Monthly Archives: May 2013

Poor old Newport

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Filed under Mid-life travel, Travel, Wales

Ilfracombe – just because I could

Again I chose a place based on the fact it was on the way to where I was going and it was also a good distance to travel in one day on the train. I also planned to have a ‘do nothing’ stay at Ilfracombe because I hadn’t read anything about it, but as usually happens I found places to see and do. One of the more unusual things to see was the tunnels leading to the beach – although it will cost you £2.50 for the pleasure!

One of Tunnel Beaches, Ilfracombe

One of Tunnel Beaches, Ilfracombe

An entrepreneur had six tunnels hand carved in the 1820’s by Welsh miners to access natural rock pools on the seaward side of the cliffs. I think only one of the naturally formed pools is still properly intact and four of the tunnels still in use. At first they had segregated pools, men through the tunnel to the left and women through the one to the right; but somewhere along the line the rules were relaxed and mixed swimming was allowed. I was the only one there for quite a while and it was a bit spooky going through the tunnels and being down on the shingle beach with cliffs all around; especially after reading some of the accidents that had happened over the years. Yeah, I know, I let my imagination run away at times.

A Bath House that used to house, wait for it, salt water baths – of course, is nearby. I’m not sure if it’s open at all but it wasn’t when I was there. Some doctor way back when had the brilliant idea that bathing was good for the health and there’s a boiler still down near the beach that was used to heat and pump the sea water up to the baths. The baths were apparently in little cubicles under the house – all sounds rather primitive now, doesn’t it?

Back view of Verity, sculpture by Damien Hirst - Ilfracombe

Back view of Verity, sculpture by Damien Hirst – Ilfracombe

One of Englands well known and controversial artists, Damien Hirst, lives nearby and has donated a sculpture to the town to sit at the mouth of the harbour for 20 years. It’s called Verity and from what I heard it doesn’t sound like many locals are very impressed with it – see what you think!! I tried my hand at a sketch while I was at the harbour – mind you, my eyes really aren’t good enough to pick out the detail from the distance I was at, so I drew the left hand side.

I also had the good fortune to meet Ruth and her husband Steve, who are the owners of the Harbour Lights guesthouse. Ruth left a little pack of fudge in my room after my first night with a note wishing me a good time and when I left the following day she gave me a postcard of Ilfracombe with another lovely message wishing me safe and happy travels – a genuinely nice person.

So, I enjoyed my ‘do nothing’ break in Ilfracombe, next stop Newport – again because it’s on the way and a good distance to cover in one day.

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Exploring around Penzance

Next day I made a beeline for St Michaels Mount, which is just off the coast of Marazion. I’d read that ferry boats would take you over when the tide was in, but hadn’t looked into it any further. At what I assumed was the correct bus stop, I asked the bus driver where to go and he said just over the road and down to the beach. I and three others headed off but were just about knocked off our feet at the first corner with the smell; think it must have been seaweed, it really was rank.

Heading to St. Michaels Mount

Heading to St. Michaels Mount

Anyhow, the causeway was covered and we couldn’t t see any ferries near where we were so we all just stood there for about five minutes like stranded shags on a rock. Then we spotted a tiny boat heading over to the castle from a big rocky outcrop just down the way so I headed off down the beach and found that the water was halfway up the outcrop on the other side and that’s where the ferry was taking people from. They operate from three or four different spots depending on the weather. So £2 and five minutes later I was inside the harbour of St. Michaels Mount.

It amazes me (and I love), how free the English are with allowing access to some places that in Australia would be either cordoned off or have viewing platforms built around them. Inside the castle there are a couple of areas cordoned off and you can’t just wander anywhere but mostly it’s very open and there are bits and pieces on display all over the place and it feels very lived in and homely. There’s a cafe and restaurant down at the harbour so I found a place in the sun out of the wind and had a bite to eat, a red wine and an hour or so drawing to cap off a great visit. It felt really weird to walk out of the harbour where we’d come in on the boat a few hours earlier. The walls are quite high and all the ferries were lying on the sand, high and dry; the sand didn’t even really feel wet, you don’t sink at all, very strange! I walked back on the sand for a way then headed over to the causeway for the last part, because I didn’t want to not have walked on the causeway.

My last big outing was to Lands End, and I had another completely fabulous day. I caught the open top loop bus this time and who should I see when I got on but two of the people I’d met the day before in Marazion. Turns out they were from Western Australia and boy have they travelled, I find it fascinating hearing about other people’s travels and only wish I could remember all the places everyone tells me to put on my list.

The famous sign at Lands End

The famous sign at Lands End

I have no idea why, and it’s not my normal style, but I have been heading to Lands End since I arrived in England. I had no idea what was there and didn’t have any expectations, I just figured it was the most westerly point of England, so I’d go see it! I certainly wasn’t disappointed, although there really isn’t much there to see. I walked down to the “first and last” house in England, had a truly terrible coffee and scone at the restaurant, ambled across to the farm and craft centre where I talked with a couple of the artist for a while and walked further along the clifftop path – oh, and took another thousand photos.

I sat on the top deck of the bus, with a few other idiots for the rest of the loop, took more photos and just about froze to death by the time we reached St. Ives, after that I gave in and went downstairs from there back to Penzance.

Diane and Norman recommended a Thai restaurant just down the road for dinner, Thai Moon. I didn’t realize how hungry I was until I started eating, although I probably should say inhaling, my food; it was seriously good Thai though.

I haven’t been buying souvenirs as such, but I came across a little old art shop in Chapel St and bought a new travel brush today – and it’s small enough that I don’t have to ditch something to fit it in!

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A few days in Penzance

Had another good walk to my new place today, nice easy directions; just keep following the road around along the ocean until you get to the place called “The Corner House“. And to make it even better I passed the Harbour, a wet dock and a dry dock, the Jubilee Baths and the Dolphin Inn as well as a couple of other hotels with less interesting looks about them.

The Corner House, Penzance

The Corner House, Penzance

The Corner House is a lovely place, and the owners, Diane and Norman, are both wonderful. One day we were talking about the guesthouse and Diane was saying she tells everyone she used to be six foot tall before they bought it but she’s been worn down so far she’s barely five foot now – and then she just about wet herself laughing. I was in stitches laughing at her laughing at her own joke and Norman was just standing there looking at both of us as if we were demented. Maybe you had to be there, but it was funny. Anyhow, their place was immaculate, gorgeously furnished and just perfect.

Morrab Gardens, Penzance, England

Morrab Gardens, Penzance, England

They showed me a way to get to the town through Morrab Gardens that I ended up taking every day, it’s full of sub-tropical trees and plants, and felt a bit like our old Botanical Gardens in Brisbane. The town centre itself has a few streets with different types of shops, one has lots of really old places that are a bit different, the high street has all the normal shops and then Chapel St has the buildings and shops that are a bit special. Not a very good description is it but it’s hard to describe – it’s just one of those places that struck an immediate chord with me for some unknown reason and I loved my stay there.

I had originally booked three nights but after my first day there I extended it for another, and could have stayed longer if I had the time. With a name like Penzance, it would nearly have to be a good place, don’t you think?

St. Ives harbour

St. Ives harbour

I had a few places on my list for this part of Cornwall, and first stop was St. Ives because that’s where the first bus that came along was heading. It became a haunt for artists back in the 1920’s or 30’s and is still full of artists and galleries. I enjoyed a wander through the Tate St. Ives, they had two major exhibitions on, and the building is pretty amazing too. I bought my first souvenir there, a rubber with Tate written on it, a whole £1.50. The Tate also looks after the Barbara Hepworth museum in St. Ives; her work and studio were interesting but I was really taken with what I read of her life while I was there, sounds like she was one very interesting woman who lead an intriguing life.

If there was more white paint around you would think you were in Greece, very cute narrow little streets with buildings all on top of each other and the harbour was beautiful; golden sand and turquoise water. It was also one of the hottest days I’ve had while I’ve been here which made it even nicer. It was easy to spend all day wandering and looking. Not, however, so easy to not buy anything – but, I’m pleased to say I resisted all temptation!

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Filed under England, Mid-life travel, Travel