Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Cornwall & Devon

You All Right?,
A few items to cover before we start the Cornwall/Devon pictorial tour.

The Mark Elliott pic - my newest pub glass!  I had decided to quit getting glasses because I am running out of room to store them but then I saw this Strongbow embossed archer and thought, maaaaaybe I can fit one more into the cupboard.  Strongbow is a cider which I inadvertently tried once, found out it was cider, and have vowed never to drink again.  But how can I turn down a glass like this?  Sorry for the poor pic but the archer is rockin' awesome.

This week's "Dan Stine extreme self restraint in the face of surmounting adversity moment of the week" moment was the local grocery store not carrying broad noodles.  I made stroganoff one night and we ended eating it on farfalle (bow tie pasta for the cooking newbs) because the store didn't have any wide and short noodles.  They only carried the skinny and long noodles - c'mon Brits you can do better.

The Better Halves Club met again last week.  This time we met at the huge Markeaton Park since school is finally out for us with kids.  Kind of an (ironic) funny meeting since the two new members with kids didn't show up.  We did have four full members, two adorable half members (Tracey - no more hair cuts for Andrew please), and two three-quarter members (KJ and KK) show up.  We walked the jam packed park (kid's pool and activity areas were especially crowded) for a while then ate and finished off our meeting with whippy flakes which are soft serve (whippy) ice cream in a cone with a Cadbury flake topping the sugar high.  They haven't figured out how to make chocolate whippy yet so you can only get vanilla.  Hopefully they will "discover" chocolate whippy soon so we can enjoy it.  JK Brits - someday y'all will catch up.  It was about 80 degrees that day which meant every little kid in Derby was in the pool.  Not sure how many people were at the park but I would guess 500.   

Now onto our weekend.  Lori arrived back from her weeks long US stint on Thursday morning so we piled into the car in the afternoon and motored our way to Plymouth.  I originally planned it to be a Cornwall long weekend but amended it to a Cornwall/Devon long weekend at the last minute.  I would have loved to spend a long weekend in each place but I don't see another long weekend planned going down to the area so I combined them.  We still need to fit in some long weekends in southeast England and northeast England so seeing an area twice just isn't likely with our time and vacation constraints.  Hard to believe but we have less than a year left.  Busy busy busy.

Thursday - we saw a little bad excitement on the four plus hour jaunt to Plymouth.  There was an accident on the north bound motorway (interstate for you Yanks) before we arrived near Gloucester.  We were the fourth car to pass in the south bound lanes once they re-opened the motorway so we were lucky.  It looked to be a really bad crash - one of the cars looked like a huge accordion and we had debris in two of our three lanes.  Plus there was a medivac helicopter sitting in the northbound motorway.  Scary.  Finally we arrived in Plymouth and checked into our Jurys Inn hotel which was okay.  Slight mix up in the reservation - they had us down for one person while we scheduled (and I have the paperwork to prove it) two adults plus two kids.  The room had a bed and small pull out couch which was funny.  Karl saw it and asked where Kalle was sleeping - isn't he a hoot?  They were a little cozy on it but they survived.  The hotel didn't have an on site car park so they gave us a voucher for discounted parking.  The interesting part that I haven't seen in the States yet was you could call or text a number, give them your debit card info, and your car was logged in as being paid.  They also had a pay and display ticket machine but who has ten one-pound coins in their pocket to pay for parking?

After settling in we moseyed down to the Barbican which has a few tourist attractions, restaurants, etc.  Very touristy which was a little bit of a downer but not as big of a downer as being to late to check out the Mayflower (History Channel link) Exhibit display.  Still early enough to take pictures though so all's not lost.  I did miss a photo opportunity with the Oompa Loompa's sitting outside one of the pubs enjoying a pint.  It's not often you see giant Oompa Loompa's you know.

Sutton Harbour by the Barbican (partially seen on the right).  Hot start to our weekend - the car read 27 C (81 F) outside so it was still in the 70's in the late evening.

The Mayflower Steps - this is thought to be where the people boarded the ship.

A brief Mayflower Compact mention.

Yup, this is pretty much what the Brits think of us Yanks.

Plaque listing the people on the Mayflower - my favourite name on this section is Resolved. 

My favourite here is Humility Coper.  What I learned from an episode of Inspector Morse (British detective TV show) was that sometime pilgrims liked to name their children with characteristics they wanted them to possess.

We're on the Plymouth Hoe (Hill) now.  The Plymouth Eye in the background and some war memorials in the foreground.

The group in front of the Smeaton Lighthouse (Wiki link).  Not sure of the lighthouse significance but it was moved here from its original location and is no longer in use.

The Hoe info board.

The mouth of Plymouth Harbour.  The Royal Citadel is on the left.

By the West Hoe.  Check out the water mark on the breaker walls. 

And what's a stop in Plymouth without seeing the naval hero Sir Francis Drake?  You can read about him here.

Plaque close up in case you don't want to read the link.

The Naval Memorial deserved its own picture.  The brown plaques are names of people who perished at sea. 

Friday - our new and improved Cornwall itinerary basically meant a southern Cornwall coast tour.  The scenery in Cornwall was very similar to southern Wales.  Lots of wooded hillsides with small rolling valleys, minimal farmland, scattered sheep flocks and cattle herds, more rocky hills and outcrops than central England, small villages nestled here and there... overall very appealing to the eye.  Plus there were more mining ruins than we are used to seeing on our drives.  The day was sunny and 19 C (66 F) which was almost perfect for sight seeing, we couldn't have asked for a better weather day. 

Sample view of the days driving.  Don't try this at home kids - not only is it dangerous taking pictures while you are driving apparently it makes the wife mad.  Whoudda thunk? 

More scenery.

We thought maybe Cheer and Trevor were here on one of their travelling vacations but we couldn't find them.

Our first Cornwall stop was the Minack Theatre (link) by Porthcurno.  Basically it is a theatre built on a cliff.  Amazing to visit, I can only imagine what it would be like to attend an evening performance there.  Maybe the Frey's have that on their Cornwall agenda?  A few nuggets from its website and museum - minack means rocky place in Cornish, Rowena Cade (a local Derbyshire girl) planned and worked on the theatre from 1931 until her death in 1983 planning/building/financing the theatre, and hundreds of plays have been performed over 800 times since The Tempest in 1932.

View from top steps to the stage.  Simply amazing.

Rare Lori and I pic.

Another Lori and I pic from the nose bleed seats.  Still an amazing view, I really really really wanted to see a performance here.

View up from the stage.

My attempt to capture the water and rocks views.  Still doesn't do the sights justice.

On the seats is the names of the plays performed here and the year they were performed.  Stone chairs were a little uncomfortable.

At the top of the venue were colourful gardens.

Rowena Cade info.

After Minack Theatre was Land's End.  For my regular readers this is one of my top 5 pre-trip English destinations.  So now I can check off Big Ben, Beatles in Liverpool, Stonehenge, and Land's End Sign Post.  All I have left is White Cliffs of Dover which will be on our TBD southwest England long weekend.  I am glad we stopped and walked around but it was as touristy as everyone says it is.  (In case you are wondering Steve, yes I recommend putting this on your itinerary.)  For a measly nine pound ninety-five we had our picture taken with the sign post which will be a lifetime memory when we receive it in two to three weeks.  They did allow pictures of the sign post but you had to pay if you wanted to stand next to the sign post.

Iconic Land's End Sign Post on left, first and last house in England on right.  John O'Groats is the northernmost town in Scotland I guess.

Coastline from First and Last House in England.

The Dana Johnson pic - I had to have a traditional (steakish meat, potato, carrot) Cornish pasty.  Tasted just like Grandma's and Mother-in-Law's except for the buttery taste.  The Brits like their butter - in sandwiches, on pastry, in bakery sweets, etc. - which is a little much for me.  Plus they like a lot of breading here - Grandma's pasty still is the winner in my book.

After Land's End we threw the itinerary out the window, broke out the road map, and lived like gypsies!  Well, not exactly but Kalle did give a "Yeah" from the back seat when I said we were going off the itinerary.  (I guess she doesn't appreciate my detailed trip itineraries.)  We selected Mousehole, found it on the SatNav, and off we were... to maybe the worst driving I have experienced since I have been here.  And that is no lie.

Ahhhh - more of my driving nightmares.  Miles of one lane country lanes with two way traffic and blind curves.  Lori is cringing and loudly exhaling as the foliage scrapes off the mirrors as we drive down these goat trails which is NOT the way to calm the already anxious driver.   

We finally make Mousehole and the driving in town is WORSE!  Small lanes with two way traffic and the typical Brit sidewalk parking here and there does not make for a fun time.  So we snapped a couple of pictures and left before my last nerve frayed.  Normally driving here doesn't bother me but this stretch was really bad.  

Next was Penzanze - back to the itinerary!  The only things I know about Penzanze are there used to be pirates here and it is impossible to find a parking spot.  So we snapped a few pics of Penzanze Harbour and moved on.

Our next stop was St. Michael's Mount (link), a 12th century castle in a unique location.  It is on a hill off of the coast connected by a causeway you can walk in low tide.  Small castle and grounds so we didn't spend much time here but we were admitted free with our National Trust membership so how could we go wrong? 

St. Michael's Mount from the beach.

The causeway, we arrived just before low tide so we rode a boat out.

Island info board aerial view.

The walk up to the castle. 

And these were the good steps.

I'm not sure how tall a 12th century man was but I am guessing he wasn't any taller than KJ.

Check out the crocodile hide shield on the left.

This double sided desk was a rare sight on our castle and manor house tours.

I had to take a picture of the Chevy Chase Room.  Apparently Chevy Chase is a medieval ballad and the plaster frieze (white 3D scenes running around the room walls just above head level I think) shows hunting scenes from it.  Feel free to insert an appropriate European Vacation joke here.

The Smoking Room - much smaller and plainer than many we have seen.  Overall the castle has all of the proper rooms but they are all scaled down in size from most places we have toured.

On the backside of the island were gardens which we opted not to tour.  They looked neat but we aren't garden touring people.

I thought it looked picturesque with the shallow water, rocky coast, grass and gardens all layered together next to the castle tower.

View of castle harbour, beach and causeway from castle walking level.

Hard to see but the stone is a 15th century cross called the Lantern Cross.

Stained glass window in the small castle chapel.

Altar and more stained glass in The Chapel of Our Lady which was built in the 15th century and renovated in the 1700's.

Fireplace in the Blue Room with a decorative style of Strawberry Hill Gothic - I bet no one guessed that style.

Doorway to the Blue Room, this area was renovated in the 1700's.

Egyptian mummified cat from 2000 BC. 

This is the unimaginatively named Map Room.

Interesting blend of old and new portraits.

This confused me - it says "football at the wall" but looks like they are in a rugby scrum but no one here calls rugby football.    

Samurai armour and bow from c.1800 in the Garrison.

More weapons in the Garrison.

There were a lot of paintings of the island through the years on the walls but not all of them had dates so I wasn't sure if they were originals from the time period or romanticised interpretations.  Probably just cheap imitations.

Dana Johnson pic - We stopped at the cafe where we tried cream tea scones which were AWESOME.  Soft warm scones with clotted cream and sweet raspberry jam - what a combination.  I swapped out the tea for a coffee.

Low tide!  You can see all of the people walking on the causeway.  But we opted for the boat ride again so no wading for us.

Continuing the on again - off again itinerary we saw sign for the National Seal Sanctuary by Gweek.  Looked like fun but we didn't make it before they closed.  Kalle was SUPER bummed, I guess it is time to tour a zoo or animal sanctuary.

The Sarah Anderson pic - yes Virginia there are rednecks in England.

Once again we go off the itinerary to check out dinner in Falmouth.  St. Ives was the next scheduled stop but that was on the north coast so we opted to stay on the south coast.  So back to more of my favourite one lane blind curve country roads.

Picturesque Falmouth Harbour.

Dana Johnson pic - Dinner was the The Shed, a good seafood place.  Left - Lori's Hummus, Top - Kalle's mussels, Right - Karl's pizza, Bottom - my nachos.  I went first class and added bacon strips for a pound.

More driving scenery.  And the bad part of winging it like care free gypsies?  Having a two hour drive to get back to the hotel.  Ouch that was a long day.

Blend of old and new architecture - the new Primark mall on the left and the old roofless church ruins on the right.  It's also just after 9 PM so we made it back before darkness dropped its blanket on us.

We did make it back in time to watch the Olympics Opening Ceremony and after living here for ten months I still don't get what the message was supposed to be.  The Brits thought it was great so I guess it was a success?

Saturday - we easily could have spent the long weekend in Cornwall but I decided to check out Devon instead.  Lots to see in both places and I'm glad we added Devon to the rigid itinerary.  Cornwall is good sized so there is a lot to see plus it is far away from Derby so I didn't want to spend all weekend driving.

Another sunny day.

Our first stop was Brixham, another picturesque fishing village famous for inventing the trawl and William of Orange's landing in 1688.  You can read about him here.

Statue commemorating William's landing spot.

Replica of the Golden Hinde, Sir Francis Drake's ship.  Online reviews were mixed so we skipped it. 

Ain't it purty?

Same view, different angle.  Most fishing villages we have seen here have different coloured houses dotting the landscape.

Fishing baskets which caught my eye for some reason.

Boats in the harbour.

Brixham info board.  I saw The English Riviera which made me laugh as it reminded me of John Cleese's Fawlty Towers (Wiki link). 

Dyslexic relative Steve?  Lori also wanted me to say I almost killed us getting this picture which isn't true, I was inches away from that oncoming car.

The Torquay (tor-key) area was mountainous and full of vegetation.  Here is a sample pic from our next destination Kents Cavern (link).

Famous mystery writer Agatha Christie (link) is from Torquay.

I picked Kents Cavern because we haven't done a cavern in a while and we find the rock layers and animal bones interesting.  Plus this one has some scientifically important finds.  Nothing like an educational vacation right?  The tour is a short one hour long guided tour and I thought we had a great guide.  He did an excellent job of story telling by mixing scientific finds with legendary tales.  Any inaccuracies in the cavern pics commentary is from my faulty memory not the guide's narrative. 

I thought the 700,000 year old flint hand axe interesting.  We saw a replica of it later, it was about the size of a man's hand.

420,000 year old bear skull.

Entrance to the cavern.  The floors were damp from all of the rain we have been having lately.

The Giant's Face above Kalle.  He used to live in the cave according to legend.

Stalactite and stalagmites with a few straws (small stalactites).

I found this defiant solitary stalagmite interesting.

The Giant's pet Dragon.  You are looking at its right side.  Its head is in the upper right of the picture and the body is in the middle of the picture.

Organist facing away from us playing the organ.

Now we get into the scientific part that Lori didn't like.  Here is a Neanderthal skull replica of a skull found in the cave that dates back 40,000 years.  According to the guide he/she would have stood about four feet tall.

Here is a Homo Sapien replica skull of a skull found in the cave that dates back 30,000 years ago.  The part that Lori didn't like is that carbon dating very recently found bones that can be traced to Neanderthal and Homo Sapien ancestry which suggests some cross breeding as opposed to evolution of the species.  Kind of hard to see but the skulls were noticeably different in size and shape.  A little cool and a little creepy.     

Woolly Mammoth milk tooth replica found in one of the caves.

A list of animal remains found in the caves.

Humans in the caves info.  The guide said they have found human bones bearing marks of flint tools on them which is a sign of cannibalism.  Yuck.

Oldest human jawbone found in Britain, 31,000 years old.

Another Dana Johnson pic - our cream tea scones were so good at St. Michael's Mount that we had them here.  And were reminded again about the "pleasures" of Brit food.  These were cold, hard and crumbly biscuits with buttery tasting clotted cream.  The hot chocolates were awesome tho and my mocha latte was very good.  Lori is getting into the culture with her tea.  Oh well, win some lose some. 

We almost had lunch at Torquay's oldest pub (dating to 1540) but the ambiance was a little strong.  In more plain English - the stale smell of beer nauseated its way onto the street ten feet outside the pub, I can only guess how strong the "ambiance" was inside the place.  You can see the forced smile on Lori's face, this pic was taken just after I said let's eat here.

Torquay Clock Tower, another beaut of a day with temps dropping just a tad into the low 60's.

After Torquay was Dartmoor National Park (link), setting for Arthur Conan Doyle's Hound of the Baskerville's and various film locations including War Horse.  The park is good sized (368 square miles per Wiki) with varied foliage, many animals and lots of Tor's (Anglo-Saxon word meaning tower from one of the rangers) to climb.

Our first climb, Saddle Tor, from the ranger centre.

But we wimped out and drove to a closer car park to lessen our climb.  Saddle Tor on right, Haytor Rocks on left.

Success!  On top the tor with the park in the distance.  It is also starting to cool down now.  The temps dropped to 13 C (55 F) on our climbs so out came the jackets.  Good exercise with scenic views, how can you beat that?

More scenery as we drive through the park.  We easily could have spent a few days just exploring the park but we had to settle for spending the afternoon here instead.

One of the numerous villages nestled in the valleys.  Kind of neat seeing these small villages as we wound our way through the park.

The first of our Steve Frey pics - this Angus (those are the black ones I think) stood majestically on the side of the road as cars passed so I had to snap it.

Another Steve Frey pic - check this out!  This pony was eating the by the roadside so I stopped, Lori nch, nched it and he stuck his snout in the car for a nose nuzzle.  How cool is that?  

We were told that one of the park visitor centre's had a Sherlock Holmes exhibit.  I expected more than paper mache Sherlock and Hound plus a Doyle cut out tho.  Sigh.

Oh wait - there was also this placard.  Not exactly the exhibit I was expecting.

Steve Frey pic - I had to include a sheep even tho we didn't see many on our trip.  Speaking of sheep Hot Rod, how's your Sheep looking at mini camp so far?

More ponies at Sharpitor, our next climbing destination.  Unfortunately these weren't as friendly as the previous one.

View from near the top.

The kids racing for second place.  Kal loved climbing the tors.

Resting after the climb.  Karl is not cold, just whining that his sister is touching him.  Seriously. 

Kalle and I took a wrong turn at Albuquerque and ended up coming down the rocky road.

More observant KJ took the beaten path down.

Jim Seppanen pic - artistic lonely tree pic.

Our climb, Shapritor.

Another Jim Seppanen pic - I had to stop and take a picture of the chevron tree design.

Dana Johnson pic - supper was the the Barbican Pasta Bar which was excellent.  On the left is Lori's salmon and oil spaghetti, on the right is my ham and leek white sauce penne.  We saw Cincinnati Spaghetti on the menu which was really Skyline's 4-way chili after we asked the waitress.  She said one of the owners had it in America and decided to add it to their menu - how funny.

Dana Johnson pic - on the left is Kalle's mushroom and steak sauce spaghetti and on the right is Karl's spaghetti carbonara.  I wish we had found this place on our first night in Plymouth. 

We had a fun time in Devon and Cornwall but it was time to relax at the hotel, watch some Olympics and get ready to head home.  BTW - sorry Aunt Loralee but I didn't run into any Foxworthy's although I was looking.

Sunday - Since we had a long drive home I picked a midway point to stop and tour.  The drive itself was different - we started out in sunshine and 13 C (55 F), encountered rain quite often, hail once, and ended at home with sunshine and temps around 19 C (66 F).  Kind of a long drive after a busy weekend (about 800 miles driven) so it was nice to be home.

Back to our midway point which was Wells Cathedral (thanks for the idea from your blog Steve), a 12th century cathedral full of history and the world's second oldest clock.  We had a slight delay since there were two separate services which I didn't see on the internet so we ended up staying longer than I anticipated but I enjoyed the cathedral so much it was relaxing to sit and listen to the service.

Down the side corridor are these memorials, check out the spelling on this one. 

In the "huh?" department, there was an atom bomb exhibit in the corridor.  We also saw similar exhibits in Amsterdam, I guess churches in Europe are used for just about any exhibit.  It was an informative exhibit but I only took a few pictures.

Atomic bomb shadows.

Bomb details.

Bomb damage.

Memorial from 1491, a year before Columbus got lost.

Cathedral courtyard/graveyard.  Not sure how old the gravestones were but all of the writing was weathered off them.

Side of Nave.

Middle of Nave with its famous Scissor Arches.  The tower was built around 1200 and heightened in 1313 with a spire.  The weight started cracking the western foundations so this scissor design was added in 1338 to spread the load to the stronger eastern foundations.

The Nave ceiling.

Reserved seating!

More reserved seating - aren't we special?

Close up of the scissor arch.  Check out the cat napping on the altar.

The Wells Clock, read about it below.  It is still working, I was able to catch the horsemen jousting.

Wells Clock info.

Stained glass window.

From 999 AD, pretty impressive.

Bishops list starts in 909 AD.  More impressivenesses (hope that's a word).

Thomas Bekynton's (Wiki link) double tomb.  I guess he was doubly important.  It actually was meant to show that an important person in life (bishop on top) is equal to everyone else in the afterlife (skeleton on bottom).  He is credited with bringing a water supply to Wells so I guess he was kind of important.

Not only did he have two tombs he had his own chapel.  This is the Chantry Chapel and Tomb of Thomas Bekynton.

The Lady Chapel.

The stations along the Via Dolorosa, from right to left.  I thought this was great since we walked it in June.

The rest of the stations.

St. Katherine's Chapel.

Some awesome stained glass.

The Undercroft - construction here started in 1242 and was completed in 1306. 

Letter from Elizabeth I from 1589.

Early history of the site and cathedral.

17th century leather shoe.

Detailing the impressive Jesse Window, unfortunately it was to big to take a decent picture for the blog.

The Quire, the oldest part of the cathedral.

The Quire seating, some of the stalls date to the 1300's.

The impressive Western Front dates to 1230 and has about 300 statues of angels, bishops, kings and apostles.  What an end to a great long weekend!

And finally, July is over so the patriotic Uncle Sam has to leave us.  Stay tuned for the August facial hair of the month edition.  It'll shake you up!

Uncle Sam wants you... to wish his Dad a happy birthday when you see him next.  His birthday was Sunday - Happy Birthday Dad!

Thanks for listening,

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed the writeup Jay. I look forward to comparing notes in a few weeks.

    Yikes on the driving. Any way to avoid those tiny roads? Probably not.

    We'll be in Penzance and Falmouth (both west of where you stayed!).

    DNP looks good. I'll add that to the futures list.