Friday 21st July 2006
Today off northeast to the Cheddar Gorge and, later, Wells.
The Cheddar Caves and Gorge are a nationally important nature reserve. Early humans once lived in the caves, which are now colonised by endangered “horse-shoe” bats – the name which comes from the large horseshoe-shaped noseleaf used for directing their ultrasound.
During our time there, we visited Gough’s Cave, named after the explorer who discovered it in 1890. We were given audio-guides which enabled “Mr Gough” himself to lead us informatively through this very chilly (11°) environment. One feature of the cave was that, because of its even temperature, the huge rounds of Cheddar cheese (for which the area is famous) used to be stored there.
Now experienced hop-on-hop-off bus travellers, after as ordinary a lunch as the best of a bevy of very “tourist-trap” cafes could offer, we took the bus up from the lowest point in the village through the gorge to view the landmarks and the rocky pinnacles rising sheer above us. Despite his best endeavours, Norm’s attempts at capturing, digitally, what we were seeing from the top of a swaying bus were not a success.
Although we’d have difficulty articulating why we both came away from Cheddar with a vague sense of disappointment. Perhaps our expectations were too high!
Leaving Cheddar we drove up through the gorge on a longer but more scenic route to Wells. Here we visited the Cathedral which Carol had not seen before and, like Norm, was awed by the beauty of the Chapter House and the Sacristy; and intrigued by that “Clock”.
The time spent there meant that we were unable to give the adjoining Bishop’s Palace and Gardens (and the just wonderful sculpture exhibition there) the attention they deserved, so we decided to make a return visit on our way to Tintagel on Sunday.
Foodie news: Norm started with the rabbit and Chablis terrine that Carol had savoured on the previous night, and a main of braised shank of lamb, parsnip puree, roasted root vegetables, rosemary and redcurrant jus. Wow! Carol again had two “starters. First, traditional garnished Scottish smoked salmon, buttered brown bread (which she chose not to eat), and caper berries.
Seldom have either of us seen as much smoked salmon on a single plate! Then, the crispy duck salad which Norm had enjoyed earlier. More YUMS – even if we both felt somewhat over-indulged. Each night, as an accompaniment, we have enjoyed freshly-baked olive bread which is served appetisingly warm.
Saturday 22nd July 2006
Concerned about the reappearance of LRC’s “squeaky squeal”, we sallied forth early to see if we could find the Renault dealer in nearby Taunton. As Clio is very selective about when she squeals we had our fingers crossed that on this occasion she would actually do so when we got there. Having found the dealer, it took a number of circuits of the block with the service engineer before LRC obliged with her not too lady-like squeal. His initial diagnosis of “dusty brakes” was confirmed by an inspection on the hoist, and the advice that a “clean” was all that was needed. We were assured that, apart from the irritation to our – and other’s – ears, it was nothing serious.
As the dealer was unable to carry out the “clean” at short notice, we decided we’d “live with” the problem a day or two longer and try and book the “girl” in somewhere near Marazion sometime over the next few days.
Whilst there, we took the opportunity of exploring Taunton – not entirely to find a Starbucks “Caramel Frappuccino” – but in the end settled for one of Costa’s adequate alternatives.
For the rest of the day we put our noses to the grindstone to update the “updates”, finalise accommodation through to the end of our trip, and respond to what now seems to be a mountain of e-mails.
Foodie News: We shared an antipasti plate for two – and what a treat – artichoke, black and green olives, pastrami, prosciutto, sun-dried tomato, spicy savoury couscous. For mains, Norm had seared fillet of Scottish salmon; and Carol had crispy duck salad. Both up to the high standard we had come to expect at the Walnut Tree.
Sunday 23rd July 2006
After a late breakfast, we made our return visit to Wells, to give proper time and attention to the Bishop’s Palace and Gardens and, in particular, Philip Jackson’s sculpture exhibition “Sacred and Profane”.
It was an absolutely beautiful day, huge horse chestnut trees in the gardens were in full bloom with white carpets of spent blossom beneath them. Together with the architecture, these served as a marvellous backdrop for his exhibition. We spent some time admiring the works – and trying to capture some of them with our cameras – samples of which follow:
We would have no argument with the following view about Jackson’s work:
“Jackson’s work delights, mystifies and questions in equal measure encouraging the viewer to return time and again to enjoy the drama and spectacle. In this garden with its backdrop of breathtaking architecture, the sculptures will glide, posture and pervade the space…”
A visit to his website at Bronze Sculptures, Sculpture, by Sculptor Philip Jackson UK is recommended.
It was not all sculpture, however, as we explored both the Gardens – including the wells after which the city was named – and the Bishop’s Palace.
One of the features we failed to see but intrigued us was the bell hanging from the gatehouse which the mute swans ring for food. Apparently they were trained to do this in the 19th century and the present pair continues the tradition passing it on to their young.
We left Wells soon after 3:00 pm for the drive to Tintagel where we are staying for the next two nights.
Our accommodation is at the “frozen in time” Camelot Castle Hotel. Built in 1899, it must then have been a luxurious addition to Tintagel’s available accommodation. It has to be said however that its luxury (in every sense of the word) has long since faded – and, as Carol has said, that’s not only the curtains! The walls are adorned with photographs of famous guests of a bygone era, such as Noel Coward, Sir Richard Harris, Richard Burton and Roger Moore – all nattily dressed for dinner with the obligatory aperitif – and cigarette – in hand.
Foodie news: We both had crisp green salads as entrees – perhaps to compensate, in Norm’s case, for the two frappuccinos he had had earlier in the day. This was followed by had pan-fried salmon, – nice enough, but which would have been better if it had not been floating in a sea of lemon butter – so much so, that we had to rescue the salmon and place it on rafts of roast potato slices.
Monday 24th July 2006
Today was Tintagel marathon day. After breakfast we packed our cameras and started out on the coastal path west of the hotel towards Barras Nose, stumbling across three Shetland ponies with a tiny foal fast asleep in the grass. The path gave us a continuous magnificent view up the coastline to Willapark headland. We continued along the path to Tintagel Castle and explored every headland within the surrounding National Trust property.
After multitudes of photographs, the steep ramps and steeper steps got the better of our feet and muscles and at about 1:30 pm we decided that a long cold drink and something to eat were called for. Altogether we had spent about three and a half hours in King Arthur’s legendary domain and its spectacular setting.
After lunch we decided not to walk back to the hotel but opted for a dusty Land Rover service ride to the village. There, after a short stroll through the village, we discovered a coffee shop that served “real” iced coffee.
Not up to Starbucks’ standard, but for a village the size of Tintagel remarkable!
Foodie news: We both had a starter of a smoked mackerel on a crispy green salad. For mains, Norm had marinated grilled gammon with plum sauce and a few wicked roast potatoes and Carol had grilled salmon fillet on mashed potato with a mustardy white sauce. Both mains were much better than the previous night’s offerings.
Tuesday 25th July 2006
We set off this morning for our three-night stay at the Mount Haven Hotel in Marazion overlooking St Michael’s Mount. On the way we stopped into St. Ives – a most attractive seaside town. It was a steep walk from an almost packed car-park into the town where it was a battle to find room to walk in the narrow twisty streets dodging, people and cars. We were able however to make it to the harbourside where Carol managed to take photos of any number of small but colourful fishing boats left high and dry by the receding tide.
We then walked around to the beachside café/restaurant across the road from “Tate St Ives” where we managed to find a table with a marvellous view across the beach full of sunburnt – or sun-burning – holidaymakers. There we shared a ginormous Atlantic prawn sandwich and side salad accompanied by wonderful espresso coffee and two bottles of mineral water. An excellent place to have lunch if you are ever in St Ives. This gave us the necessary stamina to tackle the even steeper return climb to the car park – for which we only had to ask directions once. Our drive from St Ives to Marazion was, unintentionally, via a narrow windy B road. This provided any number of challenges – having to share a truly one-car width road with large trucks, and surviving the assault on our olfactory senses of a trailer load of what will, when properly matured, be a wonderful fertilizer for next season’s crops.
A warm welcome greeted us on our arrival at the Mount Haven Hotel and after being shown to our room we were treated to cappuccinos and choc-chip biscuits on the deck overlooking St Michael’s Mount.
Foodie news: Norm had an entrée of a trio of half-shell scallops – hazelnut and coriander butter, red onion salsa, citrus crème frâiche; Carol had new season’s Cornish asparagus with a warm casserole of mushrooms, spring onion and parmesan shaving. As if mains were called for at all, Norm had mint and rosemary Cornish lamb skewers, pilau rice, yoghurt dip; Carol had grilled swordfish steak with side salad. YUM, YUM