Knits in action

We have just returned from a short break to Watergate Bay in Cornwall.  Most people seem to prefer the beach in summer, but give me a cold and windswept beach any day:

20131112_160050Not only is a cold and windy November beach bracing and exhilerating and restorative, but it is also a great place for knits in action.

20131110_163720The soft focus in the photo above is because we took this in a soft and steady drizzle.  Frequent readers of this blog will notice that, under the down vest, I am wearing my Killybegs cardigan, designed by Carol Feller and knit in Donegal Aran Tweed from Studio Donegal.  Here is another shot, with our hotel in the background.

20131110_161356The rain began when we were a good thirty minutes walk down the beach, and came down steadily.  I am here to tell you that wool is truly a miracle fabric: not a single drop of water penetrated this beautiful Irish wool.  I remained warm and dry and cozy.  It wouldn’t withstand a downpour, but was considerably more wind and water-proof (and attractive) than a fleece.  (Now that I have put in my plug for wool, note that on the next day, I wore a fleece sweatshirt, proving that nobody’s perfect.)

On the second day, we went for a long walk along part of the Coastal Path, which winds along the cliffs above the beach.  It is beautiful in any time of year, but on a windy autumn day it has a special appeal:

20131112_11595420131112_11433420131112_113627Observant readers will notice two handknits in these shots. I am wearing my Wintergreen cowl, knit in seed stitch with a double strand of Malabrigo worsted, and I am also wearing the wonderful Peerie Flooers hat designed by Kate Davies.  This hat was one of the first projects I documented on this blog.  It is very appealing to wear these knits in action, and I get quite a bit of satisfaction out of wearing handknits.

20131111_131412You can see in the above photo that the cold and wind do not discourage the surfers.  They are a die-hard lot; we stood be-hatted and bundled and watched the wet-suit wearing surf fanatics play in the waves.  This is the same beach where Doug and I flew kites on our August trip to Cornwall.  We refrained this time, due to back problems, but the kite flying crowd is also undeterred by the cold:


Doug was in charge of the camera on this holiday, but I made a point of taking a few photos of him so that we could prove he was there.  They all turned out uniformly awful, except for this one:

20131111_134558This beach is also the site of Jamie Oliver’s restaurant, Fifteen, where we had a very nice dinner.  I was impressed because they made up a special 5-course taster menu for me that was not only gluten-free but also without meat.  Since we were staying at the hotel and didn’t need to drive, we had the 5-course taster menu with 5 wines, including a nice talk with the young sommelier-in-training about each wine.  It was fun.  Note to self: someone who gets drunk on her second glass of wine should not order 5 of them.

20131111_211456(Perhaps 5 glasses were also more than enough for the photographer?)

We booked this holiday to celebrate our 22nd anniversary (a little late, since the anniversary was in September).  It was a lovely break from routine with great food, beautiful beaches, long walks, and plenty of time to sit by the fire and knit.


Unexpected holiday, part 2

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).

20130826_133350Plymouth 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?

20130826_133936In 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.

IMG_7579Question:  Can one find a nice spot to sit and knit in Salcombe?

Answer: Most definitely!

IMG_7559We 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:

IMG_7592and 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.

IMG_7610The 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!

IMG_7679The 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?

IMG_7698I 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.

IMG_7657On 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.



IMG_7708I 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!

IMG_7714While Doug was busy with the camera, I was chatting with people and – you guessed it – knitting away.

IMG_7736Here 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:

IMG_7726This 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:

20130828_145803These 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.)

20130828_145738Replete 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.

IMG_7791IMG_7776The moor is famous for the wild ponies which roam freely, and in abundance:

IMG_7815IMG_7780And, scattered throughout the moor, are a few very tiny, very picturesque villages.

IMG_7804Driving 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:

IMG_7824One of the secrets to a good marriage is to have complimentary hobbies!

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!


Unexpected holiday

Last week, a colleague unexpectedly offered us the use of an apartment in Plymouth for a week.  Plymouth is on the Southwestern coast of  England, from which one can explore southern Devon and Cornwall and the moors.  We have never been to that part of the country.  How fast do you think I said “Yes”?  We rearranged our calendar, hopped in the car, and took off.

IMG_7340This is the last Bank Holiday weekend of the summer, which means traffic. Lots of traffic.  The highways were packed driving down here, so we got off the main drags and toodled along little country roads, making a 3.5 hour drive into 7, and enjoying every turn of the road.  Since we are staying here for a week, we decided to stay close to Plymouth for the first few days until the holiday crowds diminish.

Yesterday, we drove onto the Torpoint car ferry and explored the little villages on the Rame peninsula and Whitsand Bay, just west of Plymouth.  The guidebook said that GPS devices were unreliable out here.  This is certainly true.  Here is the road the GPS told us to take:


We stopped in the charming little town of Cawsand:


Cawsand has an interesting pirate vibe happening; apparently it has a history as a smuggling port.  (Dig the parrot!):


We chatted with some locals about the best place for a walk and they pointed out a stretch of the costal path which leads from the tiny beach at Cawsund, up through a lovely wooded path filled with ferns and glimpses of sea, and lined with flowers:


The trail led to the top of the rise and beautiful views:


We found a little folly and spent some time watching the sea and the boats.

IMG_7412IMG_7442Since this is a knitting blog, it is my duty to tell you that knitting may have occured at this point:

IMG_7420What a spot to knit!  Here is a better parspective:

IMG_7429We were on a promintory.  So, although it looks like I am sitting with my back to the view, I am actually gazing out at a glorious expanse of blue water.   Now, here is the funny part.  I am afraid of heights.  I clambered onto this piece of rock, took out my knitting and sat there happily knitting away; Doug took some photos; I enjoyed the view.  Then, I looked down, and realized that I was sitting at the very edge of a 30-foot drop and I hadn’t even noticed!  (Emma and Leah, are you reading this?  Are you thinking “Who are you and what have you done with my mom?”)  This is where I sat and knit:

IMG_7439Egads!  I was totally oblivious, blown away by the views, and now it gives me goose bumps to even think about it.

After our walk, we drove farther west along the beach, checking out many of the towns.  We stopped at the town of Polperro, which was overrun with tourists, and looked as if a mad PR guy had designed the place for maximum tourist expenditure.  I found it kind of creepy, but id did have some great views at the bottom of the tourist crawl:

IMG_7482IMG_7484IMG_7487Today is Doug’s birthday, so I am off now for a quiet day by the seaside with my guy.