Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

We went to Wadebridge, looks to be about the same size as Bodmin but we found it more interesting. To be fair we were too busy getting turned around in Bodmin to see much of it. Being a Saturday the shops were mostly open in Wadebridge. They consisted of pubs, tea houses, bakeries, butchers, deli’s, general stores, a wine shop, clothing stores, charity shops, etc. What gave it some charm is that the shops are not chain stores, they are individually owned and operated so each is unique. It has a pedestrian only street which I always like since you aren’t dodging cars. Very attractive town and busy. It used to only have one bridge but they’ve added another for cars and one for foot traffic over  the Camel River. Nice lunch in a pub and a rather large shop since we had the car.

Sheep farming is big business in this area although we don’t see much lamb on the menu, guess they export much of it. We see the occasional herd of cattle and a few horses. Of course we would see much more without the hedgerows lining the roads. Really it is like driving through an open tunnel of vegetation. Hedgerows divide the fields as well so when you do get to a higher area it is quite beautiful, they also leave mature trees in the fields, many are bent due to wind. It is very green in the fields now, what I expected when in Ireland. We went in September so they had just finished harvesting causing it not to be as green as I had hoped of the Emerald Isle. Certainly I wasn’t disappointed, I was just glad to have followed up on my promise to my grandfather to visit. This was long before we applied for Irish citizenship or had even had the foggiest notion we would. Wonder what he would have thought of that!

We did find St. Maybn and wanted to go back so Sunday we got twisted around again, keep thinking you can get there by the back roads and perhaps you can but we can only manage by taking the “highway” for a small stretch. Anyway being Sunday they had a fixed menu of appy, hot meal and dessert. You could choose to have all three courses or one or two. Very, very good food, we had the one course, hot option and I didn’t need dinner! It was a busy place and included owners with dogs inside. I haven’t figured out the ruling on that yet, some allow and some not it seems. I think it depends on if they are designated Pub or Restaurant, that would be my guess.

Former mail truck outside the St. Maybn Inn, retired now.

Old beer fountains, retired as well.

St. Maybn has a twin church to St. Tudy and they share services and announcements of functions.  The pubs are quite different in mannerisms, while St. Tudy has not had food service for a week, St. Maybn does and benefits by it. Last Friday we were the only patrons in St. Tudy and mainly because I was using the WiFi.

So, yes, as you have been reading we eat lunch in pubs mostly. Doesn’t mean we always have a pint especially if Bruce is driving anywhere. I usually have tea that is brewed strongly, as they serve it here, so I have to add milk. The food is mostly good, sometimes fantastic and the atmosphere is jovial. Locals are usually in for a pint, I would say it’s their “home away from home”.  Usually the deal is you go up to the bar, order a beverage, sit and look at the menu, go back to the bar, order the meal and pay for it. The bartender will ask where you are seated and bring the food out. Maybe I’m wrong but I haven’t been tipping, it doesn’t seem expected or done. Décor usually includes many horse brasses on leather straps that were used on draught horses, lots of old pictures and a fireplace or two burning wood and coal.

Now for something completely different. This picture shows the door handle and latch on most of the doors in the cottage we are in. I’ve never seen anything so unique! The ball on the left is the spring loaded latch and goes into a corresponding hole in the jam. Wonder how old a system that is …

 Happy New Year and wishing you success and happiness in 2014.

Cheers, Bev, Bruce and Lexi Cat

Friday, December 27, 2013

St. Tudy once again

In fact the previous post didn’t get posted so now you will get two. I have found a more stable WiFi site (here’s hoping). You must have said to yourself What is she talking about? Sorry...

After posting the blog and re-booking a hotel we stopped again off at the greenhouses for a wonderful lunch. The operation is run by two sisters, one of which seems to be more outgoing than the other and calls everyone “my lovelies”. There are I think six greenhouses. One is used for potting up plants and doing, right now, Christmas wreaths and table ornaments. While there we did see a lot of product go out the door. There is a small shop in which they sell flower bulbs, bird houses, seed for them and a small array of knicknacks. They also grow chillis and make a dipping sauce for sale and use in the tea house. I did not have clotted cream but a wonderful squash, carrot and ginger soup. The soil on the driveway is quite red and mud clings to the tires. They are open year around except for Christmas week. 
Greenhouse display garden

It’s a nice place to spend some time in, good food, lots of interesting plants and other things to look at.
Close up of the lights and door

We found the manor at Hengar, an old stone building now housing apartments, laundry and an Italian restaurant which is closed for winter.

Next day, big shop for Christmas. We decided to have a proper English breakfast for our Christmas meal. Okay that’s weird but seemed fitting in a way.

Christmas day we went to St. Tudy Inn for a pint and ended up staying for two. Many locals in and eventually we started talking to some. Took a while for them to warm up to us but we enjoyed the frivolity and obvious friendships. It was the “happening” place in the village and was great to see so many folk out and enjoying themselves. Valuable information gained, St. Tudy Inn has WiFi – yeah!

A couple of events completely different happened. One: a Homer Simpson top and shorts (where did that come from, and who brought it, and why, a gag Christmas gift I ‘d guess) were given to several men to try on, no one did. Eventually after many refusals a woman tried them on over her clothes and vamped for a photographer, who immediately put it on her Facebook page. 

Two: a woman at our table took two corks from the bar and manuevered them to switch them from each hand in such a manner no one could copy. Eventually after many tries a couple did. Reminded me of playing “pick-up-sticks” in a bar or toss the coins as we did in our early twenties. Those tricks quite often bought us drinks which came in handy when we didn’t have a lot of cash. She learned the trick in Spain, in a bar, of course.

Something I didn't know - British law allows Public Houses to open between the hours of 1200 to 1400 daily and the place has to be vacated in 20 minutes, wondered why the place vacated so fast on Christmas day.

Anyway the whole experience was extremely jovial and enjoyed. Although much of the time we were not part of a conversation we enjoyed listening to everyone talking and catching up with each other. Came “home” and enjoyed our English breakfast/dinner immensely.

Fountain outside entry to St. Tudy Inn

Boxing Day we went to Bodmin, neighbouring town. Got lost in Bodmin, nothing was open except the gas station, filled up and had lunch at a very nice pub. They do a Carvery every day, what that means is buffet style, three meats, a vegetarian option and lots of potatoes and vegetables . We’ve been wanting to avail ourselves of one but, again, inclined to take too large a portion. This one had a half portion offered which would be good.

I’m finding the difference between kilometres and miles quite a lot, one mile is 1.6+ kilometre. The miles seem to take forever, l (are we there yet?”) For example, it’s only 7 miles from St. Tudy to Bodmin, anyway I’ll just get used to it and we’ll be heading to Spain and not driving.

About driving in this part of England. I have quit looking out my side of the window. When I do everything seems so close that we will hit. Bruce has hit a couple of car mirrors but basically all’s been good. On the first driving experience here in Britain I screamed because I thought he was going to hit a car. Now that can cause an accident more than anything else. So with bitten tongue and looking out the other direction I have learned again, quit bitting my tongue, quit screaming but still whince once in a while. Bruce is doing an excellent job of driving in sometimes difficult conditions so I am not complaining, just explaining what it’s like.

As said, Lexi loves it here but must go amok at night after we’ve gone to bed. This morning I found the Christmas tree (thank goodness fake and decorations plastic) down for the count and garland, decorations on the floor. Yesterday morning the bouquet Ruth gave us was over turned. Geeze cat! Ruth and Andrew are used to having animals here at the cottage so there isn’t too much to break. Mostly dogs though and with Lexi’s leaping ability I’ve removed many objects from the ledges.

Happy New Year and great success for 2014 to you!
Cheers, Bev, Bruce and Brat Cat Lexi

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Still in St. Tudy and Liking It!

We went to Hengar Manor for WiFi. Perfect timing! Our Irish passports are ready to be printed early in the New Year and sent! Hoorah! And they had only posted the update today. Sometimes things just work out (and sometimes not). Anyway finished with the net and found St,. Mayban. Pouring rain, lots of puddles but warm enough. Lovely lunch there and great service. Decorations for Christmas were branches woven across the ceiling and Christmas bulbs hanging along with tiny lights, looked great! They do Christmas lunch up to the 23rd of December so I do think we’ll be on our own for that day since most pubs seem to close for their staff to enjoy the day. Good for the staff, not so good for a couple of strays like us. Maybe I’ll put a garland on Lexi and call it done.

About Hengar Manor: they rent individual small cottages, some with whirlpool baths. They have an extensive activities menu including lessons on things like archery, cross-bow, fishing, golf, and lots of things for kids to do. There are several old stone buildings on site which could have been part of a manor but the “activity” building with reception is in a newer building and has a large indoor swimming pool. They have a general store, I am amazed at what these small shops carry. There is a restaurant on site and a café and another one in one of the old buildings doing Italian food, looked interesting but closed for the winter. Friday afternoon before Christmas I was told they were expecting about 200 people to arrive!

Roads are terribly muddy now, I wondered why the cars were all dirty, well ours has now joined the bunch. We spoke to a gent in the Shop who said a friend from out of town described the small roads as driving through a tarmac ditch – pretty much true. As mentioned, they are very narrow and are lined with high hedge rows which do not give room to pass. So you suck your tummy in, like that’s going to help the situation!

Starting to get a feel for where the towns are after a few days of driving fairly short distances. I’ve been reading the history of Cornwall and each town and look forward to more exploring. We’ll go further afield soon for day trips. We are fairly close to the Atlantic so I definitely want to get to a port. Probably get blown off my feet, so as suggested, must bring an anchor. ‘

Back to the Community Shop to – shop of course. I had thought so, but confirmed, it is run entirely by volunteers. Everything I’ve read about this little community shows that they band together like Madeira Park does. They have accounts for people so they have no need to bring money. The Post Office doubles as a bank machine, although it wouldn’t take my cards. There is a bank in Camelford so we’re not entirely stuck.

Weather has been of the “wait five minutes “ variety with hail included but not cold. It’s hailing again now as I write this. Glad I’m in a toasty place at the moment!

The tap water here is wonderful to drink! I haven’t drank tap water for a very long time.

Fountain outside the St. Tudy Inn with benches, would be lovely in the summer, you will probably hear that a lot. See the flat stones, that’s slate which this area is known for and many buildings and fences are made from.

Note: I will try to put the pictures into the email notification... humph... 

The Inn has four separate smallish rooms each with a fireplace which makes it cozy. Service is good but I find the food average, guess I’m ordering the wrong thing again.  It has a borrowing library, now I just have to identify the books we have taken out for return, aside from the library in the cottage.

Back to Hengar again for a pedicure for me and a massage for Bruce. Both done very well but not as good as what we got in Madeira. Ruth came in and cleaned the cottage so we boxed up Lexi and took her with us. She was NOT happy! I had to pluck her off the window ledge where she was Purrfectly happy thank you very much, talking to the birds. She does love it here because the birds are at eye level for her. Ruth kindly left us an arrangement of flowers for Christmas.

We stopped in at the “glass houses”, we call them greenhouses. It had a “show garden” and a lovely little tea house. They serve clotted cream there, will have to try that, have done years ago so I’m allowed once more.

So my friends Bruce, Lexi and I wish you Merry Christmas and all the Best for the New Year!

No worries, I’ll keep writing and posting when I can. Cheers!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

St. Tudy, Cornwall Part 1

On to St.Tudy, a small village in Cornwall where we’ve rented a cottage for a month. Some challenges on the four hour trip, like heavy fog, rain and wind but with a few breaks for Bruce we got here in about four hours.

Get to the cottage and I haven’t written down the phone number of the proprieter, darn, major problem after we find the cottage. Look around for a key and find one at the back door under a mat. Thank You! Both tired at this point but unload the car because it is getting dark and I wander through the cottage putting on lights so we can find our way. Cottage it may be but is large and has two beds and one  and half baths. I think we’ll be comfortable here. She has decorated for Christmas which makes it festive.

Our landlord came to visit in the morning to see if everything was all right. Nice woman and very helpful with suggestions. We walked to the Community Shop, seems to have most anything, it is also the Post Office. Returned to the cottage to drop our goods and then went to the Church. It seems that Sunday afternoon and Mondays are closing times in the winter, Pub was closed as well. So unpacked and did laundry and looked for local maps and places of interest to see in the area.

Investigating our environment in the cottage we are finding out how things work. An example, there is no direct current to the wall sockets until you turn it on, the shower only works by pulling a cord to turn it on. Having said that the place is quite modern and many nice pictures from Greece line the walls. Our landlords collected them every trip they made there. There is a good sized back yard attached to the cottage which will be fabulous in the spring and summer going by what is left over the winter.

Lexi Cat alternates her time at a window sill looking for birds or doing her own investigation. There is an outside cat that came into the yard which she ignored but ran to the window when two horses went by the lane. We realized she has never seen a horse, nor has she lived in a place with inside stairs before.

The Brits still have working phone booths for communities. It was a bit strange to see one, although we do have one in Madeira Park.

Had our first of what I expect will be many lunch at the local pub. Found out it is closed for Christmas week so we’ll have to go to a neighbouring town if we want a meal to celebrate.

Went looking for the pub that is open in St. Mabyn, 3 miles from St. Tudy, down what appear to be single traffic narrow roads, but ARE NOT. Took the wrong fork in the road, no signage, and ended back up on the highway so decided to go to Camelford instead. We had a very nice lunch of Port Issac scallops at the Mason Arms. Every inch of wall and ceiling is decorated in there! Bottles, steins, well I won’t go on… Very friendly proprietor who recommended the scallops because “you can always have a BLT now can’t you, but how often do you get to sample local shellfish?” Yes, they were delicious!

Wet and very windy here today. The local shop was busy and cars parked all over town because there was a funeral happening. I only know that because I overheard it.

We found the WiFi place but kept driving. It’s called Hengar Manor – well la-di-dah, will see if it lives up to it’s name. Most buildings have house names to them, some are what I would think of as grand names that the buildings do not look like they deserve. They don’t seem to have house numbers, hence the house names I think.

Hengar Manor isn't swish but it is nice and has many facilities including an indoor pool etc. Well I can't diss it because I'm using their free WiFi!

So that's all for this week. Cheers and don't shop til you drop! Bx2 & Lexi Cat

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Bournemouth Part 2

English friends of mine who travelled a lot said something to me that stuck. “Always enjoy the journey to and from as well as the destination.”  This has stayed with me as a good way to travel and learn more. I don’t read on trains or buses, I look at what is flying by the window and it is amazing what you can glimpse.  An unusual statue in a city, crops of whatever for miles, a castle on a hill. Anyway, jumping off my soap box.

Went down to the ocean again and waited for a hop on, hop off bus that was never going to arrive because after reading the notice it quits running end of September! Too bad, those tours while touristy, really help give us the orientation of the city and show us new places to explore on foot. Oh well, we consoled ourselves by taking a road train all the way in both directions along the beach and into Boscombe. Nice consolation!

It was lovely to go along the ocean and seeing lots of dogs playing freely in the sand. They are allowed to run free in the winter but not the summer. On the other side of the road, mini-cottages line the entire beachfront for vacationers to enjoy. They look to be about 10 square feet, all the same size. Some are owned or rentable, some painted bright colours.

We’re having great food here! Oh, let me quantify that, lunch and/or dinner, Bruce is enjoying the breakfast but I, not so much. Quite often we’ll have starters or split one dinner. There are many choices aside from fish and chips which EVERY place does. One could write a book on Bournemouth alone (and probably every other city in England) by going along to taste and rate all the places that serve that dish! Someone probably has. But what a greasy gut you would have after doing it, ugh!  I’ve also been trying the unusual (to us) flavours of crisps (potato chips) that I remember from my first trip here. E.g. Ham and mustard, roast chicken etc. but have already given up on two lots. They don’t taste as good as I remembered, probably a good thing.

We did find a Marks and Sparks (Spensors) famous Brit department store with great food halls. Enjoyed walking around and looking at all the different products. 

This area is supposed to be the warmest part of England and did not experience any of the bad storm that came through Great Britain and much of Europe. Note from our partners they didn’t get it in Freiburg either. Lucky us, or we just choose the right places to be? By chance I think. The stormy picture I took of the clock tower didn’t materialize as a storm here, must have moved on, but sure was dramatic seeing it!

Went to a local pub we’ve been to before, the one with the altercation and the fellow that asked if I was alright. He recognized us and had brought his partner. Well we got an educated ear full of the problems of English life and politics from her. Interesting, she has a house with two empty bedrooms and she is charged 120 GBP per month because they are empty! But she cannot rent them out because it would cost her more for tax on the revenue. In her words,”the country is going to the dogs”.

Next day we bused to Poole, a neighbour town to Bournemouth. Lousy luck in catching connections, buses leaving just as we are almost to the stop but warm enough out to not make it a big deal.

Seaside at Poole shops

Poole is seaside but unlike Bournemouth or Brighton it has an enormous pier for boats to tie up at. And, let me tell you there were some very large yachts tied up! Reminded me of the Boat Show in Vancouver. The town is much larger than either one of us thought it would be. The High street is a pedestrian road, however, I didn’t find many shops of that I would frequent. Seemed many were for charities, like pets and people with different ailments. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many charity shops in one place! Guess we missed the high streets with the “high” end shops, not that I would shop there either.

Another day we got Bruce’s glasses fixed and wandered the High street in Bournemouth. I got a decent hair cut while Bruce browsed the Waterstones book store, one of the top ones in Britain. According to Bruce they have fabulous children’s books i.e. a monopoly game where all the hotels and streets are from Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch. Sunny day and no wind which was great to sit outdoors and watch people go by for a while. So, with less than a week left here we are “getting things done”.

Heard from a friend of a complete city in model form in Hamburg, Germany. He sent a video – incredible! Moving cars, planes, transit, workers, police arresting people, shown during the day and at night. So although it is a 6.5 hour train trip north of Freiburg it looks to be another destination for us in the Spring. Always looking for new places to go and things to do. So we are welcome to suggestions from anyone reading this.

Decided at the spur of the moment to go to Christchurch, neighbouring town to Bournemouth. What a beautiful place! It has a protected harbour so swans and ducks swim along. The swans are not shy of humans, I went to put some trash in a can and one walked straight up to me. I know they can bite so I backed away slowly!

They look so innocent and small.... Not....

No yachts here, working fishing boats, sail boats and in the summer tour boats. Looks to be a bit of a  poorer cousin to Poole but I liked it better, shops were small and interesting, many with hand made goods.

Christchurch it is best known for the Priory. Extremely picturesque building with surrounding graveyard, gardens and a river walk. We didn’t go in but you can see it from the virtual tours on this website www.christchurchpriory.org under the fabric/history button, it is over 900 years old! The graves mostly cannot be read due to the lichen on them but they are pretty.

We had an excellent lunch by the wood burning fireplace in a restaurant along the water.

Pond in the Priory Gardens

Sunshine through the window

Priory Entry way

We’ve been taking buses as mentioned. There are actually two not three bus companies here. Bus drivers we’ve “met” are all friendly and helpful. In fact we did get a free one way ride, the driver said it’s okay luv. If you’ve ever been to the UK they use luv, or love often at the end of a statement, although friends I have from the UK don't. Bus riders say “Thank you” on leaving and “Hello” when getting on board, everyone is polite and the drivers are not visibly stressed. Ride tickets are purchased from the driver so some stops take a while but unless buzzed to stop and someone doesn’t wave for a stop, they don’t. Somehow it all works on a schedule that is surprisingly accurate for timing. Both companies service the three towns of Poole, Bournemouth and Christchurch.

There is a subway here I found out today. I think it probably runs to London. But no light rail, hence, so many buses.

I spent some time in a morning re-booking hotels for our return trip. We need to drop the car around 10:00 in Dover so need to stay overnight in Folkestone or Dover prior to that day, that backed everything up a day.

This time of year many Brits come to this area of the UK because it’s warmer here than up north so places book up ahead of what one would expect in winter months.

Met a lovely couple and have emailed them, Joe and Julie, intelligent people who have run their own business and he was very interested in Bruce’s coat. Julie might buy one for his 60th birthday. He even tried it  on. We got along together very well and hope to stay in touch, another meeting  of like minds which is why to go to neighbourhood places.

While I like to blend in to a local culture as much as possible, our parkas don’t allow, either here in the UK or in Germany. We need them for warmth and have been vindicated on buying many times so conversly Bruce’s coat has become a way to meet people, on the street, in pubs which is great really and a starting of conversation with locals.

Went back to Christchurch on a rainy day. Took a different bus system which took longer and used the highway more so not as interesting. Being Friday afternoon we got stuck in traffic coming back.

We went into the Priory this time and what a jewel of a church it is! We talked to a guide who gave us much more information and enjoyed our time there. Here were groups of various aged childen inside with their musical instruments, ready for a Christmas concert later in the day. The active noise of the kids made it a joyful place rather than many of the churches we’ve been to where you need to whisper to maintain the respectful atmosphere of the church. As with many churches, picture taking is not allowed, they want to encourage purchase of theirs to help fund the upkeep. Makes a lot of sense.

We don’t always go into churches, like a certain someone I know, but this was definitely worth a look and unless you do look you might miss out on something grand!

One more day in Bournemouth and I am both excited to leave and a bit sad, despite our earlier problems with the hotel. I suspect I was imposing standards used in both Canadian and German ways onto different country which don’t  apply here. Here I thought I’d grown out of that!

We are on to new adventures in a beautiful countryside without WiFi access in our cottage but it is available down the road so will stay in touch as much as possible.

Cheers, Bx2 and Lexi Cat