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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Land's End
My latest trip to the UK was a one-week tour in the South - West of the country with friends. We went from Somerset to Dorset (see my travelog Visiting Bath and Lyme Regis at My Jane Austen Book Club), then Devon and Cornwall.
The first thing that comes to anyone's  mind thinking of Cornwall is King Arthur, Camelot,  the Knights of the Round Table but my friends and I,  while travelling all over the beautiful coasts,  had in ours mainly  the  memories of handsome Ross Poldark living near Truro and his dashing 18th century look . This doesn't mean we neglected visiting great Arthurian sites. Apart from the stunning cliffs at Land's End, our trip to Mount St. Michael, the ancient charm of Tintagel Castle, our exciting night at the Minack Theatre,  we'll never forget the thrill of driving  an incredibly huge rented car  along the most incredibly narrow roads and paths.  If you've driven in Cornwall or seen at least one episode of Doc Martin on TV, you know what I mean! But our dauntless driver  Lou  and  her inseparable satnav Chiara were not scared a bit and drove us everywhere we had planned to go: "Always heading toward new adventures and beyond", acrobatic  manoeuvres included.


Pendennis Castle
During our long drive from Devon  to Cornwall we spent the time reading ( I )  or listening to music and chatting ( all of us ). I was often distracted from my books by the beautiful landscape and was happy to stop for a snack break and short visit to the gardens of  Castle Drogo  (the last castle to be built in England in 1911 by an extravagant tycoon). In the afternoon, we got to Cornwall at last. Our first historic site was Pendennis Castle which has defended the anchorage of the Carrick Roads for over 450 years. In the late 1530's Henry VIII   under threat of war from France and Spain because he had divorced his Catholic wife, Catherine of Aragon decided to set about the fortification of the whole of England's south coast. The dramatic location and its spectacular view was worth a visit and some pictures.
Land's End
We spent the evening at Mousehole, a tiny fishing village which Dylan Thomas defined as "the most beautiful village in England" and enjoyed a tasty English supper at one of the best pubs there, The Ship Inn. Our base for a couple of days was the B&B Trelew Farm at St Buryan and from there, the next morning we drove to Land's End where we walked spechless and spellbound by the beauty of the cliffs, the ocean, the moors.
The most incredible sunshine and warm weather (even hot at times) accompanied us all through our wonderful tour. Who says it always rains in Britain? Not when we are there. 
At lunch time we were at Mount St. Michael, another stunning Cornish landmark. We walked up to the rocky island when the low tide let us to, had a nice walk and then a fresh drink at the cafè then came back before the tide make it impossible. We actually couldn't stay longer there because we had to be at the Minack Theatre at 6.30 p.m to get the tickets we had booked and take our seats in time for the 8.00 p.m. show: "Cat among the pigeons" by George Feydeau. The Minack is an open-air theatre, constructed above a gully with a rocky granite outcrop jutting into the sea (minack from Cornish meynek means a stony or rocky place).
Mount St Michael
The pharse was fast paced and hilarious, full of funny gags and jokes, as it is typical of Feydeau's plays. It was difficult to be concentrated, focused on the stage and the actors, though. Reason one: the sunset on the sea all around was so beautiful, so distracting. Reason two: the English audience had carried with them the most luxurious snacks and goodies: pink wine, strawberries and cream, marshmallow  and cappuccino among others and they went on feasting all through part I of the show. We had taken a few sandwiches and water with us but they were over before the play started.
On the whole, a wonderful day, if we remove the memory of being stuck in the traffic in one of the
narrow paths mentioned above,  risking to miss the show. We were so worried! But all is well that ends well and , finally, after being parked in a field among horses for a while, we managed to get there in time and to enjoy the show.The next morning, soon after one of our huge British breakfasts, we walked through the fields near the farm we were staying to get to Boscawen-un Stone Circle. The magic we expected from the place was spoilt by the presence of a tent and a couple of young people staying just in the middle of the circle. A bit disappointed for not being able to try our timetravelling experiment,  we went back to our car and left the place to the romantic couple. 


Port Isaac
Our next goal was Doc Martin's village, fictional Portwenn, actually picture postcard village Port Isaac. It was indeed lovely, tiny and crowded with tourists, but so cute!
The day trip ended at Tintagel Castle, the place connected to King Arthur's legendary birth, where something impressive happened: the weather had been fine and hot all day but when we started climbing the steep steps up toward the high cliff where the remains of the castle are located,  a sudden mist started wrapping the landscape all around.  Impressive and atmospheric, the visit couldn't last long because we arrived there at 5 and they were closing at 6 p.m. However, we had time to take some incredible pictures.

... and then the mist came...
... at Tintagel Castle!
The next morning we left Tintagel and Cornwall on our way back to Somerset and Bristol airport. It was time to go back home. Till very soon, beloved Albion!
Maria Grazia
Pictures by me and my friend K/V

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