Way, way back in mid-September, Cory and I took a trip just the two of us. While I’d always rather travel as our usual trio, the reason we were taking this “couples vacation” was because Lexie, once again, was off on her own week-long adventure with her class at school. Last year was the first of these such trips and I can’t say I was very keen on it. Five days is a long time to be apart from someone you love so much, but a short trip to Bath while she was gone helped distract me from my anxieties.
Since last year’s travel distraction worked so well, when Lexie set off for Wiltshire this year, Cory and I decided to once again take a trip of our own. Not wanting to go too awfully far in case an emergency should come up, we settled on Cornwall, the most southwesterly region of England. It was a place we’d been recommended to countless times, especially once people heard how much we’d enjoyed Ireland. Given how quickly we fell in love with Ireland, I knew if Cornwall was even remotely similar, it’d be one of those trips we’d never forget.
We took the train to Cornwall from London just a few hours after waving goodbye to Lexie. It was a lengthy ride – at least five hours – but with a good book in hand (Life After Life, Kate Atkinson) the time passed quickly and before I knew it, we were pulling into the train station in Penzance, our homebase for the next four days as we explored a good portion of western Cornwall by car and on foot.
The difference in air quality from where we got on the train at Paddington Station to that in Penzance was remarkable. That fresh sea air – there’s nothing like it! We stood outside of the station waiting for someone from Enterprise to pick us up (we rented a car to make it easier to get around) and from where we were standing we could hear the sea, smell it, and even feel it, but we couldn’t see it. It was agonizing! I was eager to go to the water.. Finally, after what seemed like ages, our ride arrived, took us to where we could pick up our car, and we drove ourselves straight to the sea.
Penzance is located in the center of Mount’s Bay, a body of water on the English Channel named after St. Michael’s Mount (the castle you can see in the first picture atop the small island). It’s a small, quiet sort of town with a beautiful stretch of coast along the promenade, a small fishing harbor, and fantastic views on a clear day of St. Michael’s Mount.
Throughout our four days in Cornwall, the skies were mostly overcast, but thankfully we didn’t have to deal with very much rain. My only desire for this trip was to spend as much of it outside as possible, and luckily the weather allowed us to do that. After checking in at our B&B (we splurged and booked a room with a view of the water!), we took a walk to explore as much of Penzance as we could before sunset.
We took a walk along the promenade and then made our way down to the rocky coast where we saw an artist creating over a dozen rock sculptures by the water. We then headed to the harbor where the tide was mostly out allowing me the opportunity to get down where the boats were docked and get some photos. Even as I was taking them, the tide was quickly moving back in and I ended up with very wet shoes before I could make my getaway. (I’ll sacrifice my clothes for a good photo any day!)
After the harbor, we headed into the town itself which is really quite charming in an old, slightly shabby sort of way. (Hope that doesn’t turn you off – it really is an attractive town!) The main shopping streets were filled with used book stores and thrift shops which, if I’m being honest, are the only kind of stores I actually enjoy shopping in anyway. Sadly, since the shops closed early every evening, and we never made it back to Penzance from our day’s outings before 6pm, we didn’t get the chance to go inside a single one. I was really wanting to wander inside some of those quirky shops – if the front windows were any indication, I’m positive I could have found some unusual treasures inside.
Penzance offers a surprisingly good selection of restaurants considering its size. We tried a few and were very pleased every time – I’ll have a post up with our favorites on Friday. However, like everything else in town, they close pretty early. Every restaurant we ate at closed by 10pm at the latest, and as far as nightlife is concerned, if you’re looking for more than a couple of pubs, you won’t find it here. Penzance seems to be more of an ‘early to bed, early to rise’ sort of town, which was just fine by us after hiking a minimum of seven miles every day. Every evening, we would return to our B&B after dinner and pop a movie into the TV and just relax for a few hours before bed. (Windows open, of course, so we could still hear the ocean.) Not a bad way to end the day.
Besides the shops, the town of Penzance also has a church worth checking out, St Mary’s, in the older part of town. We didn’t go inside, but did take some time to wander through the graveyard looking at the ancient headstones. (Surprisingly, it wasn’t as creepy as it sounds.) And finally, with just an hour of daylight left, we headed into Morrab Gardens, a 3-acre public park near the center of town. With the leaves just beginning to change and many flowers still in bloom, I believe we visited at the perfect time of year. We wandered through the walking trails, taking photos and trying to ignore our hungry bellies so we could stay out a little longer. Our first day in Cornwall was our only day to spend any quality time in Penzance, even though it’s where we returned to every night, so we had to make the most of the few hours we had!
That first night after dinner, before crawling in bed to watch a movie, on our walk back to the B&B we stopped for awhile to take some night shots of the town. The streets were completely deserted of people and only rarely would a car drive by. We felt like the town was ours! I’m sure part of that was due to the nature of the season. September is the very tail end of the “summer” travel season, but I also think Penzance probably experiences a much lighter amount of tourism in general than some of the larger, more popular towns in western Cornwall, like St. Ives. The seemingly modest emphasis on tourism that we found here made Penzance feel more like an actual town than a tourist destination, and for this trip, that was exactly what we were looking for.
Over the next two weeks I’ll be sharing the details of our trip, like where we stayed, where we hiked, and what we saw. I hope you’ll come back for those, too!