A short video of our road trip in Iceland
This is Part 2 of West Country Christmas, you can find Part 1 here.
After Christmas the four of us hit the road and headed to Cornwall. We had 2 nights booked at an Inn above a pub giving Lisa and Peter the full British experience. After finding our accommodation in the lovely small village of Mullion (lets face it most villages in Cornwall are small and lovely) we headed to St Ives to spend the afternoon exploring the lanes and beaches there.
After we met up met up with some of my friends for Indian, my sister takes any chance she can to have spicy food because when she is back in Poland where she’s been based for the past year her options are limited. This particular Indian in Hayle is also one of my favorites. After dinner we headed back to our Inn/Pub not knowing what to expect because when we checked in they warned us there was a live band that night. When we approached the pub it was confirmed, there was live music and what seemed to be the whole village inside. As we were tired we decided to relax in our rooms and were relieved to find out the sound didn’t travel well but shortly after lights out I realized there might be little sleep that night due to the howling wind coming off the water just half a mile away which didn’t let up all night. In morning to our relief (and our sightseeing plans) the wind had calmed down quite a bit.
After breakfast we headed down to Mullion Cove to see the sea. From the parking lot (which is at least 600m back from the harbour and out of site of the water) we could fee the sea spray on our faces. We soon realized though the wind had calmed down a lot it was still quite windy by the water and the ocean swell was still very dramatic. We stood and admired the beauty and power of the sea and took a few photos between wiping sea spray from our lenses. All four of us had grown up on the ocean and we all have a great respect for both the beauty and danger of the ocean so we kept our distance while watching the waves crash over the barrier built to protect the inner harbour.
After we had our fill of the rough seas off we went for the grand tour of the deepest depths of Cornwall, an area I’ve been exploring since 2000 and have gotten to know well. Up first was a quick stop to see St Michael’s Mount which when the tide is out can be reached across a cobbled stone pathway. We then headed to the nearby Madron Wishing Well which is a tree over a small pond in which people tie bits of cloth as an offering for their wishes. A little further along the path are remains of a Celtic chapel with an altar and a babbling brook which due to all the rainfall had turned the chappel into a bit of a lake.
After our ramble we headed down the road to see Quyote Layton a Celtic burial chamber found in a field beside the road.
The next stop on the whirlwind tour was the Minack Theatre near Lands End (the most westerly point in England) and overlooks one of the most beautiful beaches in Cornwall, Porthcurno. The Minack Theatre is an open air theatre built into the cliff side by a woman in the 1930’s. As the seating of the theater is very steep and it can be windy on a nice summer day I wasn’t sure what we conditions would be like on a such a blustery day. We were in luck it was open. When I asked if the wind ever closed the theatre, the woman looked at me as if I was mad. Apparently, there is no such thing as too windy at the Minack.
Our last stop before heading back to the Inn was Mousehole to see the famous Mousehole Harbour Christmas lights which were celebrating their 50th year. We got there just in time go get a spot in the parking lot, grab some mulled wine and find a nice spot to view the switching on of the lights. Mousehole is a pretty place, a fishing village just on the outskirts of Penzance which is popular with tourists in summer and in the winter the Christmas lights draw in the crowds.
After admiring the effect from the village and going down to the harbour beach for a different vantage we headed back to the car and back to our inn for a dinner, a pint (or 2) of ale in the nice warm pub below before resting up for the long journey back to London the next day.
I didn’t get my pint of Otter ale this time around but it’s always lovely to visit the west country, eat lots of clotted cream, get out into the open, breathe the fresh air and be near the ocean.
The weather in the UK has been pretty dramatic the past few weeks especially in the West Country where I spent the Christmas holidays in the counties of Devon and Cornwall and experienced it first hand. With me on this trip was Nathan, my sister Lisa and her partner Peter who were visiting for Christmas. This was the first Christmas my sister and I have had together in many many years. We haven’t lived in the same time zone let alone the same country or even the same continent for a very long time, so we are trying to make the most of their being based in Poland for the better part of a year.
On their visit to England for Christmas I wanted to show them as much as possible of the countryside while outside London. On our first day out exploring in Devon we made an attempt to see Totnes and Salcombe. This was aborted after getting drenched within 10 seconds of stepping out of the car. On the way back home (Nathan’s parents house in Dawlish) we had even to reroute due to a road being blocked (we aren’t sure if it was flooding or a tree down from the wind). However we were successful in making a visit to the Buckfast Abby shop which sells items made in convents and abbeys around Europe, I picked up a bottle of Buckfast, a lovely beeswax candle and some lip and moisturising balm.
Our next adventure out was on Christmas eve started off well with clear sky. We headed to Dartmoor and climbed Haytor. It was a windy and a little nippy but we were rewarded with the fantastic view across the countryside.
Then it was off to find some Dartmoor ponies which was a success. They were finding shelter from the wind and some food in the bushes.
We decided to ramble along and enjoy the scenery before heading to lunch. However we came upon a bit of road that was flooded and Nathan felt the car lose traction where the road seemed to be covered in mud, then as steam started rising from the car he quickly backed out. We decided the puddle was deeper that it looked and we should retreat, rather than risk Nathan’s parents car getting ruined and needing rescue on Christmas eve. This meant backing up down a country lane one car wide for about 1/2 mile to find a spot wide enough to turn. However while doing this we came upon another car, a Land Rover, coming down the lane, and Nathan had to drive back up to the flooded bit where it was wider to let them pass. Which she did taking on the flooded bit of road as if it was a puddle a couple of inches deep, blatantly this is the type of thing Land Rovers are built for, Minis not so much.
We decided Nathan had earned a break from driving and headed to a tiny village in Dartmoor called Wycombe for lunch in the lovely pub called The Old Inn. Which also happens to be the same pub Nathan took me on our first date!
After lunch we headed back to Dawlish where Nathan’s parents live and went down to the arcade. We played some games and Nathan, as is tradition, didn’t win me a teddy. Then it was a stop off for a pint before heading back to relax by the fire with some of the wine we bought on our trip to Tuscany in October.
Stay tuned for part 2 – Cornwall, in the mean while feel free to read my sisters take of Christmas in England on her blog here.
One of the things I love about England is there is so much history, different architecture and pretty scenery that one could spend a lifetime exploring and still not see it all. This weekend I was whisked away for a mini-break road trip to Kent, an area I’ve not seen much of. It’s an area that has been inhabited for a long time due its location between the channel crossing at Dover and London. Many a King and Queen has been through here and there are many castles and palaces to explore including wineries and the seaside to visit, a little of everything. Kent is also where you will find The Church of England’s equivalent to the Vatican – Canterbury and where the enormous Canterbury Cathedral is. This time around we kept inland and explored the countryside.
The first stop we made was at a vineyard Biddenden where they make both cider and wine. As it is now off-season, and a bit chilly when we arrived, we took the short walk (15 minutes) around the vineyard We explored the shop tasting a few wines and ciders, including a lovely sparkling one and a warm spiced one that reminded me of apple cider we have in the winter in Canada (which unlike this cider is non-alcoholic). We bought a few things including the spiced cider which will make a nice alternative to mulled wine over the cold months.
Next stop was a town called Tinterden where we explored some of the antique shops on the look out for a wooden chest. I love finding a unique piece of jewellery and they are great places to find them, Tinterden in particular had a lot to choose from. There were also many lovely coffee shops to warm up in on a cool autumn day. This town really reminded me of some of the towns in the Hamptons, NY.
The area’s architecture is unlike that of the other parts of England I have been to (the west country, London, the peak district etc.). I was surprised to see clapboard siding used on some of the houses with the white picket fences at times I felt like I had been transported to New England or back home to Nova Scotia. I guess that explains where New England got its colonial feel.
We spent the night in Tunbridge Wells (more on where in the next post) which was bigger than expected and hillier than we Londoners are used to! The Georgian part of town was full of good quality shops, restaurants and cafes. Some were one-off shops, some were recognizable names like Whistles, Prezzo, Jack Wills and such. One thing the town seemed short on was pubs, a bit of a change from the rest of England or perhaps we just were in the wrong part of town.
The Pantiles area known in Georgian times as the Walks was the place to be seen. It has two levels which in the past had a strict protocol – gentry on the ‘Upper Walks’, the colonnade, and everyone else on the ‘Lower Walks’. Today it is a pretty pedestrian area with cafes, restaurants and a pub which make used of the outside area when the weather permits. As well as one-off shops selling kitchen wares, antiques, art and clothes.
Before heading back to London the next day we spent time meandering along the country lanes stopping where we saw something interesting or picturesque. It should be mentioned that we used an iPhone and the new Apple map to guide us. This went surprisingly well considering the stories out there about this new map. We did discover that indeed there are some oddities. At one point decided for us to get to one town we should park in the middle of nowhere and walk, we think across the field, however the town was nowhere in sight! I tend not to trust Sat Nav’s in general and like to back them up with a paper one! This also helps when the battery dies.
Some interesting facts about Kent:
- Pocahontas is buried in (the aptly named)Gravesend in Kent. She died of TB on board a ship off the Kentish coast, about to set sail back to America. Sadly, the whereabouts of here grave is no longer known.
- Keith Richards and Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones were both born in Dartford, Kent, England in 1943.
- Britain’s oldest brewery is Shepherd Neame brewery at Faversham, Kent. It has brewed there for over 850 years. “Spitfire” and “Bishops Finger” are two of the many ales it produces.
- In 1532 Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn spent their honeymoon at Shurland Hall, Eastchurch.
- Anne Boleyn’s childhood home is found in Kent, Hever Castle.
Oh and did I mention there are windmills?
How to Get There:
Kent is just South East of London. The interior of Kent and it’s country lanes are best explored by car. However Tunbridge Wells, Canterbury (both about an hour on the train) and many of the coastal towns are easily reached from London by train and make a great day trip.
I love roller coasters there is nothing like that ticket in the tummy they give you and the feeling of being alive when you get off at the end. In England there is a place I have wanted to go for many years, Alton Towers where they have 8 roller coasters. It is up north near Manchester and requires a car to get to. So N and I decided to make it a road trip before he sold his Mini. The date was set and off we went!
Oblivion, the world’s first vertical drop roller coaster. Hands down the scariest roller coaster I’ve ever been on. A face first drop into a hole in the ground after they leave you hanging over it at the top, (like in the photo) for what seems like forever.
The hole. N asked did I see the mist? Mist what mist?! I had my eyes shut!!