Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The First and Last

Just like my dear friend Charles Dickens, I seem to have little control over the brevity of my musings, so I'll just have to go with the proverbial "flow." I've finished my fourth leisure book since being in Bristol. That book happens to be the classic A Christmas Carol, and it was fantastic. It's really put me in the Christmas spirit which, I believe, is in holding with the American way; For, we all know that Christmas in America starts immediately after Thanksgiving!

But this post is not meant to be about my books, nor is it meant to be about Thanksgiving or Christmas. This post is about Cornwall! Penzance! St. Ives! and Land's End!

The First and Last

It was not a particularly great awakening that cold Saturday morning on the 17th of November; I was still stinging with the burglary of my beautiful, innocent, albeit powerful little laptop. "But!" I avowed, "I will do my best to put that tragedy aside and fully enjoy the journey that lay before me." That task may have been the most difficult part of the trip, which is, arguably, a good thing.

I hadn't packed the night before, and I was far more unprepared than just an empty bag. Let me try and paint you a picture! I had left some of my clothes in the dryer upstairs, in fact, it contained most of the clothes I needed for the trip. Not only that, I had left my only jacket on another floor due to the previous nights festivities. And with only an hour between my awakening and my buses arrival, I began to run.

It wasn't hard to collect my things, however my coat wasn't to be found anywhere. This was deeply disappointing, but I could sustain the loss if need be. Or so I thought! Turns out, the night prior, I had put my wallet in my jacket as a place for safe keeping thinking, "my jacket is big and noticeable! I won't forget it on my way downstairs!" How regretfully wrong I was. Not having that jacket meant that I didn't have a wallet; not having a wallet meant I didn't have a trip to Penzance!

The consequence of this was that other people began to wake up by my pounding on their door. After some speedy detective work I finally found my jacket. A friend had taken it into safe keeping, forgetting that I was leaving early the next morning. Ok! Jacket ready, bag packed, and I did it all in good time. I was out the door and was at the bus stop on time to meet my traveling buddy Anna and our transportation with a excited silly grin.

Collecting out tickets and getting on our train was business as usual. Before too long we were steaming away from Bristol, due south for Cornwall!

I cannot possibly describe the breathtaking beauty of the Cornish countryside. It is surprising how diverse the landscapes of England are, but Cornwall has taken my favour. We traveled through farmers fields laden with hoards of sheep and cattle. We passed an enormous statue of a man that stood alone in his field, posed in mid stride, as if he were chasing the setting sun. We wove through the valleys of gently sloping hills; hills that are best described like Bilbo's burrow in the hobbit. We past acres of leafless forests and we bridged over many a babbling brook. The colour! The colour was phenomenal! Hues from autumns pallet were splashed upon the countryside producing an awe inspiring picture. No matter what is written here, my attempts are in vain. There is but one thing to do! If ever you have the chance, travel to the lands of Cornwall and see it for yourself!

As for the train journey itself, there isn't much to say. It was long to be sure; four hours long. There was also a bus journey as well that took us from one train station to another. But we made our way to Penzance in due time. Upon our arrival, we were met with a quite unexpected surprise.

Ah! most people making their first steps outside the train depot would marvel at the beauty of the ocean, marvel at St. Michaels Mount rising out of the ocean and the castle that lay upon it, or notice the picturesqueness of the quaint seaside town itself. Our first steps outside the train station were met by a torrent of sea air that nearly pushed us back inside! Not to be discouraged, with a resounding nod we decided the gale gave this clean cut town a rugged windswept look. Indeed, the ocean heaved and tossed as it fought with the wind, and St. Michaels Mount seemed to be a tired traveler, heavily laden by the turmoil of the surrounding sea.

We couldn't check into our Hostel until 5 and we arrived about 3:30. It was a long, cold, hour and a half wait. In fairness though, we explored a lot of Penzance in that time. Saw some tall ships, watched a bit of a football match and some of a field hockey match. Found some nice places to eat, a cinema, a coffee shop...

We finally checked into our Hostel and I paid the man. Anna had bought the train tickets the last two times, so I figured it was only fair. I have to say that night was a little uneventful. The problem with traveling right now is that the darkness falls at around five, and getting earlier all the time. By the time we were checked in an settled, it was dark. So exploration ceased and dinner became the priority.

We went to this nice little pub called the Alexandria. We had hearty meals and I had some Cornish Ale. It was pretty bitter and I wasn't terribly impressed. She and I talked for hours and hours that night, making plans, talking of home, really anything and everything. We retired that night early, we would need our energy for the following day.

Our first point of interest that Sunday was Lands End. Lands End is the furthest point west in England, the first and last point as some call it. We went down to the bus station early that morning and checked out the bus times. Sure enough there was a bus that would take us relatively straight there. There was a coffee shop next to that bus station that I'll speak of later, But I'll mention now that it was my favourite part of Penzance.

It was fun traveling by bus instead of a coach or taxi. We went on a back-roads route through these amazing little villages. There were neolithic stones sticking out of fields at peculiar angles and buildings that seemed as old as the land on which it lay. I loved approaching a new town because the first thing you would always see was the church steeple. Anna and I would take guesses at which steeple we were heading towards as we weaved our way through those back country roads.

Surprisingly, it wasn't Lands End that took my breath away. Our bus made its way down a precipitous road and we came upon Sennen Cove. This little village seemed to have one foot on land and one foot in the sea. It's homes had their backs to a cliff with faces pointed defiantly towards the sea. It was a gorgeous.

As our bus made its final screeching halt, my spirits slumped a little. We all have preconceived notions of how things are going to be before we experience them, but no body incorporates into their preconception an enormous white whale of a tourist facility perched upon the very picturesque cliff you hoped to marvel at in it's raw state. Nevertheless, that elephant was there and we made due.

After walking around the complex, which was pretty much a ghost town as it was no longer tourist season and it was Sunday, we decided to walk away from it. We made out way down a path and walked for about a mile until the facility was out of site. It was then that Lands End revealed its beauty to us and we sat down upon it's cliffs in awe. Again, Lands End has a much different beauty then the countryside or the seaside town. It's just rocks. Don't get me wrong, I don't mean to be condescending or undermine it's beauty, but Lands end is a high cliff rising out of the sea and you can see the effects of the sea on its face. It made me think back to my Geology professor and I wished that he was there with me. I wanted to know what rocks I was looking at and the know more of the relationship of weathering and time to this now famous cliff.

I watched it roll in. I knew what it was; I'd seen it a hundred times before. It was a dark wall, a haze of deep blue that stretched from the oceans top and the clouds underside. It blurred the distinction from land and sky, it hid the vanishing point of the ocean, and it continued to roll towards us. "That's the rain coming at us Anna." I smiled just then, how I've missed the ocean and the storms it passes off to land. Soon we were drenched and I was happy, then we were on a bus back to Penzance.

I suppose I'll mention the cafe now. I know I've already written more than many would care to read, but if for no one else, I'll continue for my own memories sake.

We arrived back in Penzance around one or two I would guess. I had a few things to do: One, I had to buy some gloves because my hands were freezing. Two, we were in Cornwall! We had to get an authentic Cornish Pasty. And three, I wanted to do a little shopping for people, especially Dan, who first showed me The Pirates of Penzance.

I got my gloves, and some trinkets, and we found an amazing pasty shop. All was going according to plan, but I added a twist to our agenda. I decided that we needed to go back to the Cafe by the bus station to reap the benefits of our Pasty find, to do a little post-carding, and for me to get some coffee. That coffee shop fit me like the last piece to a puzzle.

The Blue Bay Cafe.

If I had a ship and I was sailing the world, I would stop in Penzance and go to this coffee shop. Was the coffee the best I've ever had? No. The blueberry muffin perhaps? Not even close. What then? It was the location.

Either staring out large open windows, or sitting outside, the view was spectacular. Next to this coffee shop was a marina full of sailing boats, not power boats. Next to this coffee shop was the train station and the bus station; easy access to all of Cornwall. Next to this coffee shop was St. Michaels Mount towering over the bay with it's aged watchful eye. Next to this coffee shop was the ocean; the love of my life and apple of my eye.

If I had my ship, I would sail around under the shadow of St. Michaels Mount, I would moor in the marine, I would walk in the morning from my ship to the coffee shop and appreciate the beautiful world that surrounded me, or watch the beautiful people that inhabit it. While I was there, I could did the latter bit, but it would be nice to have been able to sail around that gorgeous bay. I believe that Cafe resonated with me because of it's location, and it's quaintness, it's serenity. Even as I write this I long to be back there now.

Well, the day was waning and our travels were incomplete! So we jogged across the street and hopped on the first bus to St. Ives. I was not prepared for the beauty of St. Ives.

We arrived with perhaps an hour and a half before the sun set. It was one of the best 90 minutes of my life. The harbour in St. Ives was full of wonderful little wooden boats, all beached due to the ebbing tide. The beaches, while incredible, seemed almost out of place! It was almost as if God had taken a scoop from the white sandy beaches of some tropical island and given it as a gift to St. Ives. We walked along leaving our footprints to be washed away with the eventual flood tide.

Our time in St. Ives was far too short. We could have eaten there I suppose, but neither of us were hungry due to the immense Cornish pasties we had in Penzance. So it was, looking over our shoulders all the way out, that we said goodbye to St. Ives. Some day I will return to that place.

The rest of our night was limited. The bus trip back was a lot longer but we got to go through Marazion, which is the town closest to St. Michaels Mount. By the time we were back in Penzance though, it was completely dark and most of the shops were closed. So we decided to see a film! The only thing I can say about that is do not go see Beowulf, it was truly awful.

After the film we got some dinner at a nice restaurant and then retired back to our hostel. It was probably 11 before we returned and we were completely worn out. Sleep came easy, getting up was harder.

The trip back on Monday was different, and those differences should be noted. But without going into great depth, for my fingers are wary, for our return trip we came back along the coast. We literally traveled between these vivid red cliffs and the resounding blue of the ocean along Cornwall's coast before eventually turning North again for Bristol. I should also mention that we missed out first train through no fault of our own! The prompters were down at the station and we waited at the wrong platform. Whoops! However, they were generous enough to give us a trip back free of any additional charge, and we made it home almost at the same time as was originally planned!

Another adventure complete! Cornwall has been experienced, perhaps not as throughly as it could have been but I dare say we did a good job of it!


1 comment:

tvhoward said...

You being in an awesome but cold place and watching bad movies, and it coming up on that season of the year.......

I'd just like to say that I'm still sorry we saw Black Christmas.