Wednesday, June 08, 2016

My Northern Adventure, Part 3: Thursday to Monday

Thursday, May 26, we drove west and north across the Severn River, which becomes the Bristol Channel. We overshot Bristol on purpose so we could keep an appointment there later in the day and it would be on our way home.  First was a lovely couple of hours in Wales at Tintern Abbey.

What a wonderful revelation was Tintern. It is simply the ruin of an Abbey complex, complete with the remains of a large church, a hospital, living quarters, etc. From the photos it looked interesting, and was certainly in beautiful setting, nestled in a valley. In reality, it was magical. We focused on the church, and here's the thing: With just the bones of the cathedral remaining, it was possible to see the details of the columns, arches, and windows in a whole new way. Perspective was skewed because you can see the outside and the inside at the same time. You can focus on form and line, and your imagination is free to fill in the rest. It was a peaceful place, with only a few fellow visitors, and it completely captured my imagination for the few minutes we explored.

We then headed into Bristol, and after pinpointing our eventual destination and a misguided attempt to find a yarn shop in the artsy University district, we went for delicious Mexican food at a fun place called Wahaca. I loved the phonetic spelling. I always do have to think for a minute to make Oaxaca come out of my mouth like that, so I admire the Brits for skipping the hard part. I had lovely little street tacos and they were yummy. Overall, Bristol was an interesting, funky little town.

That evening, we were signed up for an indigo dyeing class that I found through one of my favorite magazines-a gorgeous British publication called Selvedge. We got to be guided through mixing up an indigo dye pot, then we folded and tied a pretty piece of silk to create a fancy sort of tie dye called Shibori. The folding, tying and clamping yielded unique patterns on each person's fabric. Erin's scarf turned out with really interesting patterns on it. Mine turned out kind of meh. I was too conservative and folded my fabric too neatly and tidily. I hardly got any dye onto the fabric. The class itself was just this side of meh for me as well. It was her first time teaching in that kind of structure, and it has potential to be great, but we were the guinea pigs and it was a bit rough around the edges. It's all good though, because I was with my pal, and I loved getting to know her talents and creativity better. She was brave and bold in the way she played with the fabric, and it was so fun to watch.

Friday, we headed out for our second big adventure, this time to Cornwall. We drove to Penzance, found our lovely little hotel right across the street from the water, which was perfection for our purposes. We then went a few miles down the coast to the Minack Theater, an amazing little open air theater built on a ledge overlooking the sea. It was truly one of the most beautiful places I've ever been, and the photos you'll see in a minute don't really do it justice. Soaring cliffs overlooked clear, turquoise water. Yucca plants and succulents were thriving along with the foxgloves and bluebells. We walked a little stretch of the Coastal Path out to the edge and read just relaxed to the sounds of the waves sparkling in the sunlight. I had my first ever Cornish Pasty (delish) and we got ready for our evening.

While the sun went down ever so slowly behind us, and the air cooled in the brisk, coastal breezes, we bundled up and watched a play called the Zig Zag Way. It's about the Cornish Diaspora in Mexico (did you know there are descendants of Cornish folks all over the world because of their ancestors' mining skills?) I am so glad Erin researched the theater. It was lovely to be in this perfect location, learning more about the culture and history of the place.

The next day, we got up early and headed to a little town called St. Just. We followed a trail out to the Coastal Path and spent the next 5 miles taking in more amazing views, fields of flowers, stone steps, and that amazingly clear turquoise water. We could't get over how, if you forgot you were in England, it actually looked like the Bahamas. We did put our feet in, and it definitely wasn't the Bahamas. Still gorgeous though. We walked all the way to Land's End, which was a silly dream of mine, to stand at that farthest point on the map. We got to the end, the British flag was flying in the wild wind, and I was happy.

Our next little adventure was getting back to St. Just. We had been assured, and the internet seemed to corroborate the fact that there was, in fact, a bus from Land's End to St. Just. Sometimes reality is a little different than the internet, I'm not sure if you knew that. We were just a little stressed, but we checked the timetables, talked to a local and finally, at the appointed time, a "bus" showed up. It was a little van-sized bus but it was going to St. Just, and once again, we were happy.

Last but not least, we went in search of a small stone circle I had read about on Trip Advisor. Since I didn't go to Stonehenge or Avebury, I thought I should at least see one neolithic burial ground before I left England. This was a good choice. It was quiet, almost deserted (we tried to wait out the other group, but they didn't ever leave), and had exactly the ancient, sacred feel to it that I imagined it would. I could have stayed all afternoon and just walked the perimeter while considering what it all meant to the people who built it.

Back at our hotel, we bathed and relaxed a bit and marveled at the memories of the day--the flowers, the views, the water...sigh. A little shopping and dinner, then a walk down the promenade and we were ready for bed.  Cornwall was everything I dreamed it would be.

The next morning, on the way out Penzance, we did find it necessary to sing a little ditty from the eponymous Pirate story, which I share here for posterity. We drove home, and that evening we went to the handy castle ruins in the next town (ah, England) for some family photos. It was so nice in the late afternoon sun, and I love this family. I was super happy to be able to help them in this way after they helped me have such a wonderful trip to England. We had such a good time.

Then was the packing and the last sleep. On Monday morning, I said my goodbyes and we headed off to the airport. I loved England. But Iceland awaited. Here are the photos.

Tintern Abbey. All the beauty. 
Tintern, inside and out. 

The two of us in front of the Abbey. 

The view from our hotel room in Penzance, Cornwall. 

Inside our lovely attic room. The light was so beautiful. 

The cliffs where the Minack Theater is built. 

The view from the theater. 

Taking in the view. 
The theater itself. 
Can't. Stop. Taking. Pictures...
On a cliff. Overlooking the Sea. I'm still pinching myself. 

On the hike. A photo of Erin taking a photo of me. 
And the other view. The whole path looked like this. 

The highlights and Land's End. 
It was such a great hike. We had fun playing with apps
that turn photos into paintings. 

Because she's awesome Erin took me to The Merry Maidens.
It's a complete stone circle in the middle of a field in Cornwall. 

This is not a well-known stone circle, but for me,
 it completely captures everything
that is interesting about them. 

The stunning yellow wisteria in Erin's front yard.
England in May=Flowers. 

Off I went to my next adventure. Till next time, England. 


  1. Ah Tintern!!, the attic room, and a theater in the cliffs! What not to love?! and favorite funny line: "Sometimes reality is a little different than the internet, I'm not sure if you knew that."


Thank you for sharing your insights!