Cornwall Christmas

The black dot on map is London and Red area is Cornwall, Light green England, Dark green (top) Scotland (left) Whales, Orange is N.Ireland.

24 December 1997

We were up early in the morning to pack for our trip and planning to spend 5 days away, in a cottage on the Cornwall Coast in Southwestern England. It was estimated to be a 5-hour drive, possibly a bit more because of the stormy weather. The car was loaded and off to the grocery store (super market) to buy some last minute goodies, knowing the stores were to close for the Christmas holiday. We were on our way!

Around 11am we headed west on the M4, and for the first couple of hours the drive was very familiar. That leg of the drive was the same one we took to get to Wales. Once we reached Bath we headed south a bit and then it was southwest down to the Cornwall Coast. Surprisingly there was very little traffic and the weather was horrible. The rain was coming down so fast that the wipers on the car were having trouble keeping up. One Christmas gift to me was a CD of holiday songs, so we listened to them on the way and sang along. Here it was Christmas Eve and we were on our way to a cute little cottage on the coast in the off season, YIPPEE!

Well we were making such good time on the drive that we had about 1 hour to kill. We planned to meet the owners around 6pm at the cottage to get the keys and the details of the place. It was around 3pm and the stomachs started to rumble, so we took the next exit to a town we don't remember the name of. We stopped at a little Bed and Breakfast/ Pub. It was so quaint and cozy; everything seemed smaller than normal (Alice in Wonderland?). The building was clearly built quite some time ago and inside the ceilings were very low and the doorways were narrow. In the pub the fireplace was bigger than life itself. It was centered in the room, and the 10 old oak tables that were in the place surrounded the fireplace. Ah the smell of wood burning and the sound of it crackling. It was so warm and cozy we didn't care much what was on the limited menu. Of course Alan discovered they were serving shrimp and I am a sucker for the soup and garlic bread. Happy tummies means happy travelers J

Back on the road, at this point there was minimal city life left to see and we were definitely in the country. The roads were narrow and lined with very green rolling hills and little cottage type homes and farmhouses scattered here and there. The wind was blowing and the rain was just pouring down and it just made the entire area seem so fresh and clean. Within no time we were approaching our exit, which turns out to be a little side road (Don't Blink!). From this little side road we had yet another exit, which was a one lane road for both directions of traffic to share. As we entered this road cautiously, we noticed we were going down into a small valley. We passed by a cottage with a handmade cardboard sign reading, "Honey for Sale". MMM MMM that sounds good. Not too much further and it was our cottage on the right hand side. We did arrive a bit early, so we waited about 20 minutes for the owners to show up (Mr. and Mrs. Butterworth). Yeap you got it, they syrup lady. Well not really, but everytime we said her name we chuckled inside.

The cottage was actually a very old house converted into a triplex, framed with a stone wall. We entered the front cast iron gate and the door was immediately behind the stone wall. The door was just a bit lower than Alan was, so he had to duck upon entry and exit just to be safe. As you enter there was a small entry room, big enough for one person to stand at a time. In this room there was an apartment-sized fridge and a pantry the size of a typical medicine cabinet. This of course was not noticed until the front door was closed as the door completely covered them when it was open. Across from the fridge were two hooks on the wall for coats. That was the grand entry (no crystal chandeliers here).

On through the next door and to the right you enter into the Living room/Dining room/Kitchen, just adorable. This combo room was about 15 feet by 20 feet. As you enter to the right is the stone fireplace, about 4 feet by 4 feet, holding a pot belly stove. Around the next wall were the little TV and a bottle of wine from the owners on the shelf, and the electric meter on the wall. We had to put in 50 pence coins to get electricity throughout the entire stay (HA! more about this later). These coins are hard to come by, so we bought 10.00 from the Butterworths. Following along that wall you end up at the base of the stairs, which lead up to the bedroom and bathroom. Just under the staircase is the kitchen (counter, stove, oven, and a couple of cabinets with dishes and utensils). Around the next wall were the sink and a quaint lil kitchen window that looked out over the road to the cottage across the way.

After the Butterworths (in their late 30's early 40's) gave us the run down on how everything worked they were off to celebrate Christmas Eve with their family. We settled in just fine, Alan got a fire going and unpacked the clothes and I got the food all put away and the presents organized. Once everything was in order, we put our Santa caps on which Alan bought. Now we decided to put up our very own Xmas tree. Yeah, we bought an artificial tree about 4 feet high that came with all of the decorations and lights. We had the most fun decorating that little tree and singing Christmas songs. We also had to partake in a typical British tradition of popping Crackers. Crackers are a little tubes wrapped in paper and filled with a paper hat, a joke, and a toy surprise. We purchased a box of 10 so we had enough to do one each for every night of our stay. Believe it or not the tree looked perfect and the fire was keeping us warm and cozy; time to go to sleep and wait for Santa.

Christmas Day

Ho Ho Ho …….Santa came first thing in the morning and left loads of goodies for us to open. We spent a good hour exchanging gifts, listening to Christmas music, and acting goofy. This was to be a very mellow day for us as everything was closed. We stayed all worm and cozy in our cottage with the fire going. I made pumpkin cookies in the morning while we were watching Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. It wasn't too difficult for me to juggle both tasks as the kitchen and living room is one in the same. It was a lazy day and we just cat napped, talked, watched TV, and read. Later in the day I cooked a traditional Christmas dinner for two. I made a roasted turkey breast, mashed potatoes, corn, croissants, salad, cranberry sauce and of course champagne. All enjoyed via candlelight on our table and benches that fold down out of the wall.

 

One of Alan's gifts was a telescope, so late that evening we went outside and looked at some stars. Our cottage was down in a small valley so we weren't able to get very good views through the trees. At that point we decided it would be wise to go about a mile down the road, through the little town and perch ourselves on the big cliff above the beach (Ya that was REAL smart). It was freezing cold and there were hurricane force winds, so we didn't last long enough to even get the telescope out of the car. I did manage to snap a quick photo of Alan attempting to walk outside, without him blowing over or losing his Santa hat. It was so dark it was difficult to see through the viewfinder. I went ahead and snapped, but I wasn't even sure if Alan was actually in the picture. I just had him speak and then I pointed at his voice, as I was ducking for cover behind the car door. The weather was so bad, the few days surrounding Christmas that half the country of Wales was without power the entire weekend. Wales is just across the Bristol Channel from where we were staying. In the area we were staying, full-grown trees were falling down all along the roads and on homes.

Boxing Day

I woke up early this morning because I was very cold. I went over to the heater and realized it was not on. I went down stairs to investigate, in the dark, and the lights wouldn't come on. My initial reaction was that we were now out of power due to the storm. After some touchy feely stumbling investigating in the dark, it turned out I just needed to feed the electric meter with some more 50 pence coins. We were now down to only 4 coins and had a few days left. This wouldn't be an issue other than the electric meter only accepts the old 50 pence coins, which are no longer being made. The old coins are much larger and thicker than the new ones and will no longer be legal tender by March 1998. If we couldn't find some old coins then we wouldn't have any electricity for the remainder of our stay and the heater was of great importance to us.

 

Alan woke up about an hour after me and I told him of our little dilemma. We would begin our search later in the day at little shops and grocery stores. The banks would have been the ideal spot to visit, but they wouldn't be open until the day of our departure. We had a nice breakfast (eggs, taters, and toast), and then we hopped in the car to explore the coast a bit north of us. We went along the coast on a small B road up to Nequay (pronounced Newkee). Nequay is the Surfer capital of England. The town was very much like a surfer California coastal town. There were cute little artsy cafes, plenty of VW bugs, and the people were very friendly and laid back. After exploring the beaches we ventured down the main road in town and stopped at the local supermarket. YEAH, after spending about 30 minutes trying to find a cashier with some old 50 coins we lucked out. You should have seen the odd looks we were getting from the cashiers, of course they couldn't figure out what the urgent need was for some old coins. Between a few of the cashiers we managed to get just enough of the coins to get us through the remainder of our stay. We were out and about for a few hours looking at surf shops and walking along the freezing cold and windy beach, then back to our little cottage for a lazy and cozy afternoon and evening.

wcornmap.gif (11305 bytes) Day 4

We were up early and time to explore the peninsula. We headed west for a short while then due south. The peninsula is quite narrow, so it didn't take long for us to go from the north coast to the south. As we approached the beach, we noticed that hidden behind a hilly little town was a small island with a castle perched on top. Of course our curiosity took over and within 3 minutes we had parked the car and were off to explore this cute little town (Marazion) and the island.

The island is named St. Michael's Mount and was granted in 1070 to the same monks who built Mont St Michel off Normandy. This was the legendaryhome of Jack the Giant Killer; this was an important place of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages. It is no longer a priory and since 1659 the St Aubyn family have lived here. At low tide you can walk across from Marazion and at high tide they actually have a ferry that runs across. We were there during off-season, so we were unable to explore the castle from the inside. The town was very nice and its town centre consisted of 3 small one-lane streets, each about 1 block long. We did notice that they did not have street numbers for their address; each building had its own name (ex: Crowley House). How they ever find their way around is beyond me. Well I guess if they can't find something there are only 2 other streets to choose from. Needless to say we couldn't after about 1hour we had taken in the full experience of the ever so lovely Marazion.

We then continued west along the coastal road, making our way towards Lands End, and came to a fork in the road. Time for some serious decision making (nervous wreck vs smooth sailing). We had an option of forking to the left to Mousehole (the coastal route; one lane for both directions going up along the cliffs) or the right to Land's End (a two -lane road with a well marked centre line and signage).

I am afraid we have way too much adventure in our bods for our own good, we opted for the left fork. How could we possibly resist seeing a town named mousehole (pronounced Mowsel)? This was definitely and adventure and plenty of the old close your eyes and grit the teeth moments.

The view was phenomenal from this little road; thank goodness there weren't too many others on the road with us. After winding along the coast for about 3 miles we noticed a little hand painted sign that read MOUSEHOLE. We had arrived. Oh it was something out of a picture book, an idyllic fishing village. It consisted of one windy little road along the coast that serpent's approx 1/2 mile up an extremely steep hill. Along side the road were tiny little homes with brilliant flower boxes in each window and pale coloured paint on the thatched roof cottages clustered around the edge of the harbour. The village had a very bohemian feel to it. There were a few arts and craft shops and a couple of pubs (The Ship and The Lobster Pot). On with our journey along the coast.

Next stop along the coast was to the Minack Theatre (one of the worlds most spectacular open-air theatres). Absolutely fantastic! The theatre was built by Rowena Cade who did much of the construction with her own hands up until her death in 1983. The idea for building the theatre came to her when her family provided the local theatre group with an open-air venue for a production to The Tempest. The theatre was a tiered semi circle carved out of the cliffs facing out to the ocean, with the stage at the bottom just about twenty feet about the crashing waves. The seats were either stones or hand made cement block engraved with the names of famous plays and actors. On either side were the special balcony seats made from stone as well, it had the feeling of Romeo and Juliet. It was quite a hike from top to bottom and back. The stairs were not well proportioned or level because they were made from natural stones. It is almost indescribable, but a must see if you are ever in the area.

Just a few miles further along the coast and we made it to Lands End, the most westerly point of Great Britain. There isn't much to see here other than a restaurant hotel and a few gift shops, but it is nice knowing we hit one of the "Ends" of Britain. Nothing but fresh sea air, crashing waves and howling wind to tickle your senses.

A little tid bit of info about the End to End records in Britain: The craze for covering the route between the two extremities of Britain in as short a time as possible was started in 1875 by an American, Eliuh Burritt, who walked from John O'Groats to Land's End in several weeks. Now the walking record for the 886 1/3 miles is currently held by Malcolm Barnish, who did it in 12 days, three hours and 45 minutes. The cycling record is a mere one day, 21 hours, two minutes and 19 seconds. It has also been done in a wheelbarrow in 30 days, a tricycle in 5 1/2 days and on roller skates in 9 1/2 days. And in 1990 it was run BACKWARDS in 26 days and 7 hours.

The long adventuresome day was coming to an end and a warm fire was calling our names from our cottage. It took us all day to get to Land's End (stopping in absolutely every little village) and only about 35 minutes to get back, goes to show you how much there is to see in a short distance if you are up for it.

Day 5

We pretty much covered most of Cornwall yesterday and kinda wanted a low key relaxing day today. So we crawl out of bed throw on our grubbiest sweats, brush our teeth (but not the hair) and hop in the car. Sounds pretty disgusting, but we were in for some down and dirty fun. Within 20 minutes we had arrived at today's destination QUAD BIKES !

YIPPEE! It was time to take the challenge, the race between husband and wife on 4 wheel ATV in the MUD. We got geared up with elbow pads, kneepads and helmets. Our shades were on and the engines were revving, VRMMMM VRMMMMM…… GO. Who needs to guess Alan left me in a spray of mud, but I wasn't going to let him stay in the lead. We went around the beginner's track the first couple of times then on to the advanced track with hills, jumps and massive mud puddles. Wooohoo. What an absolute blast! We had about 40 minutes of solid adrenaline pumping fun. My favorite was zooming up the hill and loosing my stomach as you fly over the crest and race down the other side. By the time we had finished we had a silhouette of our sunglasses on our face surrounded by mud. Our clothes were no longer recognizable and we both had grins from ear to ear. Our mud-crusted hands were frozen in the grip position because they didn't have gloves for us and it was only about 33'F outside. This is a must do no matter where you are in the world. That was it for the day besides showering, eating and lounging around the cottage.

Day 6

The holiday was over and it was time to head home to London. What a fantastic week we had.

 

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