Tuesday March 23rd 2010
Yesterday I did the holiday task I like least: I took Freya by bus and train to the cattery in Chingford. We had a bit of a chase to get her into the basket but once inside she settled down and even dozed during the train journey. She must surely know the routine by now.
We packed yesterday except for the last minute items like toothbrushes. As our train left only at 10:06, we could start the day in leisurely fashion. The 205, which stops almost at the door and takes us all the way to Paddington, delivered us there early so as to leave time for breakfast. We went upstairs to Eat and tried their porridge. It’s not bad but not as good as Camden Food Co’s.
Or was it the other way around?
Our train goes to Penzance but we change at Par. We have reservations but despite the fact that we bought the tickets together, our seats are far apart, so we have found a pair of unreserved seats together.
The train left on time but stopped soon after we had left the station. There was some problem with the onboard equipment, so we were informed. Once the driver had sorted it out, we would be on our way. That sounded ominous but after a few minutes we began to move again and now, at 10:33, we seem to be running normally.
I have bought Victorian London by Liza Picard to help while away the long hours of the journey but there is also plenty to see through the window.
Our room was on the second flor with a view over the bay.
The sun shone briefly this morning but now it is grey and overcast. The weather forecast for our stay is not promising. I can only hope that the forecast is wrong, as usual, and that we will find conditions better than expected.
The train, having been delayed at the beginning of the journey, was late at all stops all the way to Par where we had to change. There we had only a couple of minutes to cross by the footbridge to the platform where the single carriage shuttle for Newquay was waiting.
During the journey, the weather worsened and long before we crossed the Tamar, the rain had started. Patches of fog clung to hilltops. The sunny warmth that was greeted with expostulations of joy and relief last week has subsided and I am glad to be wearing my winter coat again.
All being well, we should arrive in Newquay in about 45 minutes from now.
We reached Newquay on cue and set out to look for the hotel. It was cold and spitting with rain but the views of the beach and sea were striking as always. Newquay is a surfing town as you see immediately, not only from the number of shops selling surfing gear, but particularly from the line of dark figures standing in sea trying to catch a wave.
(see the black dots in the sea)
Our hotel room has a pleasant enough view of the coast. The room is small but it is sufficient for our purposes. There are the makings of tea and coffee but as usual we have brought our own. Why put up with mediocre stuff when you can have the best?
We now thought to have a late lunch and made for the nearest cafe. We had forgotten the Cornwall Effect: it was now 4pm so, of course, shops and cafes were closing.
We went to a nearby bar that was advertising food, only to be told they provide food in the summer only. Why leave out the signs then?
Opposite was the Great Western Hotel with its Steam bar advertising food all day. When went in and asked. Yes! They were serving. The food was quite good and the servings generous.
Back at the hotel, I found a card with log-on details for Wi-Fi. Unfortunately, it didn’t work and I was unable to connect to the Internet. (Did I mention the Cornwall Effect?) This was to prove a nuisance in a way I hadn’t anticipated.
When I bought the geotagger, I chose a model that I thought would record our travels over the whole week but in the end, I decided to bring my laptop with me and transfer my photos and geotagging data to it each day as I do in London.
This evening, I was able to geotag my photos successfully but when I tried to create maps, the process failed. This was because the software needs to connect to Google maps to produce the HTML map. In the absence of a connection, the software not only fails to produce a map but also crashes. To continue, you have to restart the program and reload the data. There was a similar problem with the KMZ map, which displays on Google earth. So I may have to forget about making maps on this trip.
Tomorrow we hope to start using our rail rover tickets to explore the region. Because of the early hour at which local services close down in the evening (did I mention the Cornwall Effect?), this will take careful planning if we don’t want to get stuck at the ends of the earth or at Newton Abbott, which comes to the same thing1.
1See Cornwall 2006, the entry for Sunday, Sept 3rd 2006.
Wednesday March 24th 2010
We awoke to another grey and rainy day but set off undaunted for an outing.
In Cornwall it pays to study the rail and bus timetables to find out the possible routes between destinations. So it was that instead of waiting for the 10:13 train to Par we instead took the bus to St Austell. The bus left earlier than the train and at St Austell we had main line rail links to our planned destinations. Using our rover tickets, we boarded the Penzance train.
Penzance is one of my favourite towns combining the facilities of a big town with the charm of an elegant small town with some history behind it. We roamed the town reacquainting ourselves with remembered parts and discovering new features.
We had lunch in the famous old Admiral Benbow with its figure of a sharpshooter on the roof. The interior is choc-a-bloc with ornaments, antiques and curios, very attractive and intriguing, and the food was good too.
We resumed our wanderings and discovered the Flea Market, which we had hitherto missed.
Reaching the long, sloping high street with its elevated pavement on one side, we stopped for a cream tea. After all, Cornwall is the best place to go for cream teas, isn’t it?
We decided now to catch the 16:00 Paddington train which calls at St Austell. The idea is that we can easily travel back to Newquay from St Austell, by bus if necessary, thus beating the early closure of rail services.
When we arrived at St Austell, the bus timetable showed that a 521 would depart for Newquay in about 20 minutes. As the weather was still grey and wet and an evening chill was beginning to be felt, we were happy to take this bus.
As we had had two good meals today, breakfast and lunch (not to mention the cream tea), we felt we could make do with a snack for supper. It was by now 6 pm but despite the late hour (in Cornish terms) we found a branch of Aldi open. They had cunningly hidden all the baskets and trolleys, presumably to prevent customers buying many items (though one enterprising customer had provided himself with the lid off a stout cardboard box to use as a tray), so we bought sliced veggie Emmenthal, pumpernickel bread and grapes. Back at the hotel we had tea, of course, trying out what we had bought from a sweet little specialist tea and coffee retailer we had discovered in Penzance.
On the way back to the hotel, we saw that there were surfers still active. I know they don’t fear the rain, seeing as they are wet already, but how they can bear the cold is beyond my comprehension. I would no more venture into the sea at this time of year than I would cut my throat with a rusty saw, let alone spend long hours bouncing up and down in the water as they do. I suppose it is a passion that no one can understand who has not been bitten by the bug.
Back in the room I transferred my photos to the laptop and geotagged them (using a Qstarz BT-Q1000X). I realized that the software allows you to store a trip and I will do this in the hope that this will allow me to create Google maps of our trips when I can once more connect to the Internet.
Thursday March 25th 2010
Today is Tigger’s birthday (as an observant commenter noticed) and so we must try to make a special day of it. The view from the window suggests that the weather may have changed for the better. A break from near-continual rain would certainly be appreciated.
After breakfast we made our way to the bus station and once more boarded the 521 to St Austell. These little buses seat only about 30 people and give a fairly bumpy ride, but are right for the narrow twisting roads through the villages and smaller towns.
In view of the weather – bitterly cold but dry and sunny – we have chosen St Ives as today’s destination. So far, I have seen only one hardy person braving the waves. I am happy to be wearing a winter coat and scarf.
By the time we reached St Austell station, the sky had greyed over and the sun had disappeared. We again took the Penzance train thinking to change at Hayle for St Ives. Having disembarked at Hayle, however, we realized that we had misread the timetable. We should have stayed aboard until the next stop, St Erth, where there is a shuttle service between that station and St Ives. We therefore left Hayle station and made our way to a bus stop where we were able to catch a bus for St Ives after about 20 minutes.
At St Ives, the rain started and it became the wettest day so far, despite the sunny start. We had a look around the town, which is a beautiful and picturesque place.
For lunch we went to the first-floor Beach Restaurant where a table at the window gives you a view of the beach. The ceiling mirrors which afford an upside down view of the street below kept us amused as did the antics of the gulls, busy in the sky above St Ives.
Once out in the street under the heavy rain, we felt disinclined to stay longer despite the pleasant aspect of the town. Accordingly, we walked to the station and took the shuttle to St Erth. Here, we found we had nearly an hour to wait for a train that would take us to St Austell. We settled in the waiting room only to be informed that this would soon close as station staff knock off for the day at 3:30. (Did I mention the Cornwall Effect?)
We were thus faced with nearly an hour’s wait on a rainy and windswept station but Tigger once again triumphed over adversity. She noticed that the next train to leave St Erth went to Penzance and would arrive before the departure from there of our St Austell train. Thus we were able to sit on a warm train instead of a cold platform, courtesy of our rover tickets.
At Penzance we changed platforms and boarded the London Paddington train which also calls at St Austell. At St Austell we took the usual bus back to Newquay.
Because of the cold and the rain, it was pleasant to return to our hotel room, take off our wet clothes and make tea. I transferred my photos to the computer and geotagged them. I didn’t take as many as on some trips because of the weather: rain and cold are a disincentive to photography I find.
It was a good day out, though, despite the miserable conditions and nice to see St Ives again.
Friday March 26th 2010
This morning the view from the window was of a sunlit scene, covered by a blue sky only thinly streaked with clouds. The gulls were busy wheeling and shrieking as if to make the most of the break in the weather. Are we going to enjoy a fine day to make up for all the rain? If so, it might be a good day to visit Totnes.
Outside it was cold despite the sun. At the bus station we just missed our usual 521 and took the Eden Project bus which also calls at St Austell. This one takes quite a roundabout route, enjoyable as long as you are not in a hurry.
We had a train at St Austell within minutes. By now the blue sky of the early morning had clouded over and the weather had become dull with occasional sunny intervals.
We had to change trains at Plymouth in order to get to Totnes, so it was about midday by the time we arrived. Totnes is a picturesque little town with a sloping high street that passes through the old East Gate.
As it was time for lunch, we went to the Green Cafe where we had been before. It is not a vegetarian eatery but does have vegetarian items on the menu. The interior is homely rather than elegant and there are cheesy slogans on the wall.
After lunch the showers started again. This was not very conducive to exploring and taking photos, though we managed a few, including the rugged and weather-beaten Priory Church of St Mary.
There was also a market of sorts, though it was not as big or as varied as some we have seen on our travels.
We decided to go back to Plymouth, through which we would have to pass anyway, and spend a little time there. Travelling by train and bus in Cornwall and Devon, you need to remain aware of the time so as not to miss your last train or bus home.
Unfortunately, as we approached Plymouth, the train came to a halt at a signal. We informed that there had been a points failure and that we would be held here until repairs could by carried out. A wait of 15 minutes was quoted but that seemed optimistic to me.
In the event, the delay lasted about 25 minutes but as it could have been worse I didn’t feel inclined to grumble. On reaching Plymouth, we decided not to tarry there but to continue on to Newquay and finish the day there.
The Penzance train that we needed to take was delayed too, having been held up by our Plymouth train. It was crowded with standing room only but Tigger managed to find us seats amidst the confusion.
On arriving at Newquay, we crossed the road to Steam for a long awaited cup of coffee and a chance to decide what to do next.
What we did next was to take a bus to Watergate Bay. This is a pleasant wide beach framed by cliffs, but spoilt as is usual by ugly apartment blocks and bars and clubs. It is sad to see beautiful places ruined by catering to those who possess money but no taste. The irony, as I have previously remarked, is that such "development" destroys the very amenity – calm natural beauty – which attracted people to start with. I am sorry to see the Cornish apparently unable or unwilling to protect their beautiful land from the depredations of money-grubbers.
Night fell and this and the cold persuaded us to catch the next bus back to Newquay. There we supped at Pizza Express before returning by the familiar route to the hotel.
Despite the disappointment provided by the weather (though it was not as bad as yesterday) and the delays caused by transport, it was a good day out. It was enjoyable to reacquaint ourselves with Totnes and even with Watergate Bay, notwithstanding my acerbic remarks above.
Saturday March 27th 2010
Today we return to London. Our journey starts from Newquay around 1 pm, leaving us time to have a look around the town, which we have not really done this time, being more concerned to go out of town on daily excursions.
We will leave our bags at the hotel and reclaim them just before going to the station. We have checked the times of our trains and find we have to change twice – at Par and at Plymouth – and that we have about 5 minutes to make each change. It should be feasible, as this is a standard route and they probably wait for passengers to cross over. That’s the hope, anyway.
Today is another cold, grey day with occasional bursts of sunshine. We took a stroll in town but as it was still early, nothing was open. This is good from the point of view of photography as there are few people about but it also means there is nowhere to take refuge from the cold.
We went into the first cafe that opened and ordered coffee. They served us instant coffee. I can see no excuse for that.
Around 11 am we went back to the hotel to fetch our bags. Then we settled in the Steam bar of the Great Western Hotel to wait for lunch to start at midday.
After a leisurely lunch, we made our way to the station, only a couple of hundred yards down the road. The shuttle was on time and carried us away, while we took our last glimpses of Newquay through the window.
The change at Par was easy. We walked a few feet across to the neighbouring platform and waited for the Plymouth train to arrive.
The change at Plymouth was similarly easy. The train was already at the next platform and we needed just to walk across to it. We had reserved seats on this train but they were not together. In fact they were in different carriages! We managed to find a pair of seats together so all was well. Now we simply had to settle down and wait out the 3 hours 20 minutes that it takes to reach Paddington.
Ironically, now that we are on the way home, the weather has cleared and we are treated to views of sunlit countryside through the window. If only it had done this 4 days sooner…!
The journey to Paddington was uneventful and the 205 carried us from there back home to the Angel.