Saturday, July 12, 2008

On my way to St Ives...

I'm currently sporting the latest in steel grey hospital issue crutch fashion as I have managed to do some damage to the ligaments in my right foot. It is now twice the size it should be and I am house bound because I am slower on crutches than a tortoise on slow motion replay. As a result I thought I would procrastinate no longer about blogging my trip to Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly during the May school holidays.

I found myself in the unusual position of actually having some money to spend at the same time as the school holidays decended and so spent an agonising four days trying to choose a destination. I finally settled on Los Angeles as I could get a great deal to fly there and back (under 400 quid) and I really wanted to see my friend Rachael who is living there at the moment. Unfortunately Rach was not going to be there as she was heading away for the memorial day long weekend.

Instead of boarding a US bound flight I changed my mind completely found myself standing at London Paddington Train Station on Monday morning buying a one way ticket to Torquay in Cornwall. The South West of England was the one area I had not yet discovered and since I had a week and some coin to splurge on I boarded the first train I could. Turns out it was meant to be as I made a call to Davina who was camping in Devon. Her camping adventure had been a wash out so she headed to Torquay too and we planned to rendezvous at 1300hrs.

Torquay is a very hip and happening place with lots to do...if you are over 65. There is a beach and a pier but even though it was school holidays the whole place was like a ghost town. Even the carnival that had set up its tents in the park was deserted. We wandered around the town and stopped in at some old pubs that really highlight how much "pubbing" is a grand British institution. We ate our weight in food at the oldest pub in Torquay, The Jolly Roger, and Davina still raves about the steak!

Every year when I was a kid my Mum, brother, Grandma and I would go for a winter holiday to the Blue Mountains. My grandmother would always insist that we have a Devonshire Tea (scones, cream, jam + cup of tea) at one of the small cafes that line the main street in Katoomba. Since I was in Devon I thought it would be a great travesty if I didn't at least sit down once and eat a Cream Tea, as they are called here, in her honour. Davina had already sussed out a great little place called "The Tea Kettle" and so before heading to the train station to continue to our next destination we sat down to eat the most enormous scones I have seen in ages slathered with jam and cream and followed by some tried and true English Breakfast tea. Sure, they weren't flowerpot scones but these were so much better. They were true Devonshire scones in a Cream Tea in Devon itself.

Davina and I met in Shepherds Bush, London through our mutual friend Simon. She grew up in Turramurra and I grew up in Terrey Hills but it wasn't until we were thousands of miles from home did we become friends. When consulting the map to decide on our next stop, we found that if we caught the train for a few hours and then changed for a coastal train we would be able to visit St Ives - the real one. I went to high school in St. Ives in Sydney and Turramurra is the next suburb along from it. It had to be our next stop. And we were rewarded greatly for our choice too. St.Ives gave us our first glimpses of sunlight, white sandy beaches and the smell of salt in the air.

I really love the English St. Ives. It is a small coastal port that is nestled into the edge of England. It's the kind of place that, in my fantasies, I could settle down and teach at the local primary school, raise kids and enjoy the English "life". It is never going to happen but for the moments when I close my eyes and dream, it feels like a possibility.

The tide retreats during the middle of the day leaving many small boats stranded for the afternoon whilst children scream with delight as they use them for hide and seek places. Tourists slurp at dripping ice creams as locals weave their way through the obstacles of baby buggies and discarded buckets and spades to get to their intended destinations. People can be heard laughing and chatting in the beer gardens of the seaside pubs and the fish and chip joints make a roaring profit from gullible visitors.

St. Ives is an ambling town - a place where you spend your time wandering up and down the tiny cobbled streets poking your head in and out of tiny shops that have stood there for centuries. You buy postcards from an old fashioned newsagency that can only accommodate 4 people at a time. Ice creams are sold from a small cart that is wheeled along the promenade by a man who looks as old as the weary wooden boards that have weathered many storms. Davina found a warm and sunny spot on the beach to read her book and was not there 10 minutes before she was approached by two little boys wanting her to play frisbee. So we spent the next hour of so throwing the frisbee to and fro.

It's almost as if time stands still in St. Ives. In times gone by children were confident in approaching strangers to play games on the beach or to help them build sandcastles. Unfortunately now days you can't trust anyone. It would be a nightmare to look up and see your child walking down the beach with a random person they picked up on the sand. But it seemed normal and safe in St Ives throwing that frisbee back and forth with these kids and you can't help but smiling and appreciating that innocence and trust is not completely banished to yesteryear.

For dinner Davina and I stumbled upon this awesome restaurant that is situated on top of the first row of shops back from the harbour. I think it was called Coast but I can't quite remember. It was super cheap and the food was amazing. The owner is this delightful pregnant lady who thinks nothing of stopping by your table to discuss your travel plans and anything else you wish to chat about. At the end of the meal they bring you the bill and a comment card for you to let the staff know what you think of the dining experience you had. We ticked all the excellent boxes and wrote about how pleased we were to have sampled not only good food but wonderful customer service and that they should advertise in more visual places so that more people could experience what we had. Just as we were leaving we heard the wait staff talking about the comment not knowing it came from us and they seemed so proud, not of themselves but of the fact that their little restaurant had made an impact on someone. Call me sentimental, but when was the last time that happened in "Here's your hat, there's the door" London?

St. Ives did have an impact on us. So much so that we stayed an extra night. But, as much as I wanted to stay forever, we were drawn to search for pirates and wenches in Penzance and so found ourselves bound for the train station the next morning...

1 comment:

MacWonga said...

Dreams do come true...