Penzance, part 1

September 20, 2014

We headed off to Penzance after lunch. Caroline told us that taking the Tube to Paddington Station would be faster than taking the bus, so we decided to do that. From Old Street station we took the Northern Line to Kings Cross, then the Circle Line to Paddington. Because of the lightning-quick connections we had made we arrived at Paddington about 40 minutes early, so we sat on the benches outside to wait for them to tell us what platform to go to.

Eventually they settled on platform 4, where we settled into our seats on the train. At first the train sped along, only stopping at the occasional station. But after it passed Exeter it turned into a local train, stopping at all kinds of stations. The whole trip from Paddington to Penzance took five and a half hours, and we finally got to Penzance as the light was fading. The hostel had provided good instructions on how to find the place, so after about 25 minutes of walking to the outskirts of the town we were signed in and ordering our dinner. It was a very good dinner too.

Penzance youth hostel

Penzance youth hostel

Later in the evening we were sitting in the lounge and we met a couple of men in cycling gear. It turned out they were twin brothers. We had arrived just five minutes before them, and as a result we were given the small double room and they were given the tiny double room with not even enough room for two people to stand in it at the same time! We had a good laugh about that but one of the twins decided to complain and thus got a free breakfast. When we asked where they had cycled from they answered “John O’Groats”. That meant they were only a short ride from Land’s End, which would be the end of their long trip. We finally got to bed at about 11 pm.

September 21, 2014

Our plan for our days here was to walk parts of the South West Coast Path by taking a bus to a point on the trail, walking a section of the trail, and then catching a bus back to Penzance. The plan for today was to take the bus to St. Ives and then walk the coast path westwards, hoping to get to Zennor at least. This of course required us to deal with the intricacies of the local bus schedules. Today was Sunday, which didn’t help, and when we checked the schedule we found that the next bus for St. Ives would leave the bus station before we could get there.

The one-hour delay worked out well for us, because it gave us time to get our packs organized and walk to the bus station without rushing. But when we got to the bus station we found that there was a bus which we had overlooked when checking the schedule. Not only did it leave 10 minutes earlier, it got to St. Ives 15 minutes faster as well! So on we hopped. The bus left promptly and since it was a double-decker, we sat upstairs to get a good view of the countryside. We wondered why the windows were so dirty, but we soon found out when tree branches started scraping against the top of the bus.

St. Ives view

St. Ives view

By the time we arrived at St. Ives it was already 11:30 am. And since it was Sunday the streets were full of tourists. Before leaving the village we stopped at one of the many pasty shops and bought two Cornish pasties for lunch. After that it took us another 45 minutes to get to the start of today’s section of the path, but finally we were on the trail!

The weather was good for walking, a bit overcast, no wind, and a good temperature. At first the people we met were local dog-walkers, but farther along there were groups of coastal path walkers. We had the sea on one side and the land on the other, and our trail was in good shape for the most part, with some wide and flat sections and other sections where you had to watch your footing. At about 1 pm we stopped for lunch by a ring of stones—a modern ring, not a Neolithic ring. It turned out that the pasties we had bought were so huge that we could barely eat 1/3 of them!

Modern stone circle

Modern stone circle

The morning haze slowly cleared up and it became warmer. Our path was a bit rocky, and being a coastal path it naturally went up and down a bit, but we had to climb over a few more rocks than we had expected. The scenery was lovely and we had a good time. We finally reached the path to Zennor, where the bus schedule became important again. Since it was Sunday, only the number 300 bus was running on the coast road. And it only ran once every three hours. As it turned out we arrived there at 3:30 pm and the bus was scheduled for 4 pm, so walking farther past Zennor would have been a bad idea.

Coast near Zennor

Coast near Zennor

The bus did arrive on time, and it was the special open-top double-decker which showed up. Sitting up top was quite an experience. It was very windy, but luckily for us there were no trees to crash against the top of the bus as we tootled back to St. Ives. As the bus neared the terminal we marvelled at how the driver could maneuver the tall bus through the narrow streets.

Our connecting bus to Penzance wasn’t scheduled to leave for 40 minutes, so we walked down to the sea-front where we stopped at one of the many ice-cream shops and bought ice-cream cones as a treat. Rosemary’s “Cornwall Vanilla” was okay but not great, and Paul’s “Banoffee” was quite good.

Alley in St. Ives

Alley in St. Ives

Back in Penzance we stopped at the Tesco Express to buy some groceries before returning to the hostel. Our dinner was the rest of the pasties along with some tomatoes, but we still couldn’t finish the pasties! So we put them into the fridge for a future dinner.

Next: Penzance, part 2

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