Returning from our day of an at times bone chilling journey atop a double decker bus and tromping about Land’s End experiencing every kind of weather Britain had to offer, we returned to St. Ives tired and famished. Right at dinnertime, and were thus faced with the same “Arts Festival” crisis as the previous evening. Knowing that every available eatery was soon to be mobbed, we ducked into the first likely looking spot that appeared to have a few empty tables.
Sunday appears to be “carvery” day at most of the pub style restaurants; for a fixed price, plates can be laden with freshly carved slabs of beef, lamb, and/or pork, with assorted side dishes. Hugely popular, the empty tables had already been reserved – but not until 7 pm, which meant that we were able to sneak in for a quick meal off the menu before the hungry hordes descended for the carvery.
Timing, as they say, is everything. The large dining area of the pub was full of empty tables awaiting the onslaught from the neighborhood that would signal the opening of the buffet line. The large drinking area of the pub was full of cheering souls engrossed in the English version of Sunday afternoon football. Thus, as both nature and restaurateurs abhor a vacuum, we were allowed to grab one of the empty tables as long as we promised to eat it when we got it, and get out promptly after we ate it. No problem.
It was a fine meal, although my definition of “fillet of Dover sole” and theirs were sadly at odds. Although delicious, the entire fish, complete with soleful eyes staring up at me and no less than 4,000 tiny little bones appeared on my plate. Ol’ P and Ben fared better with their fare, and enjoyed a hearty meal. We were able to observe the beginnings of the carvery crowd as we finished up. Judging from the amount of food piled on each good sized plate, this Sunday meal could generate enough leftovers for a week. Not a bad deal.
You would think that a fish dish in St. Ives would be exquisite, but apparently not.
It was – they just weren’t finished with it and should have extracted the bones (and the eyes?) at tableside, as Stuart, our chef extraordinaire back in Windsor later told us. Maybe they were overwhelmed at the thought of the coming deluge of carnivores.
The beef stew with dumplings, however – now that was a meal to remember!
Ben returned to the B&B, pleading exhaustion (understood, but I suspect football had something to do with his decision) so Ol’ P and I planned to stroll off some of our dinner at the waterfront before tackling the mountain climb back to Chy Conyn. We walked all the way out on the fisherman’s jetty, and had the luck to see a seal cavorting in the bay. It dove out of sight by the time I got the camera ready, no doubt experienced with tourists and chortling to itself.
We also observed an older gentleman in full evening dress strolling up and down the pier – a working fishermen’s pier – prompting me to wonder….. This is the land of James Bond, after all.
In spite of our recent ample meal, we had to sample Cornish ice cream, and as we licked and gazed out at the harbor, we observed two kayakers, close to shore and batting about a large orange ball. These were serious kayakers – helmeted and wetsuited – and their identical kayaks were black and bore the white cross of the Cornish flag. After watching them with fascination,
Ol’ P decided to use up the last of his camera’s battery for a video. At which point they stopped, and began to paddle away.
“Hey,” called Ol’ P, holding up his camera, “Can I get a little action here?”
Like boys everywhere, they were only too happy to oblige and show off their considerable “canoe polo” skills. (Though not after first asking me if I’d like “to give it a go?” I may sometimes channel my inner teenager, but even I have common sense when it’s called for. That water looked to be too darn cold!)
As the sunlight waned, it was time to trudge back to the B&B.
I had neglected to bring my map of St. Ives with me when we set out in the morning, so now I was faced with the task of finding our way to the B&B, in the dark, using only my short term memory as a guide. You can guess how that worked out, and you would be right. We passed the post office and the Mariners Church four times, from three different directions. Finally, a kindly resident noticed our plight and pointed us in the correct direction which, of course, was “up a rather steep hill.” In minutes we were climbing alongside the Barnoon Cemetery, the sight of which was incongruously reassuring. No need to whistle by this graveyard, which was a good thing. Given the pitch of the hill, the pitch of my whistle would have been shrill.
Our last morning in Cornwall marked the beginning of the end of our sojourn in the British Isles. A final morning wandering St. Ives, the long train trip back to London, the last 2 days in sight. Bittersweet to be sure, but exhaustion was beginning to take its toll to the extent that that long and soothing train trip ahead of us didn’t look too bad.
Our final exploration, “on the hoof” as it were, was to “the island”, Pendinas, in St. Ives – not really an island but a promontory jutting out into the sea.
It was an easy, though uphill (of course!) walk from the harbor. At its peak was a structure, not quite ruins, but the remains of the 15th century Chapel of St. Nicholas. It had been demolished in 1904 for obscure reasons, but then lovingly reassembled in 1911 and maintained by the town thereafter.
St. Nicholas Chapel – a haven for devout seafarers and also a fine vantage point for a goodly number of smugglers
This ancient building was perched near the edge of a shoreline worthy of Land’s End, with panoramic views of the beaches,
crashing surf on jagged rock outcrops, lots of company in the form of a multitude of shore birds. History, rugged cliffs, rocks, sea, – the best of all possible worlds.
The short walk around Pendinas once again displayed the Cornish Coastal contrasts that we had come to expect.
The only constant was the persistent “marine layer” that blanketed the region. We started out along the fairly wide and deep Porthmeor Beach, where surfers come to play. At the end of the beach, we gradually ascended a rocky knoll with a corresponding steep drop to the ocean down below. On this path I noticed an interesting safety device
with instructions for use in case a stroller happened to spot a potential drowning victim in the rock strewn surf below.
Given the terrain, it was hard for me to comprehend how such a maneuver would be successful for the average passerby,
but then I remembered that this is Cornwall. It is stocked with hardy residents.
At the crest of the knoll, between the Coast Guard lookout and St. Nicholas Chapel, was a large lawn that sloped slightly toward St. Ives. Paths led either to Porthgwidden Beach, which lay in a sheltered nook, or to the waterfront.
As we had a train to catch, we opted for town, which conveniently left time for another stop for scones. It’s a wonder I didn’t gain a stone from scones during this trip to England.
Our final scone fix left us quite close to the station and the adjacent taxi depot. We’d learned a thing or two from our day and a half in Cornwall. We engaged a taxi to take us up, up, up to Chy Conyn, where we had stowed our bags after checking out, quickly grabbed the bags, and had the cab return us to a spot about 50 feet from where we started. The best way to see this most charming part of the country was to manage to only walk downhill.