Friday, 17 August 2012

Holiday 2012 : Part 2 Day 5 - Of fish, Cornish and fish again

So the last full day of our holiday arrived. Rather than spend another day driving around without clue, we opted to take it leisurely. I wanted:- To go for a swim To eat ice cream To eat fish To drink cider Zoe wanted:- To go on a boat ride To see Cornwall To go to the National aquarium So we drove once more into Plymouth.


Having parked up paying 9 pounds for a full day parking, we made our way into the Barbican district. We checked the times for the ferry and then went into the National aquarium centre. It was a stark contrast from the previous day where there was queues around the block this time we walked straight in. we paid our entry fee and made our way to the top of the tour.


It has been a long time since I have been to an aquarium in the old days you would be lucky to see a couple of goldfish in a spherical bowl and maybe with a couple of crabs. the Plymouth National aquarium centre is full of fish in fact my stomach was rumbling just at the thought of such delights. The previous nights lemon sole was still fresh in my memory and with every sole I saw I was salivating.


Zoe seemed to enjoy herself. she saw some stingrays and other giant fish and even had her photograph taken with a mermaid. She was like a child in a sweet shop where as I was like a hungry person in a fish restaurant. The tour at an end, we made our way to the ferry departure point. while there we observed the boats coming and going and was surprised at the small ferryboat that arrived to take us to our destination. We were lucky to get on it was so small. I mean 5 inch ferryboats....how are we meant to fit on a 5 inch ferry boat? Our destination today was to Cawsands. Again a Cornish misnomer as there was no sands, just sharp pieces of small broken rock. Cawsands is a small fishing village once on the border of Cornwall and Devon. It neighbours the village of Kingsands. Again a tourist trap; narrow streets, cute buildings, full of tourists. Still pleasant enough we stopped at a pub intending to have our cheap lunch however the pub was very expensive. £6.50 for a Cornish pasty no much bigger than one you might get from Greggs or Ginsters. While Zoe had a couple of pale looking Cumberland sausages and some unpleasant looking chips for £9.


A bit more walking and it was time to get back on the boat. I can't comment how pleased I was to get back. Even though the ice cream I had was really nice I still felt kind of light in pocket. Returning to Plymouth we then nipped into the cider bar on the Barbican. We sat outside on the quay watching the world go by. Before long it was time to head off to dinner. again we had chosen platters as our choice for the evening. I opted for the lemon sole having not thought of anything else since the previous night Zoe went for the mixed grill again. Fully sated we returned to the hotel and took advantage of the spa facilities have an early night in preparation for the long drive home on the Saturday. And here ends the accounts of the holiday. I hope you enjoyed reading - Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Holiday 2012: Part 2–Day 4 Wall of Corn

 

Following the mad tour of the east coast of Devon we decided to take a trip inland. Our guide books told us of the wonders of Cornwall and our brief trip across the Taymar on Tuesday showed us that Cornwall was closer than we thought.

Launceston CastleBut where to go were either of us hadn’t been before? Our first thought was “Oooh where does FJ Warren live? She’s Cornish. But the thought of a another long drive was not appealing. Instead we peeked at the maps and guidebooks and settled on Launceston.

Launceston Castle

 

According to the guidebooks, Launceston was the ancient Cornish capital. It had a castle, a steam train and other interesting things like cider farms on route. So it seemed like the natural choice. So once more across the Taymar we went noting for the second time that week that people are charged to leave Cornwall and not go in.

Launceston is…boring. Tatty around the edges. Pretty. But boring. After a brief 10 minute walk it appeared we had done Launceston. So we tootled up to the castle to have mooch there. But at £7 each to go and look around some crumbling ruins we thought £14 would be better spent on cake or fun. So we buggered off back to the car and went to see where else we could get to.

The Bodmin Moor of my childhood was not the Bodmin Moor of my middle age. Either there has been a new road built across the moor in the 30 or so years since my last visit or my dad took us across Bodmin Moor along some weird unmarked B road. So much so, by the time we had reached Bodmin I was like “Oh, we’re here already”.

Bodmin Steam Railway @ Bodmin GeneralBodmin was interesting. Well what we saw through the car windows. But with only shops and more money wanting to be spent we thought another stop mooching round a provincial town was not on the cards. So when the only place to park for free was up a side street alongside Bodmin General, part of the Bodmin Steam Railway, we thought “But a steam train ride might be fun!”

So that’s what we did. We bought 2 tickets to B~~~~~ and boarded the chuffing chuffer.

It was fun!

IMG_0550Badger enjoyed it too!

IMAG0231

When we returned we stopped for a cream tea.

Full of cake and after a bit of geocaching, we hopped back into the car and headed toward Polperro via Lostwithiel. Lostwithiel is described as the Medieval Capital of Cornwall. Again, it was quaint, children were playing in the river and shops seemed open.

One thing we had noticed during our time in the Southwest was that everyone seemed to be so miserable. Shop keepers and ice cream van men were no exception. I can only imagine that the misery was down to the lack of boobs on display. Cornwall needs more boobs. Or cake. Or maybe just a tickle.

PolperroAnyway, before misery got a grip, we headed off again, this time to Polperro. My nan and granddad visited Polperro when they were alive. I remember leafing through their photograph album at the pretty houses and narrow streets. Indeed it was. Narrow, quaint, overpriced and packed with tourists. Having been fleeced £4 for parking we wandered into the village to try and find somewhere to eat. We were a bit early and all the restaurants seemed to do nice fish dishes. Sadly none were open until half an hour after our parking expired and I didn’t feel like paying a further £4-£8 just to stuff my face. Our minds were made up by the time we had reached the quayside that we would head off to Looe and see if there was any other nice places to eat instead.

But before we could turn round and make our way back, a woman offered us a boat ride along the coast. How could we refuse?

So that’s what we did.

looeOn our return we made our way back through the tourists to the car and drove off to Looe. Looe reminded me of Skegness without the wind amusement arcades or Victoriana. It was heaving with tourists of the lower orders. Police men, our first since leaving the midlands, were talking to shouty drunk youths. Haggard teen mothers were dragging their screeching urchins. Young girls with more tattoos and piercings than a freak show jostled with loud shouty short haired scallies for chips from the harbour chippy. But our guidebooks insisted that there was good eating to be had somewhere in Looe.

And yes. They were right. We stopped for dinner at the Smuggler’s Cot in Looe where I had the biggest Lemon Sole (and bones) I’ve ever seen. It was delicious! Meanwhile Zoe struggled with her mammoth 20oz D cut rump steak. She assured me that was delicious too.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Holiday 2012: Part 2–Day3 Touring Torquay


After the rather soggy Tuesday I was three quarter expecting the Wednesday to be a wash out as well. It started off overcast so I wasn’t entirely optimistic about the weather.

We had decided to have a trip over the Dart Moor and visit Widecome in the Moor where there is a haunted inn. I had this romantic image of Dartmoor. Rolling plains with Tors and rocks and ponies and goblins and ruined crofts and weirdness and Kate Bush and floaty types and a scary gothic foreboding Victorian prison and a sign saying “Abandon ye hope” and a solitary pub called “The Slaughtered Lamb”, Uncle Tom Cobleigh and all.

I guess I spent too much time in Yorkshire.

Sure we saw some ponies and some stones and some tors, but the lack of crofts, pubs and prisons almost outweighed the lack of Kate Bush prancing about in a floaty dress.

Anyway, we made our way across the moor and into the sleepy Yorkshiresque village of Widecome in the Moor. You might know Widecome from the folk song Widecome Fayre or you might not. Or you might know Widecome from the Great Storm of some time long ago where the Devil blew up the church. Or you might know Widecome in the Moor from page 7 of your 1976 AA Road Atlas. Either way it is a lovely place. It was there we had breakfast. Our second and last, Full English breakfast of the week. All that meat blocks your insides you know.

Widecome has loads of interesting things like the old church and ancient wells. The Old Inn in Widecome is a haunted inn from Marc Alexander’s Haunted Inns (1973).  The story goes that you can hear the cries of a child and possibly even see the spectre of a man. Bollocks or not? Who knows.


 

From Widecome we headed back into civilization and into Torquay.

I’m sorry but my next statement might upset some people.

Torquay is a dump.

There I’ve said it.

My mental image of Torquay is sandy beaches and long sweeping promenades lined with palm trees, caf├ęs and a harbour full of luxury yachts.  Instead it was streets full of chavs, tattooed Tommys and indiscreet Escorts. Sure there were some palm trees and yes there were some yachts but the streets had handy information notices warning the residents that their excessive drinking threatens the safety of their children and their development. Not “It’s so Bracing” or “Buy our Rock” more like “Drinking makes your children into awful people like you” and “Chavviness is born through nurture not nature”.

IMAG0723We walked to the breakwater and bawked at the cost of entrance fee to the Sea Life centre - £11.75. So £23.50 better off in pocket, we decided to try and find some geocaches. Our searching took us to a little stony beach behind the Sea Life Centre which, incidentally, we could see inside from the outside. It was on the beach we were shortly joined by a dark haired woman in her late 40s walking her dogs. She was talking on her telephone giving the caller assurances that she was good looking and that he wouldn’t be disappointed and that she lived in a discrete house and discretion was her watchword for the price he would be paying.

We left.

Made our way back to the car via an amusement arcade where Zoe won me a gold £ on the tuppenny pushnshoves followed by a direct run to the car and a continuation of our journey southward.

The roads took us towards the misnamed Slapton Sands. Misnamed because Slapton Gravels doesn’t have the same ring to it. The weather had brightened and there were lots of people there enjoying the sun and sea. In such situations I crave ice cream so joy lightened my life when I was able to buy a 99 from the ice cream van there.

Now I was always of the opinion that the top five of miserable people doing jobs went something like this:

81 bus driver
Post office counter clerk
Surveyor
Surly Pot man in a dodgy pub
Mortician

But I now have to move Ice Cream Van Man at Slapton Bits of Stone Sands to the top. I actually felt like apologising for wanting to give him my money for his overpriced wares.

From there we went via Start Point (another overpriced place; £4 parking and another £5 for a look round the lighthouse) to Salcombe.

IMAG0731Salcombe is a bit like Torquay should have been only without all the posh wazzaks poncing about at the Regatta that was taking place there. It was a complete polar opposite to Torquay only with awful children instead of awful parents.

Hunger got the better of us so we made our way back to Plymouth searching for a Chinese restaurant that wasn’t full.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Holiday 2012: Part 2–Day2 Plymouth

 

Ah Plymouth.

So when I was a kid I had a healthy interest in lighthouses. This was piqued by stories in a school book regarding the Eddystone Lighthouse on Eddystone rocks just off the coast of Plymouth.

In case you were unaware the Eddystone Lighthouse has been built four (arguably five) times. The first was made of wood and got washed away during a storm. The second caught fire and melted onto the people trying to put it out, the third developed cracks, the fourth still stands (with modifications such as helipad). The whole romance of the sea, mystery and adventure surrounding lighthouses just fuelled my desire to become a lighthouse keeper. The third lighthouse, Smeaton’s tower, was dismantled and rebuilt on the Hoe for shits and giggles  as a kind of public monument to those lost at sea and a museum of lighthouseololology. Or summat.

Smeaton's tower

Anyway because the tower had been rebuilt on the Hoe, it had always been a place I’d wanted to visit. So when the weather turned for the grot on the Tuesday we decided to continue our previous nights walk along the Hoe after we had found somewhere to eat for breakfast.

Our choice for breakfast was Little Chef. My map of Little Chefs (well…the map on their website) was a bit crap. The two identified on the map had either gone, as in the case of the one at Saltash, Cornwall  or it had the wrong address (as in the one supposedly to the east of Plymouth). So we thought stuff it, and went for breakfast in a quaint cafe in the Barbican district as long as we walked it off.

Our next intention was to go to the National Aquarium. But because of the crap weather the queues to get in were round the block. So the walk to the Hoe took priority.

Plymouth Hoe

Walking round the back of the Royal Citadel we made our way towards the Wheel. I wanted to see the Smeaton tower but I wasn’t prepared to pay £3 each just to go up some stairs and down again. Instead we looked at the other monuments and Zoe offered to pay for a ride on the Wheel.

 

 

IMAG0212

Despite the rain and the clouds there were some good views from up there. I never knew Plymouth was bombed like Coventry during the Blitz. It was interesting listening to the commentary though. I liked how the avenue was designed to be a pathway from the station to the Hoe. It’s a shame that the architects who redesigned Coventry didn’t have similar artistic skills instead of a passion for concrete.

So after that we went into the town centre where I bought a new bag, a nice shirt and some new trousers. I had intended on wearing the trousers that evening but Zoe suggested I waited because the wet pavements would have made them mucky.

 

That evening we dined on fine fish at Platters. We both had white bait for starters and the seafood mixed grill for mains – Five types of fish, grilled and served with a mountain of chips. Ace biscuits!

600

Monday, 13 August 2012

Holiday 2012: Part 2–Devon & Cornwall

 

On the Monday we got up, packed, grabbed our bags and headed down the M5 towards Plymouth.

I didn’t really know what to expect with Plymouth. It has been on my list of “Places to Visit” since I was about 8 or 9. Mostly because of the Smeaton Tower on Plymouth Hoe and my love of lighthouses. But more of that later.

We had booked a five night stay at the Elfordleigh Golf and Country Club in Plymouth which, looking at the website, seemed to tick all our boxes. Those being:- Spa, Pool, Comfortable, Quiet and Affordable. So after a three or four hour drive we arrived in the vicinity of the Hotel. At first we thought we had been given the wrong directions or something. Reason being that the sat-nav had us going through what appeared to be a residential estate of the social kind. But within a few minutes the estate gave way to rural lanes, farms and country manses before we arrived at the bright pink rendered gateway of the Elfordleigh Golf and Country Club.

View from the window

The room was lovely and cosy with two windows and a small canopy over the bed. The bathroom long. The shower powerful and hot.

View from window

As usual we perused the room literature, no, not the Gideon Bible; the leaflets hotels like to leave with the bar and restaurant menus and suggestions of places to visit. In this case they had left a magazine detailing the local eateries. Having settled on possible contenders for dinner we headed out to Plymouth’s Barbican district for a bit of an explore and a look around.

Plymouth’s Barbican district is a proper touristy area. Think Albert Dock in Liverpool only not as enclosed and lots more interesting buildings. There are many nice looking bars and restaurants there. So many, we had difficulty deciding which restaurant was going to be our definitive choice of the evening.

We settled on Rocky’s Grill for our first night. I had the 16oz T Bone Steak, Zoe had the mammoth mixed grill. Following dinner we went for a walk around the Royal Citadel towards the Hoe and did a small bit of Geocaching on the way. Unfortunately, Zoe’s food may have been closer to dairy products than she had hoped and so we cut our walk short and headed back to the hotel.


Smeaton’s Tower


Plymouth Wheel and Memorial

Coming soon-> Day 2: Rain Rain Go Away

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Holiday 2012–Part 1: A Walk in the Rain

Rain. It comes and washes away the summer dreams like a proper spoil sport.

My calculations that the time between Wimbledon and the Olympics yet before the school holidays would be a gloriously sunny time were completely out. Beyond out.

And so it came to pass that on Saturday 14th July I loaded up the car for the next leg of my annual Welsh Costal Walk with Nick. With the car laden I began the four hour journey to the north west of Wales via Betws-y-Coed.

Omens and foresight should have shown me that the weekend was to be a tricky one. When I was about an hour into my journey to my first port of call, a text arrived from my colleague to announce he was running late and would be setting off shortly. Fine, I thought, this will give me a chance to mooch about the camping shops in Betws-y-Coed and therein maybe purchase some gas canisters for the camping stove.

On my arrival the rains began. Fair enough, I thought, this is Betws-y-Coed which is renown for rain as the clouds empty their load onto the Snowdonian foot hills so a bit of precipitation is bound to occur in these here parts.

Two hours, a very expensive bacon sandwich (£4.50 for two bits of soggy bacon between cheap slices of bread) and a cup of tea (£1.50 for an egg cup with a splash of milky brown liquid) and several Radio 4 programmes later, Nick arrived and negotiations began for further travel to Porthmadoc where we could buy provisions for the break and some beer. Before following Mr Sat Nav’s directions to Aberdaron and the campsite.

A few days before departure I had placed a reservation as usual at Mynnedd Mawr Campsite only to be told “Just turn up”. So we did. And managed to get one of the last good spots for the tent. The majority of the campsite seemed to be taken up by two very large 10 men trailer tents pitched slap bang in the middle of the site. The thoughtful owners (two Jewish couples in their late fifties/early sixties) had blocked out the lovely view so I didn’t have to look at it. That was very kind of them.

523909_391448184254980_1169956727_nThe following day, glorious sunshine blessed our walk which commenced from the end of the last walk (Porth Oer) up the coast toward Porth Tywyn. A good 15 miles of coastal path. The weeks of torrential rain over the previous weeks had made the going quite boggy and our initial steps seemed thwarted but following a brief detour along the beach we were back on the trail in no time.

 

Glorious views were beheld. Glorious weather too.

IMAG0196

Looking North

IMAG0197

Nick enjoying a well earned break

IMAG0199

There are many mysterious places along that stretch of coast. For example these stairs cut into the hill side and seemingly inaccessible static caravans.

182147_391448594254939_1357196178_n

539625_391447594255039_1733951640_n

Or you would be trudging along and have to follow the path through a field of cows…

It’s such a lovely piece of coast line. But the weather there can be unpredictable. By 3pm the clouds were already gathering and the wind had picked up. On our return to the tent it was decided that it was too cold to sit outside drinking beer and that we should retire to the interior of the tent, therein to play dominoes.

I was winning, 10 rounds up, the wind brought with it rain and clouds to further darken the skies. By morning the tent had nearly taken off had it not been laden with the previous evening and early morning rain. The outlook seemed bleak. Further bad weather due.

Rain stopped play. We decamped and returned to our respective homes.

 

Coming soon – Holiday 2012: Part 2 Devon and Cornwall.