Norm’s Overseas Odyssey 2005 – 2006 – Episode Forty-four… …and final

Wednesday 26th July 2006

Although the tide was not completely out, we set off for St Michael’s Mount early in an attempt to beat the mob!! We were fortunate enough to catch a ferry and be at the entrance just before it opened at 10:30 and, but for an out-of-sorts National Trust gatekeeper we might have gained entrance a little earlier.
The climb up to the Mount is a steep one – the most difficult section being the so-called “Pilgrim Steps” which were not only steep but uneven in the extreme. Not for the respiratory-challenged.

Pilgrim Steps, St Michael’s Mount, Cornwall
26 July 2006

Determined to keep ahead of the other “tourists” behind us, we accepted the challenge the climb offered and arrived at the castle a “little” shorter of breath than we had been earlier.
Part Benedictine priory, part embattled castle and still the home of the St Aubyn family (to whom it was sold in 1659), the house itself was disappointing. This was probably as much a result of significant renovations being undertaken (which did nothing for the aesthetics or the atmosphere of the place) as a decided lack of information about what we were seeing.

In the time that we were there – no more than 45 minutes – the place was literally over-run by sightseers in sufficient numbers to make us feel that we’d rather be somewhere else. Perhaps it will be more attractive when those extensive renovations are completed, but we are less sure even that would be worth battling the hordes to view.

View of St Michael’s Mount from Marazion, Cornwall
26 July 2006

Even the crossing of the causeway – now exposed by the low tide – was a trial, faced as we were by a continuous stream of tourist, bicycles and motor vehicles all intent, it seemed to us, on pushing us off!! We returned to the hotel for lunch on the sundeck – very pleasant.

Foodie news: Norm had a main of char-grilled Cornish rib-eye steak, wild mushrooms, watercress puree and Lyonnaise potatoes; Carol had grilled fillet of sea-bass, braised fennel, herb veloute. Having constrained ourselves thus far, we broke out and had dessert – in Carol’s case, Tiramisu and Norm’s, fresh raspberry bavarois. We swapped half-way and, by common consent, Carol got the better deal! That’s not to say they were not both great – just that one was greater than the other.

Thursday 27th July 2006

An early start – cup of instant coffee and NO breakfast – to drive the 30 odd miles to Summercourt where LRC was booked to have her brakes attended to! We arrived there at 8:00 am and booked in, but, contrary to the earlier advice in Taunton, the brakes really did need replacing. So, with the amount of work that needed to be done – including getting new discs from another dealer 30 minutes distant – we finally got away somewhat lighter of purse at about 11:30. The only one not now squealing is LRC!!

Arriving back at Mount Haven we each had a cheddar and home-made chutney sandwich and a well-deserved glass of Pinot Grigio.
Later, feeling in need of exercise, we took the coastal path recommended by our hostess to the “nearby” village of Perranuthnoe – what a wonderful name. It has to be said that unlike some of our walks through parklands and woodlands this 4 mile round trip might better be described as a coastal “market garden” one. It was none the less enjoyable for that, not least however because it gave us the appetite we didn’t need for our evening meal.

Foodie news: Norm succumbed to the temptation of one of his favourite entrees and savoured again the trio of scallops; Carol had spicy salmon cake, tossed mesclun, lemon dressing. For mains, on Carol’s recommendation, Norm had the grilled fillet of sea bass; Carol the warm tartlet of broad beans, fetta and sun-blush tomato and pesto dressing. More Yums!!

Friday 28th July 2006

Today we left Marazion and the Mount Haven Hotel with more than a little reluctance and headed for Exeter via St Austell, Truro and the Dartmoor National Park. We stopped to photograph Dartmoor ponies and, later, the Clapper Bridge at Postbridge.

Dartmoor Ponies, Dartmoor, Devon
28 July 2006

Photos: Our meeting with some Dartmoor Ponies, Dartmoor, Devon – 28th July 2006

The clapper bridge is a simple form of stone slab bridge, particularly associated with SW England. They were constructed in the 13th and 14th centuries by mediaeval tin miners and farmers. This bridge straddles the East Dart River, just 20 metres from the main road bridge (built in the 1780s). Constructed from four large granite slabs and supported by three granite piers – each slab is over 4 metres long and 2 metres wide – weighing over 8 ton each.

Clapper Bridge – Postbridge, Dartmoor, Devon
28 July 2006
Main Road Bridge (the 1870s) – Postbridge, Dartmoor, Devon
28 July 2006

We arrived at our hotel just north of Exeter – the “Gipsy Hill Country House Hotel” at around 4:30 pm and were delighted and surprised to find that we had again scored a four-poster!

Foodie news: We both chose watercress and potato soup – which was fine; the mains of poached red schnapper with a cream fennel sauce on a bed of crushed new potato and chive mash left a whole lot to be desired. In fact, it would be up there with some of the worst main courses we have had. Thank goodness we are here only for one night.

Saturday 29th July 2006

A long day’s drive today to get us to Portsmouth – made longer by delays caused by school holiday traffic. Our only stop was a very brief one at Dorchester for a refreshing coffee.

Accommodation was at the Portsmouth Marriott which, being slightly north of the city meant, thankfully, that we didn’t have to battle the “downtown” traffic to find it. Fortunately, we arrived early enough to allow Norm to call Michael in Boston to seek his help with the laptop which was showing signs of imminent collapse. Thanks to his advice to remove the battery, it survived another 12 hours.

Foodie news: Norm had a calamari salad starter, while Carol’s was a king prawn salad which was served on a bed of grilled zucchini with a pesto rocket salad. Both delicious. For mains, Norm had seared salmon with a side salad and balsamic vinegar dressing, Carol had sea bass on mashed potato – much too buttery for Carol but not for Norm, who demolished it with gusto!!

Sunday 30th July 2006

Having last night accepted an invitation from Ronnie and Brian, friends of Carol’s, to join them for breakfast in Littleton, near Winchester, we made another early start this morning.
In one of our now more frequent navigational triumphs, we arrived at 8:00 am and the welcome cup of coffee needed to sustain us for a pre-breakfast visit to the local Farmers’ market in Winchester. Apart from the opportunity it provided to show off the market itself, Ronnie wanted to buy the makings of traditional Sunday lamb roast dinner. We could not help but be impressed with the range offered, the freshness of the produce, the friendliness of the stall-holders and, not least, the “tasting samples”.
Despite these, we were ready for the hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs that Ronnie cooked for us. Fortunately our roast dinner was a mid-afternoon affair and a most enjoyable one – not only the food, but also the company which included Ronnie’s sprightly 90 plus father!
Needless to say we had no need of dinner on our return to the hotel, so restricted ourselves to some nibbles with our Pinot Grigio.

Monday 31st July 2006

Alas, laptop – kaput!! Norm devastated!! We were able to find a Toshiba service specialist in Reading to pick up the “patient” from and return it to the Slough Marriott where we are staying until we fly to Boston on 6th August. It will come as no surprise that the “pick-up” did not quite go as planned. The courier was due to pick-up between 3:00 and 5:00 pm – so wouldn’t you know it – he arrived at 3:00. We, delayed by the need to purchase suitable packaging, arrived at 3:20!! Another phone call was needed to arrange for him to call again, and Norm finally bid his beloved laptop farewell for an unknown period soon after 4:00. We treated ourselves to a much-needed gin and tonic.

We then unpacked LRC in preparation for her sale and having a spare large post-box (because we didn’t know what size we’d need for the laptop) decided to use it to mail home our unneeded winter jackets.

Foodie news: Entrée for both was char-grilled asparagus spears with rocket and a side salsa of tomato mustard vinaigrette. For mains, Norm had a small rack of lamb, new peedie potatoes and an extra large amount of minted peas; Carol had seared salmon on a bed of butter beans, asparagus, roasted cherry tomatoes and garlic butter. “It was brilliant”, she said.

Tuesday 1st August 2006

The Marriott has a Legoland promotion for families during the school holidays, so by 9:00 am a queue had formed outside the restaurant. Lucky we were there at 8:30. The longest queue was for fried eggs where the cook was doing four at a time in a frypan. Perhaps an earlier time for breakfast!
The phone call that the laptop had been received at service centre was encouraging, but we’ll just have to wait for the diagnosis and recommended cure. Hopefully it won’t take too long. Norm organised Clio’s valet clean for tomorrow at an exorbitant price – so they better do a good job.

We also rang local Renault dealer to arrange sale of Clio. This we did – at a slightly lower price than Norm had hoped for – but with the benefit that it would be all settled on Friday.
In the meantime we decided to go shopping in Slough where Carol bought some birthday shirts – not suits – for Norm and visited the Post Office where we posted home our redundant jackets and some, now, equally redundant guide books to Roger and Denise.

Foodie news: Norm had crab-crusted halibut with a warm nicoise salad and creamy white wine and parsley sauce, new potatoes and roasted cherry tomatoes; Carol had Caesar salad with king prawns and garlic ciabatta croutons. Dessert: trio of crème brulées – raspberry, classic and cinnamon.
We found dinner a less relaxing experience than we are used to – or wanted. Children running wild were an unwelcome distraction – and the apparent indifference of their parents helped not at all.

Wednesday 2nd August 2006

Breakfast queue was too long – and populated by some of the previous evening’s “offenders”, so we retreated to Chats Bistro next door for toast and coffee.

We ventured into Slough where we visited the Tesco Extra there. Although ginormous by Australian standards, the personal assistance we received to show us where we might find something as trivial as iron-on hemming tape was outstanding. Unable to find a Starbucks – much gnashing of teeth – we had to settle for a Costa low-fat espresso caramel frescato! Not a Frappuccino, but yum nonetheless!

Returning to Langley for our separate hair-dressing appointments, Norm had his ears lowered and eyebrows de-bushed – and was introduced to his new “youthful and stylish” look!! Leaving Carol to do likewise – but without the need for the “youthful and stylish” bit – Norm returned to the Marriott where the mobile valeting service was to make Clio a new and attractive woman.

This proved to be a longer process than either of us had anticipated and Clio was still in the middle of her ablutions when Carol rang to be picked up from Langley. She had no alternative but to walk back to hotel – something which she actually appreciated after being anchored in a salon chair for so long. We then demonstrated our tailoring skills, using the aforementioned hemming tape, to shorten Norm’s new M&S trouser legs – and it worked!!

Foodie news: Our waiter was kind enough to ensure that we had a table to ourselves in a corner away from the Legoland crowd. Norm and Carol had entrees of char-grilled asparagus spears in melted butter with rocket salad and a herb and tomato vinaigrette dressing. For mains, Carol had Caesar salad with shaved parmesan and char-grilled chicken plus two slices of garlic bread – one of which she inflicted on Norm in self-defence; Norm had half a roast chicken, lots of beans and peedie new roast potatoes.

Thursday 3rd August 2006

Despite our best intentions to be down to breakfast before the hordes, we slept in this morning. Wow – 8:30 am!! Not only was it a mad rush to get our laundry down in time so that it can be packed tomorrow, but also a battle to get breakfast. The restaurant was full so we went next door again to Chats Bistro where, we were told, breakfast would be available as well. There, we were told that it was, but we had to let the restaurant know.

When we tried to do this, we were told that breakfast was now “off” in Chats!! At this point Carol became “unhappy” – with such good effect that the Restaurant manager said: “Please have breakfast in Chats; we’ll sort it out later!” Needless to say we had breakfast there!
Marriott may have wished we hadn’t, as Norm soon had whisps of smoke emanating from the toaster. They would have been something more substantial but for the intervention of a member of staff clearly trained in Occupational Health and Safety!!

And here the Odyssey – or at least our record of it – ends.