saw a sign that said not to feed the seagulls. Well…he was a persuasive chap.

Some gratuitous photos of seagulls, in case you – like me – enjoy seagulls very much.

It was a long circle tour of a day, & I was glad to get back to the hostel so that I could inhale my chicken jalfrezi ready meal & go to bed. Because…no rest for the wicked! We were up again at the crack of dawn the next day!

 

 

 

Itchin’ For Urchin – My Struggle With The Sea

Yesterday I tested my culinary skills by cooking sea egg. What’s a sea egg? I can tell you what it’s not: it’s not an actual egg from a sea turtle – my initial mental image. Sea egg is a sea urchin. More specifically – the gonads of a sea urchin. So…this is sounding exactly like something I want to eat. Now clearly I didn’t go out of my way to obtain this, it was just in the fridge one day; in a mysterious black plastic bag.

Me: “What is this? Where did it come from?”

Adham: “It’s sea egg. My dad gave it to me.”

Me: “Okay….what, what is it exactly?”    *cue mental image of turtle egg*

Adham: “Sea egg. It’s difficult to describe.”

Me: “….so what do we do with it? How do we cook it?”

Adham: “I don’t know.”

This was the least informative conversation ever. But this bag of…stuff from the sea was sitting in the fridge & I didn’t know long it was going to keep. Google was surprisingly not very helpful; okay, yes I determined what I was dealing with, but what do I do with it!?   I found a video of a woman cooking sea egg & she seemed to know the score: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3iAkv5LUPdU

I made 3 short videos of my attempt at mastering the sea egg, but apparently my blog plan does not support the upload of videos. So it was basically a pile of orange-y mush with these longer bits that resembled a tongue. Not great. The smell – mildly fishy and sea-like, but not overpowering. Still not great, but not as bad as I was anticipating, since I’m really not a fan of fish. I sautéed the sea egg with pepper & onion & then added tomato sauce for the win. How long am I meant to cook this for? No idea. I just kept going until I thought it was good. Some people eat it raw, so that’s a slight comfort to know that I won’t die if it’s undercooked. In my trepidation, I’m sure I probably overcooked it.

The initial taste – not too bad. It had a mushy, grainy texture & while it didn’t taste or smell powerfully fishy, I could still taste the fish. I’d liken the taste to mackerel. Served over a bed of rice, I thought I could do it. My rice to sea egg ratio was like 70 / 30. But about half way through I just couldn’t deal with it anymore; the lingering fish taste, albeit mild was just there. I think I also detected bits of sand.

I suppose this was not a complete failure, as we didn’t have to run around the corner for Chinese take-away. It’s definitely not something I’d go out of my way to buy. Nor would I go out of my way to order it in a restaurant. I’m not a fan of sea eggs. I will stick to land eggs.

 

Nature’s Wonders (But Mostly Cats)

1 – A snail I found on a spongy bed of moss.

2 – Random cat

3 – Another random cat

4 – This is Millie, the white Scottie dog. She is sporting a red tartan collar. I met her in a park & while she was very friendly, she was more interested in the ground around her.

5 – Seen on one of my walks, the colours caught my eye.

6 – Another random cat. I really don’t know where they are coming from.

7 – Trust me to find a cat sitting on a windowsill, behind some curtains. The paw is a dead giveaway. This was in Penzance – I do remember that.

8 – Another rando-cat.

9 – Weird purple tendril flowers. Found near Plymouth. I have no idea what they are.

10 – Cornwall cat, from the small village of Polperro.

11 – A pile of ducks.

12 – Hydrangeas in bloom. When I took this picture I set my mint-iced-coffee-latte-thing on the wall in front of this garden & then it fell into the garden. Dirt or crushed chocolate bits? I’ll never know.

  • The featured image is the start-up screen from my work computer. It’s set on random, so usually all kinds of things rotate through. But for two weeks this sloth hugging a tree was the only picture that came up. I was pretty disappointed when the imaged changed – tropical beach. Pfft.

That Time I Went To London

*Digs through archives*  Ah yes! Come ye: gather round whilst I regale you with tales of my time in that bustling hub of a city called London. Ahem.

The year was 2016. A reasonably warm weekend had been bestowed upon us, such that, for my sojourn down to London-town I did not bring means to cover myself warmly, save for but a fashionable & functional pashmina. The journey was tedious but of a fare price. Having arrived into the evening I thought to stretch my legs by walking to my house of stay. The hour long trek took me through such splendid parts of London; past boutique shop fronts, high class eateries & bespoke establishments. ‘Twas not a place for me, as I hurried past two glamourously thin women, adorned in full-length gowns speaking French outside a posh brasserie. Please, make haste & avert your eyes, for I, but a lowly piece of rubbish in my working garb, must pass by.

My house of rest offered no frills, but my room was ample & the window large. Having paid an extra sum so that I might be afforded the benefit of a window, I was dismayed to learn that I would be residing in the front of the ground floor; alas, I did have to keep the drapes drawn so that no folk ambling along might catch a glimpse into my den. I also discovered that my room, being on the ground floor was accessible for a wheelchair chair user (so perhaps explaining the extra space) & as such featured several emergency pull cords throughout. I was instructed not pull them as an alarm would sound & inevitably someone would come rushing to my rescue. All very well, but surely they had a different room I could occupy? What if there was someone in a wheelchair who rolled in off the street needing a room for the night? I very much hope there was more than one accessible room.

The purpose of my travels was to connect with an old esteemed colleague (OEC), whereby we intended to converse jovially whist enjoying the finer parts of London. Having researched the area, I rose early & made my way to a cafe some 10 minutes down the road. I filled up on a Full English, knowing that the expense of nourishment would prove to be rather copious, & tea would likely consist of cold sandwiches eaten quietly in my room.

Exerting my legs yet again (and for the duration of the weekend), it was in good fortune that my points of interest all lay within an hours walk, no more. Given my early start I was able to peruse the neighbourhood at a leisurely pace & take in my surroundings.

My destination was Hyde Park, more precisely – Kensington Palace. And then, who should I but spy? My OEC, Miss B. Wiltshire, having but arrived not more than a week prior from abroad. I wish to say that her visit to this fine country was none other than to meet with myself, however this was not so & our meeting was more out of coincidence, but a planned one none the less. We conducted ourselves in a rather un-lady-like fashion by jumping about & allowing our voices to progress ever higher.

We toured the Palace & exchanged pleasantries through-out. Although many Royals have occupied the Palace, most notable would be that of Queen Victoria & her husband Albert. Her marriage was one of choice, not convenience or politics, however it does strike me odd that she & Albert were first cousins. This information was courtesy of Seth The Explainer, who was much taller up close than I initially thought.

Having not set foot in London before, I envisaged to take my OEC to quite possibly one of the finest establishments in the city: Harrods. I had spruced myself up since last evening’s rubbish-walk-of-shame, so we were readily admitted into the department store. Through winding sections of exceptional wealth I lead my OEC to Laudurée for afternoon tea. Though my visits to London are not frequent, I do always make a point of reaching Laudurée to either sit in, or if time is short, to simply take away a box of macarons. It is by no means an inexpensive place & I admit I always feel slightly ashamed to look at the receipt of £23 for 6 macarons. That is indeed outrageous! And it is my one special allowance for London.

Though our time was short, it was very delightful to see my OEC. She was a brief snippet of home. We said out goodbyes in the Stationary Room of Harrods & I then wandered about, looking at the various finery. I considered for a moment how a single Christmas bauble would be a nice memento from Harrods, then I reconsidered after seeing the price. I left with haste.

The museums that I had mind to attend were preposterously buzzing, with queues running out the entrance and around the building. I elected to amble back towards my inn, but to snake through the side streets and back alleys. But just one street away from the main road & one could not tell that they were in such a boisterous place; the loud sounds of the city immediately ceased to exist, replaced by birds chirping, dogs barking & radio noise tinkling from a nearby window. A young couple arrived home, complete in tennis whites, carrying bags from Waitrose, while a small dog bounded out of their sleek vehicle. They must be quite well-off, I thought, considering the nature of the area. A peaceful, wistful walk lead me back to my bed, where I lay down for a brief nap before heading out in search of sustenance. I did fare a bit better than cold sandwiches.

The next morn I went to a very specific cafe as I had heard such wonderful things; however upon arrival, the sign on the door read ‘closed today.’ That was not the information I had been given. I resigned myself to a different eatery for a Faux English – egg, bacon, tomato in a flakey baguette with crisps on the side. The crisps made me uncomfortable, as that is an evening snacking food, but I had paid so I could do little more than eat them.

The Victoria & Albert Museum was already quite lively by the time I reached it. Placing my bag in their storage hold, I was free to wander the museum floors without restriction. There are six floors in total & not nearly enough time to see it all. As I had the whole day to spend, I needn’t rush, so was able to appreciate all the fine curios on display.

My wanders took me through Europe 300 – 1815, the seven cultural displays of Asia (of which, China was disappointingly dull compared to the others), fashion through the ages, the sculpture corridor (of which I admittedly breezed through because it was boring), the silver display (of which, anything that could be silver was & as such there were too many little items in shelved cabinets to look at), the miniature portraits room (in which, I regret I had but little time to spend as I needed to make way to the coach station).

It was an amicable weekend to be sure, filled with merriment, extended exercise & particles of knowledge.

musical-25709_640Listen To: Belle & Sebastian – Mornington Crescent