July 4, 2007

This morning we had to eat in stages because Jean’s kitchen was so small, and also she only had four bowls and so on. After everyone had eaten, we took some group photos and then said goodbye to Jean and headed on our way. We had another packed program today, and first on the agenda was St. Michael’s Mount. We drove around Falmouth and through small roads to Marazion, where we found the car park at the end of the town.

When the tide is high, as it was this morning, there are boats that take you to the island. We boarded one of those, and the six of us squeezed under the spray shield at the front. Another group of six boarded after us. It was very windy, so while the pilot was collecting fares (₤1.50 each), a wave broke over the bow and soaked two of the girls. We stayed dry except for a few drips from leaks in the canopy.

On the island we had to wait a few minutes, as it was not quite opening time yet. When it did, we first stopped to watch the short video about the castle’s history. Then we got out our trusty Heritage Canada cards, which get us free entry into National Trust sites, and started the climb up to the castle. Unfortunately today the gardens were closed, so we only got to tour the house.

The castle is on the top of the island with a thick wall all around it. Originally it was a fortress, then fortunes of war in the Civil War led to its becoming a private residence. There were rooms displaying the various periods, right up to the present. All of them were beautifully decorated. One room in particular was a gorgeous shade of blue which the attendant told us was called Wedgwood. It had white trim, which made it very striking.

Back down at the bottom of the hill, we decided to have tea and wait until the tide went down so we could walk back to the mainland. This caused a minor disruption to our schedule, but the consensus of the group was to wait and walk over the causeway rather than to visit the Minack Theatre. (And as we later found out, there was a matinee performance at the Minack so we probably wouldn’t have been allowed in anyway.) Before long the Royal Mail van appeared on the island and we walked dry-shod back to Marazion.

Once back at the car we headed to Land’s End. The weather was luckily still cooperating, so we didn’t get wet. Land’s End now has an amusement park, with giant coaches from all over Europe in the car park. We paid our ₤3 to park there, but walked around the amusement park down to the coastal path. We had just got to the point when the clouds opened and rain dumped down. Caroline and Jason had already gone back to their car because she was suffering from a bad cold, but Paul, Matthew, and Rosemary ducked into the little RSPB building to view the shags and other seabirds.

The others were waiting, so we headed back to the car, not bothering with Doctor Who and the other exhibits in the shopping area. Our next destination was St. Ives, not far up the north coast of Cornwall. It’s a very busy town, so instead of trying to park there we drove to a park and ride at Lelant Saltings and caught the train into the town. We just missed one train, so we sat at the station and had lunch. Jean had very nicely packed us sandwiches, Kit Kat bars, and a banana each so we were very well provided for. The sandwiches were Coronation Chicken, with a mild curry flavour, and were very tasty.

The train ride was only ten minutes long, but it was nice way to travel. St. Ives is a lovely little seaside town with narrow winding streets with lots of shops. We wandered around for a bit, looking in shop windows and dodging the cars that had failed to park outside the town. The western part of the beach was windswept, so we turned back to the more sheltered side. Here we decided to have an ice cream. Matthew and Rosemary wanted to try Cornish ice cream, so they both tried the clotted cream vanilla flavour. It was very smooth and creamy but did not have a particularly strong vanilla taste. Caroline and Jason found a coffee shop, so we all went in to have something to drink.

It was now after 5 pm, so we took the train back to the car and headed back to Exeter. We stopped in Bodmin to have dinner. Chris had planned for us to eat at the Hole in the Wall pub, but for some obscure reason it was not serving food just then. But they pointed us up the hill to the Westberry Hotel restaurant. It turned out to be more elegant than the pub, but they didn’t seem to mind us turning up. Everyone decided to have a starter rather than a main course, as we weren’t all that hungry. Caroline decided not to have whitebait when she found out what they were—little fish as big as your thumb that were spiced and deep-fried complete with heads and tails—and opted for Peking duck with pancakes instead. Paul had the whitebait. The service was rather slow compared to a pub, but we still managed to get back to Exeter around 10 pm. Ruth was waiting for us, so we had tea before going to bed.

Also before going to bed we checked our e-mail and found a message from Paul’s Swiss cousin Henry, so we will call him when we arrive in London and arrange a get-together.

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