Surfing is big in Cornwall.
Now I decided that I would not learn to surf on this holiday as I wanted to dedicate the time to doing other active pursuits – for example eating.
Had I decided to try surfing though, I would have taken care to observe carefully (as I have done from the shore) the habits of the true surfing community.
Some young men (and not so young) appear to have made a few errors by not making such careful observation. It is clear that a muscular physique is needed but the carefree attitude to displaying it in your underwear is not necessary. It is also not crucial that you remove your wetsuit on the exposed side of the camper van so everyone can see your tanned godliness. Play fighting with your male buddies whenever a female comes into view does not give you perfect balance on a surf board either.
However it is advantageous to have long, tightly curled hair (blond or jet black) – and a beard can be useful too.
When in the water you should lie on your board for an inordinate amount of time ‘waiting for a good swell’. If you jump too soon and the swell breaks too early you risk looking like an amateur in front of the more experienced surfers (and the women) who will undoubtedly take the very next swell and surf all the way to shore. If you need guidance look for well tanned, muscular men with tightly curled long hair. They are sure to know the right swell to jump on.
In every seaside town in Cornwall there are wetsuits, surf boards and other surf-related items for sale. It does seem to be a pretty inexpensive activity too, £20 will buy a half-decent wet-suit and a board (play sized) can be obtained for less than a tenner.
The beach is free as long as you do not intend to pass close to any wooden direction signs on the way.
Anyway I am rambling.
Yesterday’s activities took us into Penzance first of all. We were on the lookout for pirates, smugglers and some inexpensive gifts to take back home. Thoughtful but really cheap was the aim.
Why are pirates from Penzance? They just AAARHHH!
Now Penzance is a decent sized seaside town with all the usual features of seaside towns such as Bournemouth. Enough said? Yep – we gave it an hour and headed for Bodmin.
Although our destination was not really Bodmin. We were heading for a lovely little fishing port on the North side of the peninsula called Port Isaac. Bodmin was the place Sybil decided we should spend half an hour in looking for the exit.
Sybil has been made largely redundant now that I have grown some confidence in my wife’s navigation ability. I say some confidence; I am not a complete fool.
The final straw came when she took us down a way and I chose to ignore her advice. Upset at my damn cheek she gave me a sharp toned ‘please make a U turn at the next opportunity’ warning while I drove on. She then repeated the warning after a minute, then after 30 seconds, and then almost repeatedly. Each time her flipping, posh, Mrs-almighty-know-it-all, condescending voice became increasingly irritating to the point that I snapped.
‘Turn that bloody thing off. You’re in charge from now on!’
Things improved a good deal from that point on. My wife is now chief navigator.
After getting out of Bodmin we found Trelawney’s Garden Centre Restaurant and decided that the connection to Harry Potter’s divination teacher could not be missed. Of course there was no connection whatsoever, unless my prediction that we would have a good lunch here counts.
We waited an age to get served our Sunday lunch but it was full on gut-busting stuff when we got it.
We had roast beef and as many vegetables, potatoes and Yorkshire puddings as we could fit on our plates – and a cream scone for the sweet department. With tea it was around £25. We left with plenty energy stored.
Port Isaac was on my list because it is the idyllic Portwenn from Doc Martin, the TV series. I love Doc Martin from the bottom of my heart. If you have followed previous blogs you will know I cannot resist romatic comedy and the relationship ups and downs of Martin Elliot and the utterly enchanting Louisa Glasson are pure gold in my sappy, mushy brain. And Portwenn is the third star of the show.
It’s also a twisty, turny and hilly little village.
So we parked Daisy at the top of the village and walked down into the harbour area where most of the action takes place. We took a series of pictures to match the ‘map’ we bought for £1.50 from an enterprising shop keeper (amazing what an A4 sheet of paper, a nice drawing and a inkjet printer can produce when there’s tourist about).
We walked up and down the street listening to the mocking laughter of teenage girls just like the Doc and we stepped into Mrs Tishell’s pharmacy to buy … eh … some fudge.
Well of course it’s not real is it!
Port Isaac is a lovely place even without the Doc Martin connection. In the cove we explored caves, watched children fishing for crabs and enjoyed the salty sea air filling our lungs. It WAS idyllic. I could have stayed my two weeks here.
But that would not give me enough material for this blog would it?
So we pushed on to our campsite near Bude to get some rest for our final day in Cornwall.
This morning we got up and grabbed some flakes. We had a busy day ahead with two more locations we had decided to visit.
If you are aware of Daphne Du Maurier you will know she is famous for books set in Cornwall. She wrote The Birds which Hitchcock made into a film, and My Cousin Rachel which was recently made into a film with Rachel Weiss.
She also wrote a tale of smugglers called Jamaica Inn based at a famous Bodmin stopover. This book was also made into a film (at least twice). My wife loves these sort of of stories – female meets man she hates at first, then sees his gentler side, she changes him and they love in love. Yeah, yeah. Mush. Doc Martin it ain’t.
But I am a patient fellow and not insensitive to the need of a woman to think a man can be better than he really is. So I go along with it.
Well I am glad I did really. The museum of smuggling was quite interesting for a start (and only £2.95 with our magazine discount voucher) and the inn is a very pleasant olde worlde set up. But, more importantly, the lunch was humongous!
Now I set out to eat sensibly today as I was feeling a bit flat with all the rich food. If I die on this holiday the pathologist will discover clotted cream bubbling out of me when he splits me open. But when I saw the food I had to go for it.
Again we had the ‘eat all the veg you want’ offer – and did. It was reasonably priced too, hot and tasty. Proper pub grub.
Sadly this mean’t that we were destroyed for the rest of the day, and that was a regret for what came next.
We drove our Daisy to Wadebridge, a town on the Camel River, and an entry point for the lengthy Camel Trail cycle path. Wadebridge is very cycle friendly and very car unfriendly. It has sleeping policemen every hundred metres (Daisy goes ‘bounce’ every hundred metres, Porta-potty goes ‘sloosh’ every humdred and one metres – ‘porta potty no like sleepy police people’)
The Camel Trail is a cycle path (disused railway again) that runs from Bodmin to Padstow on the coast, via Wadebridge. We wanted to visit Padstow but felt that 6 miles out and 6 miles back would be enough for the day – hence our starting point at Wadebridge.
The cycle was not uneventful (but some stories I will leave for my wife to tell herself). On arrival in Padstow we remembered that this was Rick Stein country. He has a restaurant on every street corner. In fact the place is a seafood, ice cream, and cake paradise!
Still burping from the feast at Jamaica inn I ordered a single haddock in Rick’s special batter just so I could say on this blog that I had eaten in his restaurant (well chip shop). That’s dedication for you.
But that was me definitely full. I was oozing food from every pore.
Padstow wouldn’t let up though. The smell of cooking fudge followed us down one street, then it was seafood stalls on the front, then tea rooms beckoning us in with sponges the size of pouffe cushions. We were going insane.
We escaped with our lives – and a small tub of whipped ice cream of course.
We returned to Wadebridge and bounced and slooshed our way out of town (my stomach did both). Back to our campsite we headed.
The evening meal will be meagre. The tins will be coming out again I’m afraid – if anything.
Being a sad computer geek I put together the whole tour of Potwenn from my guide here…