Departure in 12h 28m but Marie is ready for takeoff!
LHR-London, City of Westminster
Our first visit to the UK since 2017. Good start in that Keith actually slept more than a wink here and there on the United Dreamliner. \240‘Dreamliner’ is a bit of an exaggeration for anyone like us seated in economy - more like, in the words of our new friend Lisa from Burlingame (yes, we made a friend in the SFO lounge) a “sleepover.”
These good omens were countered upon arrival by the international ATM charging Keith’s debit card but failing to deliver the cash (see photo of culprit). Tube to St. James’s Park (pronounced ‘James-is’) from Paddington was easy and, lest one forgets, reminds that London offers some of the best people watching in ever the world.
No rain! Evening light, spectacular cloud patterns - and Marie Claire - grace these shots of iconic Westminster.
Prayer for today and tomorrow, from the wall of Westminster Abbey:
“May God grant to the living GRACE, to the departed REST, to the Church and the world PEACE & CONCORD, and to us sinners ETERNAL LIFE.” Amen.
Predictable fare at The Feathers: Fish & chips, chicken and Portobello pie, a pint of Guinness, and “another lager, Mary.” Capped off the evening with a port and Highland Park 12, neat, on the veranda of our St. Ermin’s Hotel.
Slept soundly, with the help of Ambien and Benadryl. Today is surprisingly dry for our visit to the British Museum.
Special exhibit Feminine Power was all that, although Keith was hesitant to unleash more of it in Marie 😎.
Insights shared over lunch at chez Antoinette at Covent Garden: \240Mary/Maryam of Judeo-Chr./Islamic faith is much for passive than the feminine deities of Buddhism, Hinduism and the Greco-Roman contribution (e.g. Circe, or whole background of the Trojan War, the Judgment of Paris) \240to Western Civ. Exception would be Lilith in Judaism (see photo). Mary perhaps at her most powerful in Orthodox Christianity as Theotokos (‘Mother of God,’ from 3rd C.) and diminished by the patriarchy ever since.
From Covent Garden walked the Embankment to Blackfriars for cider at The Black Friar, rated by one (me brother) the best pub of London Town.
PS Best of luck to new UK prime minister Liz Truss. With a 12% approval rating on day 1 she’s gonna need it.
Pub food wearing thin on day 2, but the night stroll around St. James’s Park was sublime.
Nearly all photography courtesy of Marie Claire. And that goes for all 21 days of this journal.
London Eye from St. James’s Park
Buckingham Palace, quiet by night
St. Ermin’s Hotel, a little less quiet
London-Lancaster-Tan Howe Dyke/Cumbria
Overnight thunderstorms in London provides a dramatic backdrop for Keith anxiety about train schedules given crew shortages and imminent ‘industrial actions’ (strikes). Black cab to Euston Station was easy, as was finding our seats on the 10:10 London-Glasgow train. Downhill from there as Marie’s window seat lacked a window and Keith found the air conditioning much lacking. Arrived and disembarked Lancaster without incident and collected Vauxhall Grandland from Europcar.
Drive to our cottage through Lake District National Park via Ambleside and Keswick was stressful due to a limitation with right hand drive (and one struck curb in Keswick) but scenery is spectacular and traffic thin (as schools back in session).
Grocery shopping at Sainsbury’s in Cockermouth (huh-huh) triggered much appreciation for our availability of quality produce etc. at home, although a short walk to St. Barnabas Church near our cottage before dark and rain is just thing. Cancelled our reservation and stayed in with a fire in the wood-burning stove and Paul and Mary on the telly (rerun of GBBO final, season 6).
St. Barnabas, Cockermouth
Tan How Dyke-Buttermere-Maryport-Tan Howe Dyke
Based on very directive recommendation from Airbnb hosts Christina and Jeff (yes, cosmetic dentistry still not covered by NHS, apparently) the evening prior, we christen our days in The Lakes with a “circular walk” of Buttermere.
Please note this does not entail Keith spinning as he follows Marie down the path from the car park. Keith is here exhibiting his newly acquired vocabulary of the English language.
4.4 miles of easy but varied terrain around the mere (as in Mirrormere, just outside the East-Gate of Moria in Middle-Earth). No question whatsoever that JRR Tolkien was heavily influenced by The Lakes, considering village names like Lower Gardgarth and a cottage called Unerigg (rigg = hill, Underhill?). The professor indeed regularly visited his son at nearby Stonyhurst College, Lancashire. #dorkminutewithkeith
Just to the right of the trees at the far end of Buttermere was a temporary compound consisting of RVs, tents, and a helicopter. Marie is content that this is a station of the local mountain rescue team but Keith notices the subtle yet extraordinary security perimeter manned by men of serious disposition.
Inquiries made at the pub in Buttermere village confirm Keith’s training and intuition, \240getting the barman to reveal more than he suspects: the far field was the post-production base for the crew of Mission Impossible 7/8, and… by virtue of the Maybach parked in the field, Mr Tom Cruise was on site today. He stays at the ritzy hotel in nearby High Lorton and Marie gets stuck trying to climb through the hedge with her camera ph— (ney, Sassenach).
Finish our day out with a brief visit to Maryport on the Irish Sea facing Kirkcudbrightshire in Scotland. Marie’s photography, including lighthouse, is the best part of Maryport.
Lighthouse at Maryport
Irish Sea st Maryport
Back at the cottage we prepare spaghetti with meat sauce and our minds and bodies for tomorrow’s All Day All Inclusive minibus tour of All The Lakes of Lakeland.
Keswick-Ullswater-Howtown-Glenridding-Kirkstone Pass-Patterdale-Grasmere-Castlerigg-Ashness Bridge-Honister-Thirlmere-Windemere-Ambleside-Keswick
Yes, we see virtually everything in The Lakes in one day courtesy of Tim, guide and co-owner of small quality outfit English Lakes Tours and the vision of Marie Claire to do this overview early in our stay.
Departure is promptly at 9:10 from Keswick’s Bell Close car park and guide Tim is sure that Keith will be tardy after dropping Marie and having to reconnoiter the LONG STAY car park on the other side of town when road works block the nearby target site.
Keith arrives with 0 min to spare and Tim is a little disappointed he isn’t able to be mad. Turns out this anxiety is about getting to Ullswater on time because road maintenance is causing delays and the lake steamer won’t wait!
Our minibus group is a total of six, a young Aussie by himself, first time overseas; a London law school grad and his parents visiting from Dubai; Marie and Keith; and guide Tim.
Atmosphere is cordial, even friendly. Keith gets the front passenger seat, with Marie in the back with Nathan of Melbourne. \240Tim is professional, comprehensive, and good for many historical and cultural insights together with a pinch of reserve and stubbornness. Tim is a very good driver and it rains all day.
Marie’s top 3 highlights of the day - Castlerigg stone circle (Tim: “No one knows who they were, or what they were doing.”), Ullswater lake cruise and Surprise View over Derwentwater.
Keith’s best - Honister Pass and Mine, the 400-year-old stone wall next to the Ashness Bridge and the village of Grasmere.
William Wordsworth’s grave, Grasmere
Fun fact - How many lakes in the Lake District?
Strictly speaking, one. Although there are 10 major bodies of water, only one is officially a “lake;” that would be Bassenthwaite Lake - all others are either -meres or waters - although that moniker came late in the game when the guy who owned it (?) added Lake to Bassenthwaite to avoid confusion as a thwaite is a clearing in a wood and not a mere or water. Or lake.
Dine in Kewsick after the tour, our first curry this year in England. A nice twist on our mainstays (chicken tikka massala, sag paneer, naan, raita) but we are glued to our phones as it reported that the Queen is under medical supervision and her family racing to Balmoral.
It is a powerful moment at the Sultan of Keswick as we learn of Queen Elizabeth’s death at age 96. Her 70 years is the longest reign of any British monarch.
This event will imprint our entire English holiday and we feel privileged to experience it in the UK.
HM Queen Elizabeth II (1926-2022)
Tan Howe Dyke-Pooley Bridge-Tan Howe Dyke
After a day of touring by minibus we strike out for Ullswater, the lake we motored on to start yesterday’s Tim tour, in search of a picturesque walk.
Rain finally gets us and the walk is nice and wet. Nice, as in picturesque…
…and wet as in a steady drizzle. Our gear holds up and we enjoy the invigorating walk over field (camping site) and dale (only one wrong turn).
Pop into the Crown Inn at Pooley Bridge to dry out refresh ourselves with a pint and curry parsnip soup (Keith) and tea and cake (Marie).
Back to our cottage for a lazy afternon watching programs on the Queen’s life and legacy and the evening service of thanksgiving at St. Paul’s including the King’s Speech
Finish our day with an omelette of onion and mushroom and a (poor) sauv blanc in front of a fire and the telly.
Tan How Dyke-Bassenthwaite-Grasmere-Hawkshead
Kick off our last day in the north of The Lakes with breakfast at Bassenthwaite Lake Station, a love cafe with table service in several dining cars of the Orient Express luxury train - not the real one, notes Keith, as the rail gauge is right but the cars too wide. Marie confirms it is the replica for cinema, the width necessary to fit in the cameras and get all the right cameras. Her perusal of the tea cakes produces a delight to go which almost compensated for her disgusting vegan sausage on the Vegetablarian Full English Breakfast plate.
Keith’s eggs Benedict is delicious - The English sure know how to do poached - and leaves him recalling fondly Ingrid Bergman, and Johnny Depp.
Arriving in Grasmere, a proper village balancing tourism and natural beauty, Keith is intent for a walk up the “waterfalls trailways.” Near the top of our ascent, with brilliant views over the Grasmere and Rydal Water, we meet Richard, and our afternoon would never be the same.
Richard strikes up that conversation one has while walking in Britain. And before you know it, we see photos of Richard’s oil landscape paintings and receive his confession that Grasmere is beloved and the most beautiful village in the district. We receive an invitation to tea when we descend from Kelborrow hill - “It’s the last cottage on the right where the road makes the bend. With the Jag-oo-ar parked in front.”
Grasmere and beyond Rydal Water from Kelborrow Hill
And so we do. Jan and Richard are waiting on their patio and, although the chance to slip past unnoticed was there, Keith greets them enthusiastically and we are indeed invited in for a cup of tea. Pavement End Cottage is quite the understatement as the views from the north side of the home are breathtaking. We now know everything you can know after an hour about the Norfolk & Norwich Art Circle, Richard’s past chairmanships and presidencies thereof, his current post as archivist thereof, as well as examples of his drawings and paintings. Not to be outdone by Marie’s attention to Richard, Keith learns the art of lino printing, which Jan took up after retirement as deputy headmistress of a school outside of Norwich.
Lovely mail from them says the rest:
Completing the treacherous (narrow roads) journey to our new accommodations in Hawkshead, Keith is secretly wishing to leave the car the following day but it is agreed that we will return to Ambleside and walk the Coffin Route (more on this phenomenon later) to Grasmere.
Our B&B host at the Walker Ground Manor is Sue (enneagram 1). Sue is very concerned about us getting a table for dinner in the village on Saturday evening and shoos us out the door. Was she overly alarmist or did we have good luck? Nice outside table at Poppi Red provides view of Market Place including several youths behaving badly (Keith: “Wannabe Peaky fookin’ Blinders”). We share a bottle of Viognier and white crab and crayfish tails pizza before returning to our room before Sue scolds us for getting our breakfast order form completed correctly and in the basket before 10pm.
Hawkshead-Low Wray-Claife Estate-Hawkshead
Breakfast at 9:15 (we are downstairs in the dot) is most excellent. Keith is especially taken by Sue’s Richard’s poached eggs with brown toast and smoked salmon.
Good listeners as we are - good talkers too, but you know that already - Richard diverts our plans with a 9-mi circular walk from Hawkshead to Wray Castle, along with northwest edge of Windermere to Belle Grange and up over the ridge back to Hawkshead via the coffin route from The Sawreys (Sawrey and Far Sawrey).
Coffin routes, aka “corpse roads,” are common in The Lakes. Built in rural, sparsely populated regions where each village did to rate its own church (and consecrated burial ground), processions to a distant churchyard took familiar routes that were “well maintained,” often over hills and crags. Many are scenic and popular with walkers to this day. Two fun facts about corpse roads, courtesy of Tim from English Lakes Tours: 1. As it was back luck to place a coffin on the ground, so-called coffin stones were placed at regular intervals to give bearers much needed rest (see photo); and
2. In the Lakes, where snow in winter at several hundred feet elevation is not uncommon, corpse roads were often blocked. Solution? Stash the coffin in the snowdrift and return when the track was again passable and continue the journey. #historyminutewithkeith
The overall walk is everything promised by Richard (enneagram 5, or is he a 9?) - varied scenery, pastures, stone walls, meadows, tarns, cows, sheep, dells, dales, woods, a 19th century folly, the Windermere and a steep and partly cobbled coffin route over the Claife Heights.
Marie and Keith complete the journey with full religious and historical accuracy to the door of St. Michael’s and All Angels Church (built 800 years ago), beating the rain and securing a seat for Sunday roast at the Queen’s Head pub. No table bookings possible as Sue was sure to remind us that morning.
Today our last in the Lake District. In spite of the big walk yesterday we awaken ache and pain free. Keith again astounded at the wonders of 800mg ibuprophen and 4 Jaffa cakes.
Marie and I both stay the course with our poached eggs and toast set ups this morning, forgetting in the moment that we have a table booked for 14:00. Oh, well; as you know the Hitchcocks are very good eaters and we will push through (especially given the £25pp cancellation fee at the fancy place).
Travel writer and humorist Bill Bryson is spot on when he writes that the English speak fondly of the weather and more fondly of traffic. Clive and Rose (names changed to protect their privacy) lamented the road closures on the M6 southbound between junctions 32 and 33 to repair a bridge that caused some families, with dogs and seniors no less, to stand 9 hours on the motorway. We pay sufficient attention, as this is our route out of The Lakes, and Sue, without worry of contradicting her guests, gets on her phone and confirms that said closures are overnight and weekends only for the full month of September. So we should be in the clear. Sue to those stranded motorists and canines: “They had it commin,’ didn’t they?” Enneagram 1 with very little loving 2.
Today we are tourists in Coniston, the next (last last big lake) for us to take in. We embark the Steam Yacht Gondola, like Venice plus a unique Victorian mechanical innovation, for a quick one-hour cruise. The short version is that (it must be reported), like everywhere in the Lake District, Beatrix Potter bought everything in sight she could and gifted it to the National Trust to ensure it remain free of development and open to all people forever. Her leadership of the British conservation movement is unmatched. Also we pass John Ruskin’s house. Keith hasn’t fact checked this but..seems Ruskin was one of, if not THE, greatest of British social and civic reformers, the driving force behind the NHS, the National Trust, universal education to at least age 12 and several other things missed by this reporter as the gondola captain’s accent is a bit too broad to understand it all.
Steam engine powering the Gondola. One of a kind.
Take luncheon at The Drunken Duck Inn in Barnsgate - best meal so far and maybe in ever the world of Great Britain. \240We aren’t hungry at 2pm, but Marie - and then Keith - find a way to do 3 courses: For the lady, red pepper gazpacho over tomato and feta cheese; stonebass with potatoes and gnocchi over an aubergine cream sauce; and sticky toffee pudding; with a glass of Viognier. For fatso, cod scampi over a warm tartare sauce with pea purée; venison Bourgignon with suet pudding, heritage carrot and salsa verde; and carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and cinnamon ice cream; and a glass of Cab Sauv.
It all looks like this:
Keoth forgets to mention the suffix to this public house is “Barnsgate Brewery.” This is Cat Nap, an ale crisp and fruity. And cold.
A short turn around Barnsgate and home to the Walker Ground Manor for a sit in the conservatory and to put a dent in the backlog posting the travel journal.
No dinner, if you are wondering.
Spontaneous turn around the village of Hawkshead, down the village path across 3 stiles and past graveyard and church and up Vicarage Lane to our room.
Praying still for Jean’s surgery - the surgeon’s hand, Mom’s rapid healing and full recovery, Dad’s nerves and peace of spirit - and word from the post-op recovery room. Good night. God bless us every one.
Hawkshead - Liverpool - Stow-on-the-Wold - Bourton-on-the-Water
Awaken ready to continue our holiday but wondering how the Cotswold will fare in comparison?
View from our bedroom this glorious morning. Worthy of the grace of best news from Jean’s surgeon and family on the ground! Thanks be to God.
Nervy and gorgeous drive with photo opps at literally every lushly green and stonewalled turn via Newby Bridge. This route enables us to bypass Bowness and Windermere villages, the magnets of mass tourism in The Lakes. Your guide Tim could neither hide his distain for “those kinds of people” nor fail to extol the virtue of Bowness acting as a “filter” for the rest of the district for the right kind of visitors.
After the narrow roads Keith welcomes the simplicity of driving south on the M6 several hours in we are making good time and Marie approves a spontaneous detour to one of the meccas of world football* (*=the round one).
We wind our way through a seemingly endless series of roundabouts and then Dickensian row houses to appear suddenly on the doorstep of revered Anfield, home ground of the mighty Liverpool Football Club, one of the second-tier loves of Keith’s life.
Finding parking on the street we snap some photos and take our custom to the shop, staying perhaps half an hour before reversing our way back to the motorway and destinations beyond.
LFC hosting Ajax of Amsterdam at Anfield this evening. As we drive away the first swag vendors are setting up on the street…
Fun fact about football in Liverpool: Archrivals Everton play their home matches at Goodison Park, which is, no joke, a 5-min walk from Anfield through Stanley Park and Gardens. \2400.9mi between Glory and the blue shite. As we say in LFC fans circles.
Keith gets grumpy with a difficult navigation outside of Coventry (Marie, I owe you an apology). This in spite of Marie downloading on Audible Bill Bryson’s Noted from a Small Island, one of favorite authors. His observations on everything English and England, especially with an alternative American perspective is priceless.
Quick stop in Stow (aka Carmel-in-the-Cotswolds) for photos of the famous north doors flanked by yew trees at St. Edward’s church.
Ancient yews had sacred status in midirval England and are today found mostly in churchyards. The tree’s ability to regenerate from “deadwood” represents life, death and resurrection. Smoking the dried crushed leaves of the yew was a fortuitous pastime of the young Tolkien who hallucinated the Doors of Durin after a bad trip. #dorkminutewithkeith
Yew have a lifespan of over 3,000 years.
Our room in Bourton overlooks the high street and is mere steps from the pubs, shops and restaurants across the water. In comparison to The Lakes our introduction to the Cotswolds** by way of Stow and Bourton has a quaint amusement park feel.
Top notch dinner at the Rose Tree (crab, prawn and avocado salad; mushroom and leek stroganoff; chicken in mushroom sauce; chicken, onion and mushroom pie; sticky toffee pudding; Riesling spaetlese for Keith and English white wine enjoyed by Marie).
Keith ducks into the Duke of Wellington for the 2nd half.
Liverpool 2:1 Ajax (FT)
Through an 89’ winner Joel Matip seals a critical three points for the Reds in their second Champions League group stage tie. (Lots of footcabulary here.)
** = correct pronunciation of the word “cotswold” or its plural consists of two different vowel sounds: Cots like the camp beds and wold rhyming with mold. Say it with me, “Cotswolds.” Very good.
Bourton - Bibury - Circencester - Kemble - Cirencester bypass - Bourton
Marie embarks early for walk to Little Slaughter (in prayerful solidarity with a friend finishing a pilgrimage this morning). Keith lies in an additional hour.
By the way, those mallard ducks playing in the Water of Bourton? All fake! Or, more specifically, automotons. Keith saw them lined up and recharging behind the bridge on his stumble home from the pub after half ten.
Little Slaughter, churchyard at dawn
Met lovely couple at breakfast. Lot of sympatico with Carmen and Mike, about five years our senior, whose togetherness mode in retirement mirrors ours in terms of travel and walking. A former 3M exec, Mike, with Carmen, we’re posted to Shanghai for three years and have lived for months at a time in India (in the home of their daughter’s in laws. Nice to meet Americans who know how to modulate the volume of their voices in public spaces and otherwise behave in holiday somewhere other than Shitkicker, West Virginia.
Today marks the first instance of the COTSWOLDS VILLAGE PHOTO CONTEST. Keith is reluctant to take up this challenge from Meisterphotografin Marie but one believes he has not tarnished the family name.
Subject of today’s contest: The villages of Little Slaughter and/or Bibury, county Gloucestershire. (Latter pronounced “BUY-burr-ee”)
Criteria of today’s context: Composition, breathtaking beauty, witty caption pertaining to five (5) digital photos or videos
Pray the reader be the judge.
“Vision in shadow” (Little Slaughter)
“Family portrait” (Swan Hotel, Bibury)
“Bibury” (the renowned Arlington Row)
“I’m a very important business man!”
“Join me for a walk this morning?” (Little Slaughter)
Keith’s submission (all Bibury):
“Aussies over water”
“Grace under plumage”
“Conservancy in practice”
“Most beautiful public toilets in the Cotswolds” (1 of 2)
“Most beautiful public toilets in the Cotswolds” (2 of 2)
“Seniors’ Bench, Arlington Row”
Light refreshment at the Swan Hotel, Bibury before continuing on to Cirencester, a handsome market town, for a stroll to The Abbey of St. Mary’s, the Abbey Grounds (a lovely green) and the very small bit of Roman town wall.
First mentioned by Ptolemy in AD 150, Cirencester (SY-ren-SESS-ter) was known in Roman times as Corinium Dumbledorum and was at some point after the reign of Diocletian probably the provincial capital of Brittania prima.
Navigation by Keith and Marie leaving ‘Sess-ter lacks precision and we circumvent and then dissect the village of Kemble from all points of the compass before returning to Bourton, via Cirencester, and the A459.
Dinner at the L’anatra just across the Water from our B&B.
Aperativo: Viognier, Cotswold Gin & FeverTree Mediterranean tonic
Prima: Insalata caprese
Secundi: Risotto con pollo, funghi e chorizo (most excellent!), calzone di carne (nice contrast, with good heat from the jalapeños)
Vino: Chianti riserva
Back across the water to our room with some laptop streaming in mind.
Laptop: Apple MacBook Air
Result: may not stream Netflix, Amazon (US accounts) in the UK. So there.
Changing the subject, don’t they look real?
Bourton - Stanton - Stanway - Snowshill - Stanton - Broadway - Bourton
During this period of national mourning every church in Britain has a condolence book that any member of the public may sign and/or share a few words, and these set ups are often accompanied by a “prayer tree” etc. to leave a personal request for intercession.
From the church in Brockley, courtesy of new friend Carmen
After a small touristic diversion yesterday we’re determined to complete one of the “great Cotswolds Way circular walks”(exploringthecotswolds.com). For tomorrow we are off to county Cornwall and to join up with dear friends L & M at Peregrine Hall!
We attempt 6 mi from Stanton to Snowshill and back. First couple of miles through a seemingly endless series and field and gates are very pretty indeed, a good stretch along the Cotswold Way which runs for 100+ mi from southwest to northeast. After Stanway with its lovely St.Peter’s parish church the next few miles are uphill (good) but monotonous through a uniformly thick woods with neither character nor vistas (not good, not photographed).
Cotswolds Way at Stanton
County line between Worcestershire and Glouchestershire..(no)
St. Peter’s Stanway
Across the ridge we join the Winchcombe Way over field and stile for a nice run down and up into Snowshill. Sleepy and pretty on the outside, the village was positively warm and lovely on the inside, the inside of the Snowshills Arms pubs, that is, with nearly every seat taken.
No sooner than we’ve ordered a well deserved respite Keith notices Americans arriving, more a prickling on the back of his neck, commensurate with his government training. Americans they are - and, no bull, who is it but our breakfast room friends Carmen and Mike(!), led to this pub by their local friend Keith (another Keith). “Of all the pubs in the Wolds and they walk into ours!”
A joyful yet expeditious lunch follows - really good fun - and Keith Is happy to drop us back at the cricket field car park in Stanton on their way to their next tour destination (Burford).
We proceed by car to Broadway Tower, an 18th century folly created by landscape designer Capability Brown with help from renowned architect James Wyatt for George William 6th Earl of Coventry. We have neither the coin in hand to satisfy the pay and display parking robot nor the energy trod to the ticket office/shop/cafe for change and to shell out 24 quid for a slightly different angled photo opp. Marie captures the essence more than well enough from the car park…
Early dinner at the Mousetrap Inn, duck breast for Keith and a mysterious green salad with “potato strings” (=fried string potatoes) for Marie. Back to our room for an episode of Repair Shop and a few seconds of the Queen-Lying-In-State LIVE.
Bourton-on-the-Water - Bolventor - \240Lostwithiel
Say goodbye after breakfast to Bourton-on-the-Water. Upon short reflection it is a most fine Cotswolds village, a dignified beauty who is able to accommodate but not actually absorb the tourist throngs she lightens of their treasure that invade her on a daily basis.
(Fair warning: Keith is a little melancholy today.) He hereby withdraws his previous allusions to Disney. But stay tuned; Keith really does love Disneyland, the the right measure.
Unlike most visitors, beyond our B&B Marie and I limited our custom to 3 restaurants, 2 pubs, the scone shop and the little grocery (for tissue). We missed the ice cream shops, the Motor Museum, Birdland - whatever that is; one may guess - the luxury chippy, the church, the myriad purveyors of woolen clothing, perfumes, candles, antiques and all sorts of albeit high-end souvenirs.
We also, to the likely chagrin of fellow true believers in the Greater Good, missed the MODEL VILLAGE; we just knew it would hurt too much.*
(* Reference: Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s iconic film Hot Fuzz)
Reminder to self: One can’t forget that quick purchase at the Cotswolds Distillery before departure for Cornwall!
Traffic on the M5/A30 from Gloucester to Bodmin was heavy but steady and just a little dodgy around Bristol. The reverse direction (TOWARD the Midlands or London) was horrendous. Odd that, especially on a Friday afternoon. Skies are blue with billowy white clouds that turn grey but not menacing as we cross from Devon into Cornwall.
For the first 127mi of today’s journey (yes, Keith counted) sees Marie randomly pushing any and all buttons on her phone and the vehicle center console, and steering wheel, attempting to magically coerce the USB cable to charge. It’s been the darndest thing: Sometimes it charges, sometimes it doesn’t, and we don’t mean because the connectors are loose or defective. It’s a function of the Vauxhall computer and/or our operator error. Keith mostly staying out of what must be now described as Marie’s feud with the motor vehicle.
Spirits are joyful and we distract outselves with our Bryson audiobook. His social commentary is really pithy, and laugh-out loud humorous, but (in our opinion but not everyone’s) without being mean-spirited.
Spontaneous refreshment stop in Bolventor at the Jamaica Inn, (in)famous in its real past life and memorialized in the Daphne du Maurier novel of the same name.
Whoever runs this joint is a genius. They are taking ooodles of the King’s coin from weary travelers (averaging age 74 with 0.637 walking sticks or canes per capita), just like in its heyday as a post coach inn in the toll road between Exeter and Bodmin.
You could just about pick up the whole establishment and set it down in New Orleans Place opposite the Blue Bayou restaurant and it would be the 2022 sensation of Disneyland! The author is dead serious, and believes there is a bit a property between the back of Club 33 and the Jungle Cruise river.
Great staff, good food (beef burger and the curry, halfs of Carlsberg and cider for Marie and Keith, respectively) and fantastic culinary/entertainment value for money.
While Marie makes discretionary purchases the the Smugglers Museum Gift shop, Keith fetches the car, plugs in his phone and it starts charging. Immediately. Marie remains in good humour.
No half an hour’s drive from Bolventor to or Cornish home away from home in Losteithiel. Just one VERY NARROW stone guard guarding crossing of signposted “weak bridge.” Keith floors it across just in case.
Peregrine Hall was built in 1864 as a home for “wayward girls” and run by an order of Church of England nuns on land donated by Thomas James Agar-Robards, 1st Baron of Lanhydrock. Said girls were “put to work running a laundry serving the local estates of Lanhydrock, Bonconnock and Jabberhitchcock.” In other words, says Marie, “a joyous bunch.”
We have the west wing, Little Peregrine. A little grocery shopping in the village, a little humiliation having to ask help from our AirBnb superhost to operate kitchen appliances (Is she?) and much anticipation of the arrival of our friends joining us for the next five days. Godspeed!
Sunset, Peregrine Hall, Lostwithiel
For faithful readers of this diary waiting with baited breath for an update on our day 1 ATM fail, our apologies. Because the debit card charge for withdrawal credited while still “processing” we believed case was closed before it started. But, alas, it “recharged” and hit for real on the 15th. Keith will be having a discussion with the BofA robot later today.
With permission to use everyone’s real name, we - now four of us - Marie and Keith joined by Lisa and Mark, fresh off the Camino - head off in one hire car for the port town of Fowey (rhymes with “joy”). The car park is above with a steep downhill walk to the shops, restaurants and centre of all things Fowey: Town Quay (pronounced “key”). Lisa and Marie opt for the shuttle.
Flag of St. Pirran, patron of tin-miners, and who also beat out Sts. Michael and Petroc for claim to the title of patron saint of Kernow (Cornish: Cornwall; pronounced “KUH-now.”)
Fowey lies on the western bank of a large sheltered harbor at the mouth of River Fowey. Archeology evidences sea trade with Mediterranean predating the time of Christ, and throughout the Christian Era Fowey has been a strategic port, for the export of tin, also fish and wool, and carrying pilgrims to Spain, and the import - legal and otherwise - of wine, salt and iron from France and Iberia.
View from Fowey east to the village of Polruan (Boat driver’s assistant’s summary of Polruan: “Teo good pubs, a big boatyard and the steepest hill out in all of Cornwall.” “Those from here (Fowey) say “the best thing about there is the view from there of here.”)
Keith’s new kilt, not rented - owned! (No)
Fortified by the Normans with a think iron chain across the harbour mouth, the local privateers and “independently minded” townspeople developed the bad habit of allowing a distressed cargo ship to seek safe haven in Fowey - and then pulling up the chain, preventing the vessel to depart and robbing the cargo and/or murdering the crew. When the king sent an emissary to order Fowey to cease and disist, he was returned to London sans ears, a clear message to His Majesty (“We don’t hear you!”). A larger royal contingent compelled at least some behavior modification by confiscating the chain. The chain was then gifted by the sovereign to Dartmouth, a key port town eastward along the coast, who then adopted the same pirating ways.
If ever there would be a Christmas card…
A lovely day of shopping, harbour cruise and gin tasting before returning to Peregrine Hall…
…for pre-dinner entertainment…
Nice local public house is the Earl of Chatham here in Lostwithiel. Friendly atmosphere, and food was okay but not worthy of specific mention. Halfs of Thatcher’s Gold cider for the ladies and pints of Guinness for the boys. Home for lemon cake purchased today in Fowey, forgotten in bench in churchyard by Keith, rescued by the Fab 4 by driving the car down into the town - very, very narrow (see below).
Shout out this evening to Spurs and all Spurs fans - Second-half hat trick from Son Heung-Min! Tottenham hits six (!) at home against Leicester City. Two very exhuberant fans in the pub.
A leisurely morning followed by an easy 75 min drive the seaside resort town of St Ives (rhymes with “dives”). Mark and Keith drop the ladies at Town Square and then connoiter back up the steep hill to the Trenwith car park. Lisa and Marie dive right in and had make several fantastic clothing purchases by the time we meet up.
We spend a lovely day under fantastic skies variously strolling, shopping, sipping, munching, strolling, beach coming and otherwise sharing the resort with many tourists, mostly families, and English, in the middle of this long weekend given tomorrow’s bank holiday in respect for the Queen’s funeral.
Enjoy (mostly) Marie’s photography of this once-prosperous fishing village turned artists’ colony thanks to Victorian rail service. They say that’s it the light in St. Ives that makes the difference.
St. Ives harbour
Parapet above Bamaluz Beach
Stalling for dinner time at The Sloop Inn
Marie Claire incognito (“Blimey, me thinks that’s that movie star!”)
Tourist-friendly but not messing around at St. Ia’s Parish Church
Dinner of pasta and pizza at Caffe Pizza and Pasta at a beachside table on The Wharf before heading back to Peregrine Hall.
Keith fails to pick up charcoal before the kind of shops that carry charcoal this late in the summer season close.
Keith rises early for a solitary walk under warm blue skies. His goal is Restormel Castle, a fortification above Lostwithiel and the River Fowey, and, given this national holiday in honor of the late Queen, has the path and lane along the river almost to himself.
River Fowey from the Restormel Bridge
Keith skirts the locked gate across the road to the castle (everything is closed for business this morning) but cannot breach the padlocked gate at the entrance to the castle. Perhaps tomorrow will see another attempt.
We watch every bit of the funeral service live. It holds our rapt attention. Personal reflection to written word perhaps to follow in coming days.
Afternoon walk by Marie and Keith along the River Lerryn. A short three-mile drive from Peregrine Hall, we navigate a riverbank path past cottages each with a little boat stranded by the low tide, up into the Ethy Woods and back down to the river where two single white birds make their way across the mud flats, providing Keith with the name for his Cornwall pub, The Gull & Egret.
By the bank of River Lerryn
“I Walk Cornwall” app
Roses of Lerryn
Medieval column from church or villa repurposed as gate post
Adventure explorer repurposed as husband
Big sky country
According to Cornish legend the Ford Stones of Lerryn (above) inspired visiting Irish monks for their greater work in county Antrim (below)
A quick half at The Ship Inn at Lerryn before returning home. Not to be outdone by Irish monks, Marie’s inspiration is takeaway chips from the Earl of Chatham to compliment our pending dinner at home - steak, sauteed; medley of roasted courgettes, aubergine, green beans and to-MAH-toes; orange wine for Marie; red wine; leftover lemon cake from St. Ives; tea and Jaffa cakes (Keith reloaded on Jaffa cakes).
Mark’s cooking has the attention of neighbors
Beloved readers - To close out today, in remembrance of the Queen, a surprise gift accorded to Keith on his morning walk. Although the castle gate is closed, a small silver plaque on the stone wall done the road points to this oak.
Called “The Queen’s Green Canopy,” it is one of 70 ancient trees dedicated to HM in celebration of her Platinum Jubilee 2022.
A leisurely morning, our last full day with Lisa and Mark and at Peregrine Hall. Keeping options for each couple open, we convoy in two cars to the house and gardens of Lanhydrock, a very fine Late Victorian restoration of a really rich family estate, if that’s your cup of tea.
PRONUNCIATION CONTEST! No cheating.
If Keswick is “KESS-ick,” and Raleigh is “RAHL-ee,” then how is then said, “Lanhydrock?” Remember, we are in Cornwall, and this county has Celtic heritage. Or, by contrast, the same Norman bastards that subjugated the rest of Anglo-Saxon England and Wales did their business here as well. Take your best shot.
(Answer at the end of today’s journal entry.)
Landhydrock House sits on nearly 900 acres, one of the top ten landholdings in Cornwall in its day, and is under management of the Gestapo wing of the National Trust: No friendly English honor system here! We have to fish out our flimsy paper tickets at least 7 times before getting through three different sections of the house and before finding respite at the cafe (“KAFF-ay”) for pasty, sandwich, tea cake, tea, coffee and lemonade.
Barbican gate, fortified to thwart parliamentary forces during the English civil war.
Mark approaching Lanhydrock House, prize for his £18 entry fee
Keith finds the whole thing rather vulgar (exhibit A: Bengal tiger rug with full head, exhibit B: polar bear rug with full head). “Please mind jolly Tigger, Marge, he can be a real nuisance when the girls bring in the tea trays.” The best part is the small parish church attached to the house, the earliest bits from the 15th Century. The same Robartes family donated the land for our lodgings, if you remember: a home run by nuns for “wayward girls,” now known to be a euphemism for girls in service at Lanhydrock who spilled the sherry tripping over animal rug heads.
Once again Marie captures the simple beauty of a place (Lanhydrock)
Marie and Keith proceed on in the direction of St. Austell, reconnecting via audiobook with Bill Bryson as he makes his way to Wigan and then Wales and then Blackpool, by way of bus and British Rail. We, on the other hand, have the flexibility of our motor car but Keith takes the cue and drives where his heart takes them, which is Charlestown Harbour. The last 18th Century Georgian port open in the UK, and deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site for that fact, Charlestown is weird combination of working harbour, tourist trap, movie set (Poldark, Taboo, etc., given its authentic buildings, iron gate to keep the harbour flooded at low tide) and nice place to have a short sit over a shared can of Thatcher’s Gold cider. Total elapsed time in Charlestown: 23 minutes. Almost as long as it takes Keith to get through the queue at the most complicated pay & display machine in the the whole of the British Isles. Keith assists the pensioners ahead of him and thankfully finds his pocketful of change includes £1.50.
Charlestown Harbour, St. Austell
Marie sailing away in the Black Pearl
Exhausted from a day of tourism, we repair to the Royal Oak Inn in nearby Lostwithiel for traditional pub fare. Have the lounge (dinner room) to ourselves and proceed to probably, although politely and completely unintentionally, terrorize the staff with our questions and various orders. For example: “We’d like the chilli nachos to start, but could we have that with no cheese across three-quarters of it?”…“Oh, you don’t have the Tarquin’s elderflower & grapefruit gin? Hm, well, what about the rhubarb & raspberry? Okay, great, but does the FeverTree Mediterranean tonic also go with the rhubarb or do I need to go Indian?”
[Answer to Pronunciation Contest: “Lan-HY-drock.” Keith was sure it was something “more logical,” say, “LAHN-ee-drock.” Ney, Sassenach.]
Marie & Keith wish you “GOOD NIGHT!” from Cornwall.
Losteithiel-Bodmin-High Bury-Cabila Manor-Lostwithiel-Lewannick
Lisa and Mark depart just after half six (‘after’ is inferred) for their four (?) hour drive to Heathrow to return the car and flight him.
Marie and Keith receive good news from home (Jean’s discharge from hospital, on schedule) but agree we are ready to go. United Airlines cooperates so today is our penultimate day in Cornwall for 2022.
After a KAFF-ay and bap with butter (sounds better than is) in Bodmin Town we proceed to the selected circular walk under the digital guidance of “I Walk Cornwall.” This app is highly recommendable as, once a specific walk is purchased (£2.99) the map and written commentary (worthy of History Minute with Keith) are omnipresent even without cellular or Wi-Fi.
We drive a quarter of an hour to the middle of nowhere on the edge of the moor and find the road edge of grass with an ancient wooden signpost indicating High Bury, the start of circular walk over hill, dale - and moor this time.
View west toward Bodmin
The walk - Marie insists to climb fences to stay on GPS coordinates and therefore avoid the MoD firing range; what fun is that, Keith asks - takes us through hilly woods and the Cabila Manor. The hedges down from the manor house and farm overwhelm the senses with The Ancient, and, indeed, these Cornish hedges may be 6,000 years old, which would mak them among the oldest manmade structures on earth still in use according to their original purpose.
Cornish hedge, contemporary of the Pyramids at Giza
We finish with an amble across the Treslea Downs and back to the car. Reviewing the map later, Keith notices we have passed by Bury Castle unremarked and somehow avoided the barrow-eights lurking around the tombs of the Northern Kingdom on these downs.
With time on our hands before check-in at Coombshead Farm Keith strongly urges we backtrack to Lostwithiel and nearby Restormel Castle, the best extant example of a Norman circular keep in Britain, and slows down to push Marie out the door near the Duchy of Cornwall Nursery & Cafe shouting, “Enjoy your ciderrrrrrr!” as he happily barrels down the lane.
Restormel Castle, maintained by the Affectionate wing of the National Trust, does not disappoint. This fortification was built in sight of a Roman fort. Lostwithiel is and the River Fowey are strategically located in the heart of Cornwall, geographically and economically. It was the county capital for long medieval stretches, and was until the end of the tin industry the venue of the Stannary Courts, which basically had jurisdiction over all things and persons tin that trumped most every other legal entity.
“What is your quest?”
Inner ward, of Restormel Castle, with gatehouse in center
Lostwithiel from the ramparts of Restormel Castle
Some enthusiastic Cornish separatists to this day argue that since the Stannary Courts are still formally in force, the entire duchy is legally outside the jurisdiction of Crown and Parliament. The only observable protest - and this goes for our entire 21 days on the island, including all press coverage and pub and bakery banter around the passing is the Queen - were modest signs in several windows of Lostwithiel houses in the Lerryn Road reading, “First homes NOT second homes.”
The drive to Coombshead Farm in Lewannick (“Luh-WAH-nick”) is easy. The Farm is the only planned repeat from our previous visit to Cornwall in 2017, and we grateful to report that the experience remains exquisite:
We again reside in the Farmhouse, room 4 versus 2 last time. Room is elegant but still “farmhouse,” with downstairs sitting rooms and kitchen for residents. Coombshead Farm is a working farm, and co-founders Tom and April embody farm-to-table most itinerary. (Please read all about them at www.coombsheadfarm.co.uk)
Room with a view, Coombeshead Farm
Light, exquisite - small portions - excellent!
Forgot to take a picture of the dessert
Never a better meal in the UK than tonight’s “modest offering” versus the Thursday-Sunday five-course dinner that awaits us tomorrow. Maybe never a more simple, elegant, sustainable and sublime restaurant experience ever, at least until tomorrow.
Marie and Keith share the “resident” orange wine, this an Italian in litre size which means Marie will have wine left over for tomorrow’s dinner. Climate change has turned England into a wine growing region (again) and the Castlewood brut on offer is excellent.
We retire satisfied but comfortable, as portions and consumption are both extremely civilized, like Coombshead Farm itself.
Lewannick-Blisland-Cocks Penrose-Blisland-Trebarwith Strand-Lewannick
Keith struggles to figure out the self service coffee set up in the Farmhouse kitchen but Marie gets her morning coffee delivered to the room in a little silver pot.
Breakfast is a very casual but, again, exquisite - with country bread, butter, a courgette ragout with perfectly poached egg and a slice of bacon - all produced on site, truly farm-to-table.
Marie exploits I Walk Cornwall for an amble starting and finishing in the village of Blisland. We park by the lovely little village green and start the walk by way of the churchyard of St. Protus & St. Hyacinth, 2 guys martyred in the 3rd Century. The app advises that September 22 (today!) is their feast day, and the following Sunday will be the procession, which commemorates a joyful slaughter: Our man Protus (Cornish: foreskin) was evidently a very pious yet violent Saxon knight who collected “trophies” from the members of Roman (?) or Irish (?) invaders he vanquished. Every year he is remembered with a bonfire to end the procession, which we saw all set up in the field. #fictionalminutewithkeith
Marie is very pleased with the walk and herself for selecting it and Keith heartily agrees. Over 4 miles we successfully complete the pentathalon of stiles crossing via Trevessick Farm and the village of Cocks Penrose.
Marie, artist at work
No laughing, readers. In oldish English cock or, in this case, cocks is a diminuative - and in this name to distinguish the village from Penrose proper.
(During the 16th Century and beyond, ‘Hitch’ was a common English nickname for Richard. Ergo, Hitchcock = Little Richard or son of Richard, something like that.) #linguisticminutewithkeith
Near the end we take an optional diversion across the bridge and up the lane to an ancient stone cross (St. Pratt’s Cross) marking an ancient well, still visible on the side of the road. Looking to verify what she is reading in the app Marie accosts a white-haired local gent walking his three golden retrievers, together with another dog walker, with the questions, “Is this St. Pratt’s Well?” and “Is is true its waters were considered holy and used in christenings at the local parish church?” He seems slightly embarrassed to not know this second bit but heartily confirms the first. With warm farewells Marie and Keith proceed into Lavethan Wood to return to the village while Keith hopes we don’t find the car vandalized by insulted local farmers.
Field below Blisland parish church; zoom into photo for bonfire set up
Repairing to the Blisland Inn for refreshment who is occupying the table next to ours? Our gent with the goldens. Keith discerns no animosity but checks the car anyway, sneaking out the back after feigning a visit to the loo.
Blisland Inn. The roof is better than the crab sandwich
Main alter of St. Protus & St. Hyacinth Parish Church, Blisland. No wonder local’s refer to it as St. Pratt’s…
The parish church is really quite fetching, a way to end our excursion strong. Yes, and…since we have a few hours remaining on this last day in Cornwall we head to the nearby north coast. To the beach!
After brief consultation with our dog walker we make our way to Trebarwith Strand and whatever it holds in store. The sky has turned a mean color of grey and we agree that the season has turned. Alas, it is time to go home..
The takeaway coffee from the vendor at the car park is excellent, Marie claiming the best in Cornwall, and so it apparently is. Our man with his mobile espresso machine is rated by TripAdvisor #3 “best place to eat” in all of Cornwall! Keith of course has to fact-check this later, and it’s true (The Coffee Cup, he’s called. His wife’s pecan brownie ain’t bad either.
Reminiscent of Boscastle (just up the road; we stayed there in 2017), the coastline is rocky, jagged, even, with a quaint surf shop and The Port William pub hugging the cliff overhead and providing a fetching view (fetching is word of the day) of the line surfer watched over by two RNLI lifeguards.
Speaking of best places to dine in Cornwall, we return to Coombshead Farm in time to shower, pack our things and relax before cocktail hour in the Farmhouse sitting room before dinner. Marie enjoys a glass of her orange wine leftover from the prior evening while Keith enjoys the Coombshead Gin & Tonic (what else could it possibly be?).
A COVID-informed change to dinner at the Farm since 2017 is guests sitting at individual versus the large community table.
We take our assigned table 6 in the rear corner and partake in all that is brought before us. Last of the Pugkia orange for Marie and a glass of the excellent Castlewood brut for Keith.
We are delighted that some of the small courses tonight echo the Wednesday night menu - Gougeres (lightest of choux pastry) with a mushroom foam (and the lightest dusting with grated cheese), the pork terrine (a new favorite for Keith, but probably just here) and of course the country sourdough, baked on site (although the country loaf from SF’s Tartine country is no poor substitute).
The main course is pork loin, stylishly sliced but served with bone to which it had been enjoined moments before, which melts in the mouth. So simple, so delicious.
Full dinner menu
We are backed and have arranged breakfast to go for our target departure for Heathrow at 6:40am. Thank you, Cornwall.
We have voluntarily shortened our holiday by one day. Keith’s mother says 3 weeks is slightly too long, and we don’t argue. Marie is pleased to not celebrate her birthday on 24 September with the strangers of the Economy Plus cabin on our 787 Dreamliner.
Drive to Heathrow via Exeter and Yeovil is uneventful, and our Bill Bryson audiobook is coming to end on the right day.
Ever vigilant with the camera, Marie captures a weird rock formation visible from the highway (see below).
Unidentified modern art exhibit (?) captured at 70mph on the A303
We struggle only to find the Esso petrol station right there in Google Maps prior to rental car return and easy bus shuttle to T2, The Queen’s Terminal.
After a decent meal of chicken schnitzel and proper salad we by pure chance meet friend Randy in the UA lounge and catch up on our respective visits and family happens.
UA939 is just a few minutes late arriving into SFO. Keith is irked by the lack of a gate and then jetway driver. But all is well as neighbor Jim arrives to fetch us on this Friday evening as we hit the curb following customs, where Keith of his own free will and without marital consultation declares and then must surrender to authorities £36 of the most delicious silverside ham on God’s green earth while Marie gives him that look.
We find ways to stay awake and make it a 24-hour day between sleeps.
England 2022 is a wrap. Monday’s work for Keith includes travel and will come soon enough. Let’s see if we can rustle up some friends to celebrate Marie’s birthday on Saturday night.