Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Goodbye Britannia ~

We left Banbury in the rain. A dreary start to a dreary traveling day. Waiting in cold, damp train stations for rides through bleak terrain was not an auspicious start to our last day in England. We soldiered on and made it to our hotel just a mile outside of Heathrow. We settled in, had a pint, and then went back to the room to relax until dinner time.

Supper was delicious fish and chips, served by a cheeky Romanian, who reminded me of a character in one of my favorite novels. We split a bottle of Australian Shiraz, and I splurged on some sticky toffee pudding for dessert.

My stomach is now proclaiming, in no uncertain terms, that I made bad choices for my last day here. So I write this as I sip some stomach-soothing herbal tea, preparatory to getting a shower and shampoo.

Tomorrow will be a new adventure with the shuttle bus to the airport. For those of you planning to fly to London via Delta Airlines be aware that you will be going in and out of Terminal 4. Terminal 4 is the red-headed stepchild of Heathrow. Nothing goes directly to, or from, Terminal 4. Just thought you should know.

I find myself strangely conflicted about leaving. Part of my heart is still back in Cornwall - a place I will definitely revisit one day. Part of me longs for my family, my home, and my bed! I can't wait to give lots of squishy-cheek kisses to my sweet Elizabeth, and hugs to Janine and Jason. Mostly, it will be nice to be back to a familiar routine, and the comforting rhythm of my life.

Tomorrow is the final leg of this adventure.  Stay tuned...

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Rain, Rain, and Ye Olde Reine Deer Inn

The day began in an ambivalent fashion. We awoke to sunny skies, only to have them turn gray and gloomy after breakfast. We wanted to spend our last day exploring the charming Cotswold village of Charlbury.  It rained as we boarded the train to Oxford, but as we traveled from Oxford to Charlbury, I looked out the window and spotted a rainbow.

Normally, I look at rainbows as harbingers of good things to come. I was a bit skeptical, however, due to the gloomy forecast, and the weather we had yesterday at Blenheim. We arrived at Charlbury railway station in a steady rain, walked with umbrellas unfurled into the village, and spotted the Rose and Crown. The idea of a dry room and a hot cup of tea beckoned us, so we popped in and shed our wet jackets and brollies and settled in for a bit.

Our host's name was Tommy, a lover of music, and frequent traveler to Austin, Texas' music scene.
He fixed us some tea, and we had a lovely time chatting with him, as we warmed up and dried out. Tommy helped us out with directions to a lovely walk about the village. Following his directions, we did enjoy a nice walk, a respite from the rain, and ended up back at the Rose and Crown for a pint. Anne and I both agreed, that we would rather have stayed in Charlbury than in Banbury, as the village is absolutely lovely, and Cotswold to the core.

By the time we made it back to Banbury, it had started raining again, but nothing very heavy. Within 5 minutes of leaving the railway station, we found ourselves caught in a deluge. We slogged on for another 10 minutes until we found Ye Olde Reine Deer Inn, which was built in 1570. Anne actually discovered its existence while perusing a Good Beer Guide in the Rose and Crown.  It sounded so good, we decided to give it a try, and it did not disappoint.

We arrived absolutely soaking wet from hip to toes, water sloshing about inside our shoes, and water cascading off our umbrellas and jackets.  It was so good to be out of the rain and somewhere cozy, warm, and dry. Our lovely bartender fixed us up with two cold pints of Guinness, and we repaired to a lovely little nook to peruse our menus.  A wonderful dinner followed, and we were able to walk back to the B&B without getting rained on again.

Now, clean and dry, we settle down for the evening, hoping that the wet things will be dry by morning. Tomorrow we travel to London, and then Thursday it's time to fly home.

Stay tuned...

Monday, October 5, 2015

Blenheim in the Rain

The long walk up the drive to Blenheim was a wet one. Rain had ushered in the day, and persisted through most of it. After the now familiar trek to train station and bus stop, we alighted at the Hensington Gate and started up the drive in a light rain. We purchased our tickets, after receiving a 30% discount for using public transport to get there. (America, take notes!)

We found the cafe onsite, and settled down to a cup of tea and called Anne's good friend Pauline. She lives nearby and met us as we were having a look around the Great Court. The house and grounds are truly massive, as befits the ancestral home of the Dukes of Marlborough. They were no less impressive for being shrouded in gray and mist.

The rain was hit and miss throughout the day, and we were still able to enjoy our walk to the Column of Victory, the Queen Pool, a short walk along the Main Lake, viewing the Cascades and the South Lawns. We heard plenty of birdsong, saw pheasants meandering across the fields, and some sheep grazing on the side of a hill.

Visiting as we did, on a rainy weekday, off-season, offered a chance to enjoy the grounds without encountering a great deal of people. It is a peaceful place, inviting one to walk slowly in quiet meditation. The highlight for me were the trees. So many ancient trees, with gnarled roots, and craggy bark - measuring time in centuries, not years. Oh the stories they could tell.

After a lovely tea break (Thank-you Pauline!) we took a bit of a walk through the secret garden. It was absolutely lovely, and every turn in the path was a delight. We elected to stop our tour there, as we had to be mindful of catching the bus back to Oxford train station. I would love to make a trip back to Blenheim one day, when it's sunny, and I have time to tour the house as well as the grounds. 

Now, home, fed, and showered, we can relax. Hopefully, we'll make it to a lovely Cotswold village tomorrow.  Stay tuned...

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Oxford Abridged

Oxford is a melting pot. The city is known worldwide as the home of the University of Oxford, the oldest university in the English-speaking world. It is one of the fastest growing cities in Britain, and one of the most ethnically diverse.

We alighted from the bus on Magdalene (pronounced maudlin) Street and waded into a sea of humanity. It was difficult to take in the sights since you didn't dare stop walking for fear of being run over. A very kind gentleman on the bus, corrected our pronunciation of the street we were on and directed us over a couple of blocks to what he referred to as the prettiest street in Oxford.  He wasn't wrong.

Catte Street turns off the High Street and takes you to the quintessential Oxford. Walking along, we passed All Souls College, the Codrington Library, the Radcliffe Camera (not something you take photos with), the Bodleian Library, Hertford College, the Sheldonian Theatre, and the Museum of the History of Science.

After walking for a bit we went to Debenham's for a cup of tea, and to check out the view from the 3rd floor. Back out on Magdalene Street we headed to the Ashmolean Museum.  The Ashmolean Museum (in full the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology) is the world's first university museum. Its first building was erected in 1678–1683 to house the cabinet of curiosities that Elias Ashmole gave to the University of Oxford in 1677. There is no charge to visit the museum, which I think is excellent!

After wandering through ancient, Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and English artifacts, we decided to head over to the Lamb and Flag to try some Old Peculier which has been brewed by Theakston Brewery since 1890. We got their too late to order food, so we darted across the street and stopped in at the Eagle and Child pub.

The Eagle and Child, also referred to as the Bird and Baby, was a hangout for a writer's group called the Inklings, of which CS Lewis and JRR Tolkein were members. They were out of Guinness (why?) and so we settled for a half pint of Hobgoblin, which was not bad. We also ordered the roast sirloin with all the trimmings. It was nowhere near as good as what we had at Heligan, but it was hot and edible. After our meal break we had time to kill before catching the bus back to Banbury, so we wandered in and out of some shops, and then waited at the bus stop.

Now it's time to read, relax, and then try to sleep. (The beds are very firm.) Tomorrow we travel to Blenheim Palace to visit the Park and Gardens.

Stay tuned...

Saturday, October 3, 2015

On the Road Again...

The day started off as another beautiful day in Cornwall. With renewed sadness, we carried luggage downstairs, and bade our excellent host, Ian Seagrove goodbye. When next I travel to Cornwall, I will stay at Petra again. While waiting for the bus to Penzance we met up with a couple from Norfolk, whom we had met when traveling to Mousehole. We had a lovely conversation about farming and fresh food. They had retired from there respective careers in the city, and got a place in the country where they could raise chickens, pigs, and vegetables.  My kind of people!

On the crowded bus ride over to Penzance, Anne and I could not sit together, but I was fortunate to sit next to an older gentleman who was born and raised in Cornwall. We had a lovely conversation about weather, farming, mining, tourism, accents (British and American) as well as Florida and Canada. What a charming man!

We arrived at the bus station and he got up, extended his hand, and told me he was pleased to meet me and that he enjoyed speaking with me. After wrestling our luggage off the bus, we proceeded to the train station, found our platform, and boarded the train. They were actually filming and episode of the ITV series Stranger on a Train on platform 1! So cool! Within minutes, my wonderful day turned sour.

Those who know me are aware that I suffer from chemical sensitivity.  It makes going out in public a very risky business. Throughout my stay in England, I had been lucky to only have run into fragrance issues once or twice, and not seriously.  But the young lady sitting across the aisle from us, changed all that. 

Now I don't know why people feel like they have to finish their person toilette in a train carriage. This young lady hadn't been seated 5 minutes when she hauled out her lotion and started slathering it all over herself. My head started reeling, ice picks stabbed me in the brain, I couldn't breathe, and I was almost overcome with nausea.  Even Anne found it offensive, but she gallantly offered to go through 6 railway carriages to buy me some water so I could take my migraine medicine. It took almost 2 1/2 hours for the scent to dissipate enough for my head and stomach to calm down.  It was not the way I envisioned my travel day would unfold.

Nevertheless, the remainder of the train ride went better. We enjoyed the beautiful countryside through Devon, then Somerset. Unfortunately, the train was running about 10 minutes behind schedule, and we were worried that we would miss our connection in Reading. Fortunately, we only had to go over two platforms, and we were able to board our train to Banbury with a few minutes to spare.

Banbury is definitely a city. Their is a different vibe here and it makes me miss Cornwall even more. But the Banbury Cross B&B is a lovely place, and our room is very nice. We had dinner at The Exchange and have now settled in for the evening. 

Tomorrow, the plan is to go to Blenheim Palace, if we can manage the buses without too much difficulty.  Stay tuned...

Friday, October 2, 2015

Saying Goodbye...

Today was a restful day, in spite of packing everything up after two weeks. I will miss Marazion, the Mount, and the slow pace.  Like the tides, there is an ebb and flow to life here. People move from place to place, in and out of the village with a rhythm that is steady, and soothing. I am certain that things are probably a bit more hectic at the height of the summer season, but I imagine they are still not as frantic as in many resort areas around the world.

We enjoyed cooking, and eating, our last meals here and spent a lazy afternoon just chatting about many things. Tomorrow is for traveling and getting situated in a new place for a couple of days.

Our last day was another celebration of the remarkable weather we have enjoyed since coming to Marazion two weeks ago. I look out the window and see a soft pink sunset, leaving a blush on the castle that tops the Mount.

Time to do some last minute scheduling checks, and then bedtime.  Tomorrow we head to Banbury.

Stay tuned...

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Mousehole Bound

Our outing today was to Mousehole (pronounced MOWzl) - a picturesque fishing village between Penzance and Land’s End. It was sacked by the Spaniards in July 1595 when the entire village, apart from one house, was burnt to the ground.

The harbor is small, and sheltered, surrounded by cottages, shops, and restaurants.

As in many of the villages in the UK, there was a World War Memorial.

This one stood proudly at the edge of the harbor.

I am always moved when I see these, since they can be found in even the smallest villages. A reminder of how their way of  life was never the same after the wars.

Anne and I took a short hike down a public footpath, and were amazed by the flowers growing along the path. Nasturtiums in yellow, orange, and peach colors sprawled along an ancient wall.

Fuschias, tall as small trees, grew in abundance along the sloping side of the path.

We wandered the hilly streets, perused the shops, and even spotted an old sea pool carved into the rocks along the shore just outside of the harbor.

Sea pools were very popular in the UK in the 1930's, and can still be found in Bude, Polperro, Priest's Cove, Perranporth, Porthtowan, and Portreath.

Thirsty from the walking and the bright sunshine, we found our way to the Ship Inn, at the harbor, for a cold Guinness, and a bite of lunch.

Fish and chips filled our tummies, and revived, we made our way to the bus stop for the ride back to Penzance and then Marazion.

We walked over to the Mount when we got back from Mousehole, so Anne could buy some booze. What a lush! Ha ha, just kidding!  It was another excuse for a walk in this wonderful Cornish weather! Once home, I attended to some bill paying, we washed clothes, relaxed with our books, and had a light supper.  Now it's time for a shower and bed.

Tomorrow we start packing up, and saying goodbye to this very special place.  I am going to miss it!

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

It Takes a Village...and Pudding!

We celebrated Michaelmas by taking it easy today. Sleeping late was followed by a leisurely breakfast and a bit of puttering around the apartment. No buses to catch or trains to chase after today!

Along about 1:00 pm we decided to walk over to the Mount, as the causeway was completely uncovered.

 This week is Pudding Week at the Mount, and I've had my eye on some sticky toffee pudding since we got here!  Anne had the apple crumble with clotted cream (left) and she pronounced it delicious! My sticky toffee pud (right) was delightful!

We took the village tour which was extremely interesting. It was, happily, a short tour as the wind was blowing about 30 mph out of the northeast and it was getting a bit chilly. It was interesting to hear how the islanders live and work and about so much of their history. I was especially intrigued by the state barges that were over 150 years old and are still in use!  Time now to make some supper and relax some more! Tomorrow we go to visit the villages of Gerrans and Portscatho.

Stay tuned...

The Lost Gardens of Heligan

Yesterday was a long day, spent in enjoyable pursuits, which is why this post is delayed. A bus, a train, and a bus got us to the Lost Gardens of Heligan around 11:30 am.  There are several different areas to explore, so we took the map provided at the ticket office and planned our strategy. We decided to explore the restored woodlands and the lost valley. It was such a peaceful walk, with little surprises along the way - like the Giant's Head sculpture, and Tamworth pigs that root on fallen fruit and nuts.

Coming out of the woods we passed the poultry orchard where several varieties of duck, geese, and chickens happily roam free. We also passed cows, sheep, and emus grazing in other pastures, enjoying the fresh air and succulent grasses. All the meat and vegetables served in the tearoom are raised on the estates, and believe me, the freshness and taste is exceptional.

Some of the paths were fairly steep, so by the time we made it back to where the tearoom was located we were tired and hungry.  The lunch we had surpassed all expectations!  Roast sirloin of beef with potatoes boulangere, roasted parsnips and cauliflower, and fresh string beans. Everything grown on the farm at Heligan! Even my nephew, Chris, would approve! (wink, wink)

After lunch we explored the vegetable and flower gardens. Melons, beans, greens, root vegetables, onions, pears, apples, boysenberries, even pineapples thrive under the loving care of the Heligan gardeners. Beautiful walled gardens full of flowers, with fountains and seating areas, made it a joy to explore.

While touring the productive vegetable garden, Anne got flirty with the resident scarecrow. Shameless! But you just never know what she might do.

Afterwards, we returned to the tearoom for some delicious Cornish ice cream. Sitting outside in the courtyard, we enjoyed the sunshine and the multitude of finches, industriously cleaning up any stray crumbs. Having some time to spare, we looked around the gift shop and then returned to the tearoom for some more wine before starting the walk back to the bus stop.

A bus, a train, and a taxi got us home, and after a small bite to eat, we relaxed a bit before going to bed. Today, we are walking over to the Mount for a tour of the village and some sticky toffee pudding!  Stay tuned...

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Path Less Traveled

photo credit: BBC One
Dutifully, we arose at 2:45 am to see the lunar eclipse.  The sky was perfectly clear, the moon small, and high, but we were able to see it from the lounge window in the apartment.  I managed to be able to watch for about 45 minutes, and then had to return to bed. It was the first total lunar eclipse I ever witnessed and was grateful that we had such a good view of it. Needless to say our feeble attempts at photos failed, which I knew they would.

Waking up later than normal, we opted to skip breakfast, have some coffee, and then we noticed that the causeway to the Mount was open.  So we dressed, and made our way down to the beach and walked the causeway over to St Michael's Mount for lunch. After some delicious sandwiches and skinny chips, I decided to take another look around the gift shop, then we walked back down the causeway to the village.

Some quiet time spent reading, and digesting lunch, was followed
by a lovely walk up the east end of the village to where a footpath leads to the SW Coast Path.  It was pretty steep in spots, as is the walk to the east end of the village.  We followed the path until it came out onto a wild and rocky stretch of beach.  A ladder ascended the side of the cliff, but one had to traverse some large boulders to get there, and we weren't feeling quite that adventurous. The views were breathtaking, so we lingered a few minutes before hiking back up the path and returning to the main street.

A cold beverage was called for, after all the walking and the steep hills, so we stopped in at the Fire Engine Inn. It's pretty much a locals' pub with great atmosphere, a wonderful proprietor, and a fantastic view of Mounts Bay. We had a lovely pint of Guinness, and a nice chat with Trevor, the proprietor, who gave us a little of the history of the pub and the village.

I considered a second pint, since the first was so good, but we needed to head back to the apartment because it was getting to be supper time.

After a delicious supper we cleaned the kitchen, and got our showers, and now are relaxing a bit before bed.  Tomorrow is an early day as we are heading to the Lost Gardens of Heligan. It's going to be a wonderful excursion and I can't wait!

Stay tuned...

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Back Streets, Beaches, and the Full Blood Moon

Today was another easygoing day. After a leisurely breakfast, I attended to some banking, and scheduling, and Anne did some reading.  About noon we decided to go take a walk as it was another absolutely gorgeous day outside.

Our walk took us down a street we hadn't explored before and to our surprise, we happened on an old well that had been planted with flowers.  It had a bench nearby, and on the wall was a plaque indicating that it was originally a well that served the village.

We continued walking until we came to the SW Coast Path which follows the coast of Cornwall for 630 miles. The views, wildlife and heritage have inspired numerous artists and writers and it’s regularly used as the setting for films and TV shows.
Our walk took us to an old bridge, built in 1837, that fords the Red River where it empties into Mounts Bay.

We decided to walk down to the water's edge and do some beach-combing. Accustomed to the snow white sand of the Florida Gulf Coast, it was a real treat to walk along a beach made up of pebbles and stones. They ranged in size from a grain of rice to softball size and larger.  Oh, but the colors, and textures were just amazing!  I came away with quite a collection of pebbles, a couple of interesting shells and two pieces of sea glass!  Yay me!

Tonight is the Full Blood Moon, and we wanted to try to get some good photos of it coming up, so we found a spot at one of the boat landings and waited. It was cold and windy, but we persevered and the moon finally started peaking over the hill we were watching.  Anne got the best photos of the moon, since I didn't bring my telephoto lens with me on this trip.  But I got a couple of decent ones and some nice pictures of the sunset, so it was worth the time we took to do it.

The lunar eclipse is early in the morning, here in Europe, so we are going to set our alarm for about 2:45 am so we can watch it before it reaches totality. You lucky folks in North America get to watch it at a reasonable hour!  Don't be looking for photos, because we are not equipped to take anything that sophisticated! Tomorrow's another day so stay tuned!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Easy Peasy Day

gull on old wall near the harbor
Today was an easy kind of day. We woke up when we felt like it, ate a nice breakfast, which Anne prepared, and started our laundry.  After cleaning up the breakfast dishes, and hanging up the laundry to dry, we decided to take a little walk to get some fresh air.

We went along to one of the shops where I spotted a gift I thought my mother would like. (Sorry, Mama, you'll have to wait to see what it is!) After that, we wandered through the village a bit, enjoying the sunshine and fresh air.

tea garden

Upon returning from the walk we stopped in at the Seagrove Gallery Tea Garden, below our flat, and had a real Cornish cream tea.

The weather was perfect for sitting at the nice tables in the courtyard in front of the gallery. We had the whole place to ourselves!

The cream tea was wonderful!

Real clotted cream from Cornwall is like nothing you have ever tried before. Rich, light, fresh, wonderful!  Made from real Cornish cream from happy Cornish cows! Perfect with strawberry jam on scones!

We spent a few hours with logistics for another day trip, and then prepared a light supper. Cleaning up is done, and now it's time for a shower, and then some reading before bed. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

Stay tuned...

Eden - At Last!

This post is late by a day because I was too tired last night to do it. Here's what transpired yesterday: After a minor scheduling snafu with the bus, we arrived at the train station in Penzance - just as our train was pulling away.  I have to give Anne high marks for actually running down the platform trying to get it to stop! I'm willing to bet not many septuagenarians would attempt it. Luckily, we only had to wait about 25 minutes for the next train, and then we were on our way.

A short bus ride from St Austell station to Eden, ended with a LONG walk to the entrance to the project. As with everyone I've met since coming to England, the staff were smiling, friendly, and helpful. We hadn't had breakfast, so we decided to get a bite to eat before starting our trek through the biomes. The Link is a grass-roofed building that serves as entrance to both biomes, and the Eden Kitchen, so we ate there and then headed to the Rainforest Biome.

Eden site 1998: photo credit Eden Proj.
The Eden Project was the brainchild of Tim Smit, who successfully restored the Lost Gardens of Helligan. It started as an abandoned china clay pit, and was transformed into a stunning, ecological wonderland, including the largest "captive" rainforest in the world. It is an educational charity, and everywhere there are plaques and exhibits to educate, and inform visitors.

There are two biomes: the Rainforest Biome, and the Mediterranean Biome. In addition, there are outdoor gardens, a stage for seasonal events, the Core (home to exhibitions, art, school programs, and a play area for young ones), as well as the Link, and Visitors Centre.

We concentrated on the two biomes, as we knew we wouldn't have time to see it all in one day, and accommodate our travel back to Marazion. If you get there as soon as it opens, and don't leave until it closes, you could see the whole place and not have to rush. But you would need to drive there rather than take public transport.

The rainforest biome was incredible! The variety of plants was amazing, and it was hard to take it all in. There were many plants I was familiar with, and many I had never seen before.

When you remember that this was once a big dirty hole, the scope of the project becomes mind-boggling! There were waterfalls, dense foliage, and an array of lovely flowers. There are even some small birds that make their home in the biome.

With all the walking, it was nice that there were places to rest here, and there. And everywhere there was a green stillness, or a blaze of color popping through. Flowers in reds, whites, purples, blues, and yellows.

There are also small exhibits illustrating how crops can be grown sustainably to support both people and the environment.

After completing our tour of the Rainforest Biome, we stopped off in the Link for some Cornish ice cream. The reason Cornish ice cream is so good is because it is made from real Cornish cream.  And real Cornish cream comes from Cornish cows. Happy Cornish Cows! It is also why their cheese is so phenomenal!  Ice cream devoured, we proceeded on to the Mediterranean Biome. While, it is smaller, it is no less spectacular.

Herbs, and food plants abound, from the Mediterranean, South Africa, and California. Both wild, and cultivated plants are represented. If you get peckish, there is the Mediterranean Terrace, where they serve authentic food from that region.

Several very interesting sculptures, and tiled walls and walkways gave it a special atmosphere.

A very long walk back up to the car park to get to the bus station was followed by a long wait for the 4:15 pm bus back to St Austell station. The train ride back to Penzance takes about an hour and then there was another hour wait to catch the bus back to Marazion. That made it a very long day, but an absolutely wonderful one!  Once again we had perfect weather for a perfect day out!

Today, is laundry day, and a day of rest and relaxation. Later we will go downstairs for a cream tea in the tea garden at Seagrove Gallery. Tomorrow we will try a walk along the SW coast path to the small village of Perranuthnoe.

Stay tuned...