Wednesday, 16 February 2011

A Cornwall weekend

I'm a little bit in love with Cornwall. In part I blame the drive down. Hampshire, Wiltshire, Somerset, Devon - speeding through the English countryside it was all I could do to arrest the Mr Darcy fantasies that seem to go hand in hand with rolling green hills and muddy country lanes. No doubt getting further and further away from London also helped but there is just such a romance to the unavoidably quaint surrounds of everywhere-that-isn't-London-or-the-Midlands. The little cottage we were staying in, that belongs to a work colleague of Lovely Boy's, was built in the 16th century - the gentle slope to the entire structure and the hobbit-esque doors adding a quirkiness to the humbling history of both the building and Boscastle village.

We had three nights away altogether, two in the company of Tors and her other Hungry half, and after a night of genteel introductions to country charm and country food at the local pub on the Saturday we took off for Padstow with fish on the brain. Rick Stein is seriously like the mafia in this little seaside fishing village, which reminded me actually of Honfleur. He seems to have a hand in, and his name on, everything. There is the Rick Stein cafe, the Rick Stein patisserie, the Rick Stein fish and chip shop and the Rick Stein deli, never mind The Seafood Restaurant and his French-inspired bistro, St Petroc's (which, I don't know, is probably French for Rick Stein.) You'd be forgiven for thinking he was a Beatle.

After a walk along the coast we headed for the bistro for a light lunch of fried squid, scallops and prawns. I can't attest to the shellfish, what with my highly refined upchuck allergy to them but the squid was not bad. Overhyped definitely but not bad. The Hungry One lived up to his name with a series of rolling appetizers that included Cornish pasties and a sausage roll pre-bistro and a chaser of fish and chips as we walked to the car. It was nothing short of impressive.

After Padstow we decided to head for Newquay with the hope of consolidating our seaside love affair. Unfortunately, Newquay proved to be what is generally understood as 'pretty fucking grim'. I don't even think sunshine could have helped. It just seemed to be one of those increasingly rundown seedy seaside towns with not a lot of charm.  The blighted vista of the Walkabout atop the cliffs overlooking the beach was probably the first giveaway...

Returning to Boscastle and the hobbit doors we took to the local village again for dinner only to find that the only place with a vacancy was the Riverside restaurant, offering a Valentines Day-themed set menu with inclusive red heart helium balloons and a littering of synthetic rose petals. The food was surprisingly good, though low to no expectations undoubtedly helped but we were suitably humbled both by the food and the warm charm of the staff.

Sunday saw a drive to the Lost Gardens of Heligon outside of Truro. Impelled not so much by the gardens (sorry Mr Darcy) but the promise of cream tea, we were a little crestfallen to discover the setting was less quirky charm and firesides and more, well, cafeteria, but The Times weren't wrong in listing it as one of the best places for scones and clotted cream. It's just a shame it came served on a red plastic tray.

Determined to remedy the situation, some speedy research in a rare spot of 3G coverage (food snobs, technology snobs - we've heard it all) sent us in the direction of The Kings Head pub in a village called Ruanlanihorne, so remote even the GPS in our posh borrowed car couldn't find it... what with it being at the end of several "unnamed roads" and all. After a game of chicken down these unnamed narrow country lanes with their view-obscuring hedges that turned the road into a gauntlet, we had a genial sunday roast before Tors and the Hungry One headed off back to London while LBB and I took off for St Ives.

St Ives was the motherload in terms of seaside charm. Fat seagulls, colourful fishing boats in the lighthoused harbour and windy lanes full of fudge shops and ice cream parlours. I like to think the bonhomie is in some small part due to the presence of the Tate in St Ives but lest I also be charged with cultural snobbery I might put that down to mere coincidence. We managed a brief tour of the Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden before they closed for the day but managed to miss the Tate altogether - forsaken for ambling, rambling and some staring out to sea. I could very easily spend a week here during the summer.

Our last night was spent most uneventfully - fish fingers and red wine for dinner in front of an exhausted fire and me writing madly to get a job application done before 10am Monday morning. I know it was typo-free, the rest I can't attest to but I got it in and can now only hope for a miracle. It will need a miracle because most Dream Jobs do. Don't bother watching this space...

Anyway, we had a relatively pain-free trip back to London yesterday, even with the usual accident induced delays on the M4 and now it is back to the grind with another huge week of writing ahead. If today is anything to go by it should be reasonably painless and not overly caffeinated. In fact I think most working weeks should start on a Tuesday.

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