Saturday, 23 October 2010

Of end of lands and lizards - Chronicles of a Cornwall Holiday - Day 5

Overnight, the rain of the previous day had completely disappeared leaving us with the best day so far, weather wise. A few wispy white clouds decorated the rich blue in the skies above us, and the suns rays were kept in check by a light breeze coming straight off the glistening ocean over the quiet promenade. This was Penzance at its finest.

After a short wander along the promenade, we headed back to the car. On the agenda today were two of the most scenic areas of this part of the world, the first of which was Lands End. To get to Lands End from Penzance is remarkably easy when you are heading straight there. A short 9 mile jaunt along the A30 will take you straight there in about 15 minutes, or so. But this is Cornwall, and on a beautiful day there's nothing I like more than to take a long and leisurely drive along the scenic route. I managed to turn the 9 mile drive into more than 30 miles. We first headed towards St. Ives, and then headed to Lands End via one of the most scenic roads in Britain, the road between St. Ives and St. Just. With green fields and hills in one direction, and the land plunging into the sea in the other direction, I was finding it difficult to resits the urge to stop the car every few minutes to take more photos.
After a little over an hour, we arrived at Lands End. Having been here many times before, I was more than familiar with the location, but places like this never get boring. However, to my recollection, this is the first time I have been to Lands End in a car, and I had forgotten the extortionate amount the authorities charge for parking a car in what is essentially a field.

Unperturbed, we parked the car and set foot into the sunshine. It seems that every time I go to Lands End, I forget that there is more than just scenery there. The tourist trade around the area is buzzing in the small shopping area where they are truly capitalising on the location with shop names such as "The first and last post office in Britain", "The first and last pub in Britain", "The first and last restaurant in Britain" etc. I think it would be brilliant if they burnt the rule book and added a few extra bits. I almost felt compelled to don my hoody and stand in the shadows with a sign around my neck saying "The first and last gigolo in Britain". So many possibilities!

We headed swiftly through the shopping area, and headed towards the cliff. Lands end itself is inaccessible being too far down the cliff to be considered safe, so we took a seat overlooking the waves crashing violently against the rocks that had decided to detach themselves from the mainland, presumably heading for mainland Europe in a needlessly unpatriotic display of defection.
After a little while watching the water, we were blessed with the presence of a single brown rabbit. Basking in the sunshine, the rabbit which I had assumed to be wild, seemed to be completely fine with so many tourists around, and despite not allowing people to touch it, did have something of a flair for the camera, sitting perfectly still as I, and several others took some remarkably close-up pictures of it.

With the rabbit having left us to seek other opportunities to be pap'd, we left our seats and headed back towards the shopping area with the intention of finding something to eat. Unfortunately, both luck and the volume of tourists were against us. There was not a bite left to eat in the area. A picnic lunch at Lands End postponed, we decided to head back towards Penzance. Having spent a day or two there previously, I knew that there was a Wetherspoons in the town centre, and I really fancied a veggie burger! Quite hungry by this point and not wanting to get stuck in another cow jam, I opted for the short route back, and it was only a short while later that we were tucking into our lunch.

Stomachs full, we headed back out of the town, and headed towards Lizard Point. I'm still not quite sure what the area has to do with Lizards, if anything at all, but Lizard Point is the most southerly point of mainland Great Britain, further south even than Lands End. In comparison to Lands End, the area is much less catered for the tourist. There is a lighthouse and a youth hostel, but that really is pretty much it. For the time of day that we went there, we found the car park pleasantly empty, and somewhat surprisingly, free.

We left the car, and headed down towards the cliff edge. At Lizard Point, the eager sightseer can head all the way down the road to sea level, which is where we found ourselves a few moments later after the short walk from the car. It was full tide by the time we got there and this added so much atmosphere to the area. We sat at the end of the road where, at low tide, the road meets the beach. At high tide, the beach is submersed under about four feet of water, allowing the waves to crash heartily against the cliffs. There is something about the sound of waves crashing against cliffs that I find simply mesmerising. We sat down and watched and listened to the waves for what could have been hours. I honestly have no idea how much time we actually spend there, only that I enjoyed every single moment of it.

It became apparent as we headed back up the road that time had slipped silently past us. We found ourselves with the choice of heading back to the hotel for food and an evening of postcard writing, or waiting for a little while to catch a good sunset. We opted for the latter, and it wasn't long before the sun was dipping away behind us, giving us an ever-changing view of the cliffs silhouetted against the backdrop.
Thoroughly relaxed, and somewhat in awe of how beautiful the world can be, we headed back to the car before dark, and then headed back to Penzance once more. In the evening, we decided to while away the hours by heading out to the pub next to the hotel for the inevitable postcard catchup. For me, this was the first set of postcards that I had written since arriving in Cornwall (Louise had written and sent postcards for every day of the journey so far!), and I found myself increasingly frustrated at the size of the writing area of the postcard in comparison to the size of my handwriting. For any of those who I sent postcards to who are reading this, I apologise for the completely illegible squiggles!

By the time the postcards were finished, the beer garden was almost completely pitch black, I was probably half-cut, and the postcards themselves had begun to bend from the dew! We had been in the pub for several hours and I was freezing, especially my writing hand. Clearly the beer jacket didn't yet have enough layers, so we stayed for a couple more. when last orders were announced, we didn't feel like heading straight back to the hotel, so instead we found ourselves a bottle of wine and headed to the promenade, where we sat in a wind-shelter overlooking the calm waters of Penzance bay. Hours drifted by as we chatted and drank and shivered together. Eventually, at nearly 3am, we stumbled back to the hotel thoroughly happy, relaxed and looking forward to the day ahead.

If only the day hadn't turned up so early.....!

Writing postcards in the pub

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Of torrential rain and midnight drives - Chronicles of a Cornwall Holiday - Day 4

On the morning of our fourth day in cornwall, we once again woke up to the sound of rain hitting the concrete outside our room. This was never in the plan! Unperturbed, we left in search of the glorious sunshine of southern Cornwall. Driving through the mist, it wasn't long before we realised that the glorious sunshine wasn't going to come.

And then the rain started, I mean REALLY started. The rain was coming straight down, and from in front of us, and behind, and from each side. Inside my little Citroen Saxo it sounded like the four horsemen of the apocalypse were playing polo on the roof. We persevered, the car aqua-planing and swerving along the roads. Now, I know I have said that driving on the roads in Cornwall is fun, but when the car has a mind of it's own and the mist is so thick that I can't see more than three feet past the bonnet, even I will admit to being a little non-plussed! Still, we carried on along the coastal roads, not that it really made much of a difference, honestly, we could have been pretty much anywhere!

Eventually, the rain ceased, and we were able to see, for the first time that day, the coastline, and the Atlantic in the distance. The saturated beaches were almost empty, except for a few poor canoeists who had either been caught up in the mist and taken a wrong turn, or didn't really get the point of canoeing!

It seemed to be a day for strange sightings. We stopped at a small car-park on the edge of the water for a quick pee stop, and I was somewhat surprised by a sign I read. I wish I had taken a photo of it as proof, but I had other matters in hand (so to speak!). As I was washing my hands, I caught sight of the condom machine. I find washing my hands a deplorably boring task, so my eyes drifted, and I found myself reading the front of the machine. On the bottom, where it dispenses its product, I saw the classic line "This machine will not dispense when empty". No sh*t Sherlock! Seriously!?!? I have decided that when I come to power (mwahahaha!!) I will give free condoms to absolutely anybody who can't work this out for themselves. I'm serious, can you imagine what will happen if these people breed?!

The day being what it was, we decided to head straight for Penzance, which was to be our home for the next two days. We rolled into Penzance, and found our hotel. Instantly, we had flashes of the Lusty Glaze lodge again. Admittedly, it didn't look quite so bad from the outside as Lusty Glaze, but it wasn't exactly the Marriot! Regardless, we checked in, and to our horror, the room we were given was a mess. Empty bottles, hairs in the bed, towels on the floor. My heart sank, this wasn't what I wanted after a day driving through the rain. We immediately went to reception to put in only our second complaint of the holiday. We were asked if we would go back to the room, and somebody would be up very shortly to check things over. One of the managers followed us to the room, and on seeing the state of the room became somewhat sheepish, and extremely apologetic. "I'm so sorry, the room does not look to have been cleaned at all. I'm sorry. I apologise, I will sort it out immediately". We could still hear him apologising as he headed down the hall, bless him. A few minutes later, he came back with a fresh set of keys, and we were moved to a room opposite the hall, after he had checked out the room to make sure this one had been cleaned. More than happy with the move, we settled in.

Later that evening, after a little afternoon nap, we headed out of the hotel and back into the car. After finding some food, we decided that we would finish the day off with a night-drive to see how different the area looked without the natural light. After the days driving through the rain, I was a little pensive about it at first, but after a while, I started to settle into it. I have already mentioned how much I love driving in Cornwall, but at night it is even better, partly because all the cows were asleep in their fields, partly because I could see the headlights of cars coming towards me, but mostly because of the added driving experience. After a few hours of driving, in which we had gone from coast to coast and back again, we headed back to the hotel, hoping for better weather the next day.