In my last post, I shared the first day or two of a surprise holiday to Cornwall and Devon. We were, quite unexpectedly, given the use of an apartment in Plymouth for a week (Thank you, Raj!). Our second day in Plymouth fell on the Bank Holiday Monday, the last official day of summer holiday. It was also, by lovely coincidence, Doug’s birthday. We spent the morning lazing around the Hoe, a beautiful public park right on the waterfront in Plymouth (and a 5 minute walk from our apartment).
Plymouth has coffee shops spread along the waterfront and is prime people watching territory. We grabbed a table, I took out my knitting (but of course) and happily spent the morning watching the boats and the people sail by. (Doug alternated his people and boat watching with reading a mathematics journal – there is no accounting for taste.) The girls often lamented the fact that there is a dearth of outdoor pools in England, so I include here a photo of Plymouth’s newly restored Lido. Not too shabby, huh?
In the afternoon, we hopped in the car and drove out to Salcombe, along the Devon coast just east of Plymouth. We picked it for the same reason we picked Rame the day before – we were hoping to avoid the traffic by staying close to town, and the guide books said it was pretty. They did not lie.
Answer: Most definitely!
We didn’t have any plans for Doug’s birthday dinner, but while walking through Salcombe, I found a restaurant, called dickandwills, that looked really promising. First, the sign said that it had “possibly the best view in Salcombe”. I love that! “Best view in Salcombe” would not have turned my head, but that “possibly” really grabbed me. (By the way, the view is amazing; click on the link and check out their photos.) And the menu was mouth-watering. The restaurant was closed for that break between lunch and dinner so there was no way to determine if they had a table free. I wandered into the Salcombe Deli across the way, and while purchasing some gluten-free treats, I casually asked the owner if he could hazard a guess as to availabilty at the restaurant that evening. He picked up his phone, called the restaurant’s owner at home, and booked us a table! Our whole trip followed this pattern; I couldn’t believe how nice everyone was. If you are ever on the South Devon coast, go and eat at dickandwills. The food was fabulous, the service was great, the views impressive, and the price reasonable. It was a perfect birthday dinner.
On the Tuesday, we drove to Watergate Bay, just above Newquay on the Cornish coast. Our mission was twofold: I wanted to show Doug the amazing beach at Watergate Bay:
and the lovely Watergate Bay Hotel, which you can see nestled into the cliffs on the photo above. I once spent 4 lovely days here for a knitting retreat! Since then, they have added a spa to the hotel, and its former glory is now surpassed.
The hotel runs a surfing school, and the beach is filled with wetsuit-wearing water sports enthusiasts all year round. (My knitting retreat was in January – there was ice on the beach, and there were surfers even then.) Jamie Oliver’s flagship restaurant, Fifteen, is also there right on the beach. (We tried to get in, without a reservation – they said “We have a free table 5 weeks from now if you want it.”) This is a very windy beach (note that I am wearing my Neon cardigan while standing on the beach in August). This brings us to my second reason for bringing Doug here – it is the best kite flying beach around!
The big kite in the foreground is ours, and that is me flying it! These kites are so big, and the wind so strong, that you have to fight to keep your feet on the ground. They are a blast to fly, and also hard work. Can you tell that I am having fun?
I am not as good with a camera as Doug is; I tried to get a good photo of him flying the kite. He is also better at flying a kite. He does these figure 8 moves where the kite comes crashing down to earth, only to swing around at the last moment and zoom back up to the sky. I managed to get one photo just as he is stopping the mad descent; it takes a lot of strength – you can see his foot leaving the ground. A second later, his whole body was pulled skyward.
On the Wedensday, our destination was St. Ives. This is a town on the Cornish coast famous for being an artist’s hub. There are over a hundred art studios in St. Ives; some are rather touristy, but many are very good. St. Ives also has beautiful beaches, twisted cobblestoned streets, tons of restaurants, coffee shops and bars, and wonderful people watching.
I was unfamiliar with the British beach scene, and so got a kick out of the colourful windscreens surrounding every towel! I also enjoyed some of the configurations of people on the beach – like the giant circle below. All they need is some fabric squares and they could form a quilting bee!
Here I am working on the endless (but lovely) Viajante shawl. I fear I shall never finish this baby! (I include these knitting photos because, after all, this is a knitting blog; I don’t want my dear readers to abandon me for my lack of knitterly content!)
In addition to the fabulous scenery, Doug had an ulterior motive for bringing me to St. Ives. The absolutely top thing to do in Cornwall and Devon, is to have a cream tea. A traditonal cream tea consists of two lovely homemade scones, strawberry jam, to-die-for clotted cream, and a pot of tea. This is a treat I always pass by because I have coeliac’s disease and thus can’t eat gluten. Doug had spent time carefully searching the internet for the best gluten-free tea in Cornwall, and had found it here:
This is the tea room, which is right on the waterfront in St. Ives. We started with lunch, and I had a crab sandwich, which was served on gluten-free bread. It had nothing but crab – lots and lots of crab – no filler, no celery, just crab, on homemade GF bread, with homemade citrus mayonnaise served on the side. And cole slaw made with real clotted cream. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. And that was before the cream tea was served:
These scones were simply perfect. If you are ever in St. Ives, gluten-free or not, you should have a cream tea here. I must also point out that we shared the best pot of tea I have had in ages. Yum! (Totally worth the 2 -hour drive from Plymouth and the hassle with parking.)
Replete from a fabulous lunch, we returned to the car and drove westward along the coast from St. Ives. This is the most beautiful drive. The scenery in this part of the world is truly breath-taking. We stopped in the very cute town of Zennor, which has a lovely church set against the backdrop of rolling hills.
The Coastal Path, which runs for hundreds of miles along the Coast, has a very beautiful stretch between Zennor and St. Ives, which is about 7 miles long. I would love to have hiked it, but at this point in the trip I had developed achilles tendonitis and wasn’t up for it. The path looks like this as you lead out from Zennor:
and has views like this:
That stretch of path is definitely on my to-do list.
The next day, we drove home, but we took a slight detour to drive through the Dartmoor. The Moor is wonderful. Realy, truly wonderful. If you ever get a chance to go there, take it up.
Driving through the moor takes forever, because every hundred feet or so, you feel obliged to stop the car and stand in awe drinking in the view. If you are Doug, then you must also grab the camera. At one point, he pulled over, took the camera, and walked off; he was gone for 30 minutes. Does this bother me? Not at all:
For only a five day holiday, we squeezed a lot in! Now that Cornwall and Devon are on our radar, we will definitely return. And I will return to this space soon with real knitting content. Promise!