You know what the best thing about moving to a country like the UK is? Late night shopping at TESCO!
Omg, I cannot tell you how excited the two of us were when we discovered a large 24 hr TESCO outlet not a twenty minute drive from where we are. The idea that you can pop down there at any time of day or night and get to shop for all the brands and products I have come to love … it almost made me want to cry. I could buy chocolate chips and a whole roast chicken if I wanted to! WAGON WHEELS and JAMMY DODGERS!! The list goes on.
It so happened we needed to do some paperwork and print off some documents for my impending new job in Ireland. The place we are staying in right now is a small town with limited services, so we headed in to Truro which is apparently the main city centre for the county of Cornwall, as well as being Cornwall’s centre for administration, leisure and retail. All the big brand stores are here : TESCO, Marks & Spencer, Staples, Icelands … etc. Right across from Staples was this 24 hr TESCO I was mentioning earlier and I almost died. Five years in the Netherlands has done a number on me … and I seriously needed a trip to this hypermart to readjust my inner supermarket freak. Under normal circumstances I am all for supporting small local businesses, but this was not normal circumstances. I had to get in there. Ten-thirty at night, having driven thru thick fog and dark, unlit country roads, I was as happy as Larry. We were like kids in a candystore just ogling silly things like Cadbury’s hot chocolate mix, Bisto gravy granules and Ribenna blackcurrant cordial. Things like thin-cut English ham and English back bacon got us all excited because these were the very things we never got to see for the past five years … and here in the UK they are everywhere.
Truro city itself is quite charming. The minute you enter the town you are greeted with a most spectacular skyline dominated by the steeples of Truro Cathedral. Such an imposing structure, we could not help but pay it a visit the minute we parked the car. Once inside we were further delighted to find the children’s choir having their rehersal before Evensong service that very evening. Beautiful cathedral hymns they sang and it made us stay for service just so we could appreciate their voices just a bit longer. Wow, I attended a church service … my mother would be proud.
Truro has become our go-to place now for all our needs, mainly to do a bit of grocery shopping and for me to check out home furnishing stuff at Sainsbury’s. On other days when the weather is good we are out exploring other towns and dropping in on the various beaches … oh and we have seen some spectacular beaches indeed! Our favourite by far is Perranporth beach simply because it is so close to where we are putting up, for it’s close proximity to the rest of town and of course, for it’s dog friendly beach.
Some of the more spectacular coastlines we have seen have been down in Penzance and along the Heritage Coast on the way to St. Ives. Very dramatic cliffs and on a clear day you can see out as far as your eye can see across the Celtic sea, which in effect really is the North Atlantic ocean. Travel in a straight line to the west and the next thing you’ll bump into is Canada. On some days, if I am at the right headland I can look out over the horizon and just about see the curvature of the Earth way out in the distance. A very humbling moment every single time.
On cooler days this part of the UK gets buried in fog, especially if it has been exceptionally wet. Everything gets dark and moody … perfect weather to go out and see a different version of Cornwall. In my time in the Netherlands I have learnt that a little rain and bad weather never hurt anyone … so these days, so long as I have weather proof shoes, I tend to entertain the idea of going out. Just.
The advantage of wild woolly weather is that it makes all the photos that much more interesting to look at. Mother Nature has turned up in a whole new other outfit and she is looking smashing.
Visiting the Minack Open Air Theatre was a real treat. I had read about it a little and seen snippets of it on the BBC programme COAST. Looked amazing on screen but I was not overly convinced it would live up to its on-screen persona. I am of the belief that many things look better on TV than they really do in real life. A prime example would be Stonehenge ~ we felt really cheated with that visit, I tell you what. You always see amazing pictures of Stonehenge, be it on TV or in glossy travel magazines whose headlines constantly shout at you saying, “Top 10 Most Unique Ancient Places To See Before You Die“. “Hurry hurry hurry! Everyone’s seen it except YOU!” Stonehenge is always featured looking mystical and enormous, standing all on its own in the middle of a vast open field … proud, majestic, unblemished by modern society. Cameras zoom in, managing crazy angles of the monoliths before panning out, sweeping the landscape for dramatic effect … usually accompanied by suitably emotive music. BEHOLD! THIS IS STONEHENGE! (Don’t believe me? Google it.)
So you buy into the hype, you get all excited and then when you get there … *crash*.
That’s the sound of your romantic vision crumbling under a cascade of disappointment. Coz what you don’t see in the pictures is what lies on the other side of the lens, on the south side of the monument. A tall wire fence encircles the entire site (gahstly!) ensuring no one gets in unless you fork over the £14 entry fee at the only entrance into this place. If you want an audio guide that will cost you extra. Just a little further afield is the very busy highway you drove in on to get to Stonehenge, the A303 … you can actually see all of Stonehenge from this road, ugly fence and all. After emerging from this touristic monument a good £30 poorer, we vowed never again to take pictures of historical sites in England at face value.
Now, back to the Minack Theatre. We were not intending on visiting this place at all but we happened to be in the vicinity just cruising around Penzance, heading in the direction of Lands End. Be aware that the roads around here are narrow and kinda steep so if you drive a long, bulky type vehicle or caravan, you may run into issues.
The Minack Theatre is the work of sheer genius and one lady … Rowena Cade. She is responsible for this magnificent structure and today everybody gets to enjoy outdoor plays here in the summer months whilst also enjoying the amazing backdrop of the sea. Entry fees are far more reasonable than Stonehenge, at £4.50 per adult. And if you visit the Minack Theatre again in the next 6-months it’s free. Parking is free.
We also visited Launceston and Exeter on a day trip, looking at great churches and cathedrals. Old town Launceston was incredibly charming with its cobbled streets and old Victorian style shops. The Launceston Steam Railway is located in this town and we would have loved to go but it only operates on certain days. When we pulled up at the gates the gates were shut. Bummer.
We drove around a bit and not far from the steam railway we chanced upon a pet supply store. I remembered that we needed to pick up a bottle of shampoo for the dog and so we dropped in. The minute I stepped in I sensed there was a kerfuffle going on and there was the unmistakable smell of something burning. The two store clerks were buzzing about trying to locate the area where the smell was coming from, and switching off all their electric appliances. Didn’t seem to be anything serious so I just kept on browsing the shelves.
Not five minutes later all the lights went out and the back room began filling up with smoke coming from the ceiling! The smell of burning material was more intense now, yet I stood there in the dark holding onto the bottle of dog shampoo quite unsure what to do. Obviously the cash register is no longer in operation, so in the end the shop assistant just wrote down a bill manually on a piece of paper in the dark, I paid and scooted out of there. Moments later, once we were back in the town centre, we heard no less than four fire trucks whizz by down the road towards the store. True story!
For lunch we drove on into Exeter, capitol city of county Devon. It’s big and busy with one big bonus … Exeter Cathedral.
R. and I really like old churches and make it a point to visit any on our trips around Europe, but we had to give this one a miss because the people who run the church seem to think it is okay to ask for £6 just for people to come in for a visit. Make no mistake, that’s £6 per person. I was appalled, so we turned around and went off to admire the other fantastic buildings in the square instead.
Exeter still exudes old world charm and still keeps many of its historic buildings in good shape. Many shops along the high street still look impressive with their exposed beams and lead lined glass windows. It trully is an ancient city with such a rich heritage and a lengthy history behind its origins. When the Romans arrived in England they made this city one of their outposts, and fortified it accordingly (circa 55 AD).
After a fair amount of walking and taking pictures we took a short break at a quaint little tea house and indulged ourselves with a spot of cream tea, Devonshire style. It was brilliant; we had a scone each and came away from that experience feeling well and truly satisfied.
On the nice dry days we made it a point to get out and see things of interest in the area, and on wetter days we tended to either stay mostly indoors or drive around in the car just appreciating the scenery. As we got closer to the end of our time here in Cornwall we also wound down our driving distances and stuck closer to home, doing mundane things and taking walks across fields. The spring flowers are simply adorable and for a moment there I became this crazed woman stopping every five steps to take a photo of them. I must have a folder with nothing but flower pictures in it.
I know I have been raving about the beach in Perranporth but if you have the time and the inclination, just 6 miles away is Hollywell beach and it is fabulous. A little wilder and less built up, Hollyhead is where you wanna be for a nice picnic out with the family and the dogs. If you are an avid rider then there is plenty of space here for you to take your horse out onto the dunes and on the beach. If you are a fan of taking coastal hikes then it is possible to hike from Perranporth to Hollywell Bay ~ takes about 1 hr 30 mins. A nice guide for this walk can be found here.
At Hollywell, a gentle stream runs right through the beach and trickles out into the ocean. It is not deep and it’s a safe place to play with the kids, away from more forceful waves. There is lots of sand for sandcastles and for your doggies to roll around in or to simply bury your feet.
Joe, our holiday host, was right … Hollywell beach is pretty special and we are just glad he told us about it coz there is no real sign or anything alerting people to its existance. You just drive and then you just see a sign with an arrow saying ‘Beach. This way“. We parked at a pub parking lot and its £3 for the whole day. If you are actually eating at the pub then it’s free.
So this is it from Cornwall. In a couple of days we will be heading off on yet another 15-hour roadtrip through Wales and eventually we will wind up at our final destination ~ Ireland. No more sight-seeing for us until then; I will be busy getting our washing done, packing up the holiday house, cleaning (mainly vacuuming up all the dog’s fur coz it is moulting season) and reloading the car. Stay tuned for Part III plus my special segment solely dedicated to the food we have been fortunate enough to experience during our time here in Cornwall.
… to be continued.