Sunday, 13 July 2008

We're all going on a summer holiday!

It's safe to say the one of the things we occasionally miss about not having a car over here is the inability to just throw everything in the boot and head off. With that in mind we were very much looking forward to hiring a car and going "boot-camping" for our summer holiday. (And in case you thought we were always on holiday, you'll be pleased to know that we're both out of leave now).

The plan was to head off with Fran & Graham and some friends of theirs (Andrew & Theresa), to Newquay in Cornwall for a Jack Johnson concert and a few days exploring before the two of us went our own way to Wales to meet Mel for her birthday. The plan was to camp and spend our days walking in the countryside.

So the first part of the plan didn't quite work as we arrived in Cornwall to discover that the concert was cancelled on account of the "in climate” weather. Although the concert did go ahead the next day (while we were having dinner in St Ives), when we drove past the venue on the Monday the rigging and the stage had been destroyed in the wind.

Cornwall had been on “the list” * for a really long time so in spite of one thing we wanted to do not being possible we certainly made the most of all other things to see and do.

* “the list” - a term to describe the infinite number of things that are on your list-of-things-to-do-while-living-in-the-UK. Such a list tends not to be written down and tends to be rather long.

Watergate Bay

We checked out Watergate Bay (and suspected the real reason that Jack was not keen to do his show was on account of the surf) on day one before retreating to the shelter of the closest pub and made ourselves snug near the fire (really) for the evening.

Breakfast chez Fran & Graham

Sunday we headed south to cover a few Cornish highlights.

First stop was Lizard Point, chosen because unlike Land’s End (the westernmost point in England), it was the southernmost point in England, and for some reason less touristy. It was a lovely walk through countryside (after a restorative coffee) to the coast and we stayed there for lunch at the second southernmost café.

It almost seemed like a NZ setting for a coffee!

Lizard Point

Boats heading down the the harbour

Paul & Amy at Lizard Point

Graham, Fran, Paul, Amy & Theresa at Lizard Point

We also visited St Michael's Mount (Castle one for the holiday), followed by St Ives and a surprise dinner in a great fish restaurant.

St Michael's Mount

Walking over the causeway

Causeway not such a good option from here...

Paul in the icecream queue as the sign said...

View back from the boat.

The eager gulls at St Ives harbour.

After the yummy dinner at Alba

On Monday we decamped in the rain to Padstow, only a few miles north, so that we could be close for our dinner that night in Rick Steins Café. We spent our day in a very cute little seaside town called Polperro, climbing rocks and eating Cornish pasties and Cornish cream teas.

On the breakwater at Polperro

Polperro Harbour



Rock pools at Polperro

Paul playing in the rockpools

Scrambling back to the village

Fran & Amy having pre-dinner drinks in the tent (four people in one small car heading back to London meant that all extra beverages had to be consumed)... mmm... feijoa wine....mmmm feijoa vodka....

After our yum dinner at Rick Stein's Cafe

Our little tent.

Fran & Graham had to get back to London on the Tuesday so we parted company and decided that we’d try and find better weather elsewhere. Our last stop in Cornwall was Tintagel Castle, legendary home of the legendary King Arthur, in a very dramatic cliff setting (castle 2).

Entrance to the Castle

View from the ruins

Some of the flowers

Another Castle door

View from the mainland.

After a long drive through Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire before finally ending up in Shropshire, in a wee area called Iron Bridge.

Iron Bridge was, so the Lonely Planet tells us, to the industrial age what Silicon Valley is today. Sadly we were not tempted to see the China Museum, or the Clay Pipe Museum but settled or a good overview at the Iron Bridge Museum. Although the sun had finally popped out from behind the thought of taking the tent down in the rain again prompted us to stay in a cute old B&B for the evening.

The Iron Bridge

The tolls for the bridge - even the Queen had to pay!

It was the right choice as when we woke up the storms had followed us to the Midlands. By this stage we were in range of Irish radio in the car so were we no longer fooled by the BBC-positive-spin on the weather. One delightful report later in the day was “Rain, rain, rain and more rain (…a song starts playing…) and more rain”.

We took the chance to explore a city and followed a walking tour through Shrewsbury. There was a little disappointment with there being no jam filled biscuits or a cookie bear, but there was a lovely warm church to hang out in with delightful volunteers who told us all about the various stained glasses.

View from the old market in Shrewsbury.

Inside St Mary's, Shrewsbury

Inside St Mary's, Shrewsbury

Paul consulting the map before setting off again.

Another old building in Shrewsbury

That night we ventured to one of the northern Welsh peninsulas, as far as Abersoch, which somehow had itself confused with the Riveria (check out the photos!).

Maybe we were just unlucky, but the papers the following morning were all sharing the news that a month’s rain had fallen in the previous 24 hours. Even the cartoons referred to the chance to do a month’s moaning about the weather in one day!

Paul however managed to organise some really nice weather for our anniversary and we spent a whole day exploring the village of Caernarfon, and it’s truly amazing castle (number 3).

The Welsh coast

A wee ramble to see a tiny horse

Caernarfon Castle

Amy playing princess up one of the very tall turrets.

Caernarfon Castle

Friday was our last day before joining Mel and her friends or Mel’s birthday. It was time for another castle, together with a 16th century house, Plas Mawr, this time in Conway. We were able to fit in a small road trip to the town with the logest name in Britian, and Beau Maris castle (number, um, five?) before a very enjoyable evening in a local pub listening to Amy la Verre (and American country, blues type singer). (As I write this I am listening to her music on her website, nice reminder of a good evening).

Amy at Conway Castle

Britan's smallest house

View of the castle from Plas Mawr

Train station in Llanfairpwllgwyngyll.....

On Saturday when we arrived at the climbing hut we had time for a very quick coffee before separating out into groups of the very keen scramblers, and the sedate walkers for a mission up Mount Snowdon. It was not so nice on the way up, in fact at the top there’s no way of telling where we were, but the cloud broke for some really great views on the way down. It was a good reminder of what a great hobby walking is, any activity that encourages eating chocolate has to be good for you!

Climbing in the mist.

Paul and Amy at the top of Mount Snowdon. He took off all his waterproofs for this photo - t-shirt and shorts for summer of course!

Amy with her coffee (and tiamaria) - Thanks Mel!

View on the way down

The summit, still hidden, just

Mel & Paul

Rules at the club hut

The club hut in the sunset.

Now it’s back in London, and perhaps time to head to bed for one last sleep of the holiday. Or perhaps I should look on the net to see which World Heritage Sites remain for us to do next holiday...