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:

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!





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