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(Old) Cornwall and Shakespeare

(Originally posted on May 7, 2012)

Some updates on my traveling life!

Cornwall

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Last Monday (a week ago–wow!), my friend Jacqui and I got on a train and headed to Penzance. The ride itself was long and uneventful. There was a lot of flooding in the south, and one stretch of track went next to the coast. The waves were so huge they were hitting the train!

We arrived in Penzance and found our way to the B&B, despite the lack of road signs or street names. This was the first B&B I’ve stayed in since coming to England. Our hostess was really friendly–showed us our lovely room, asked us about breakfast and then left us to our own devices. We sat down to rest for a little while. Then we decided to go out and explore the town.

Instead of taking the busy roads in, we walked the opposite way down to the coast. The hostess had warned us that the nasty weather meant huge waves that throw up rocks. They did not disappoint. I hung back in relative safety (to protect my camera) but Jacqui ran up to get a look over the railing. The horizon was a blur of grays, and I shouted, “Hey, I think that’s rain!” A moment later we found ourselves in a downpour.

We made it to cover, but we were already soaked. Jacqui didn’t have a rain coat, and my rain coat was wet through. We jogged from our cover to a nearby fish and chips shop, but they were closing. We decided to try to get to town to find a coffee shop to hide in. The rain was cold, salty and stinging, but I remember grinning so hard my face hurt. At one time we ducked behind a stone wall for cover. Right as we arrived at a coffee shop, the rain let up. Go figure.

We warmed up over tea and tried to let our jackets dry out. Rain and sun chased each other out the window. At last, quite tired, we walked down the street and got pizza for dinner. We carried it back to the B&B under my backpack, which was the only water-proof thing that wasn’t soaked. We had a quiet evening in watching Merlin and Legend of Korra.

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The next morning we awoke, had breakfast, and then set out to find St. Michael’s Mount. Though the bus wasn’t expensive, when we got to the station we saw that the coastal footpath was only about three miles, so we decided to walk it. The day was partially cloudy, with lots of sun and calmer seas. The walk was really nice and refreshing, especially after sitting on the train most of the day before.

We arrived in Marazion, the small city where you walk/take a ferry to the island. The tide was up, so we boarded a tiny boat on what was quickly becoming tumultuous water. After a very rocking journey, we came safely to the island. Jacqui and I bought our tickets, then went to the little restaurant for lunch. I had my first Cornish pastie, which was quite good.

From there we climbed up to the monastery/castle/family home. It was fun to poke around. They allowed photography, and most of it was pretty free to explore and empty. We sheltered inside to wait for another storm to blow over. Then back down the hill. I bought a Cornish legends book in the gift shop. On our way to catch the ferry back, we walked through a filming set. Apparently they were filming Mariah Mundi.

We went back to Marazion, where we shopped in the little stores for a bit. We caught the bus back to Penzance (the driver and the other lady on the bus actually talked to us!), had dinner in an old, old tavern, then went back for another evening of reading and Merlin.

The last day we had breakfast with a couple from Manchester. I was grateful that I’d watched North & South so often. There’s nothing quite like that accent! It was fun visiting with them. After breakfast, we checked out and headed to the train station. Our plans were to take the train to Bodmin Parkway, and then catch a bus to Tintagel Castle. The website made this sound like a pretty straightforward thing to do, but alas it was not.

We did get a bus to Wadebridge. We grabbed a quick and cheap lunch. But at that point the next bus to Tintagel wouldn’t leave until about the time we needed to be heading back. Plus the buses were pretty unreliable, running twenty minutes late or not showing up at all. So we had to cross out those plans. I was severely bummed, not going to lie. Tintagel was the thing I was looking forward to the most on the trip. But I tried to brush it off, hoping Mom and I might make it out there to try again (which is what we’re planning on now).

So I bought an ocarina in a shop, and we had some traditional loose leaf tea (sooo good). We popped in an old bookshop and I grabbed a 1907 edition of The Old Curiosity Shop, complete with illustrations. Then we bought supplies for a picnic and caught the bus to the train station. An old man sat next to me on the bus, and chatted to me about his life and jobs (he was retired now) and family. He was quite friendly. Also, he thought I was a local!

Eventually we caught our train, and made our way home past beautiful scenery under a gorgeous sunset. We also watched more Merlin, and ate a lot of cheese.

I loved Cornwall. My over all impression is that it has that same legendary, wild feel that Wales has. Its people are kind and warm, like the American south. I remember sitting on the bus on the way to the train station, looking out at the rolling hills and sheep and thinking that I was homesick for this place, and I hadn’t left yet. It definitely captured my heart and imagination.

Stratford-Upon-Avon

On Saturday, Jacqui and I were hopping trains again. This time our destination was Shakespeare’s birthplace: Stratford-Upon-Avon!

It wasn’t quite what I expected. I anticipated thatched roofs, quiet countryside, and a small town. It’s more of a small city, with a lot of crowds in some parts. Of course, it’s very touristy. But it was fun to poke around the shops and such.

The real reason for our visit was the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Romeo and Juliet in Baghdad, an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet in present-day Iraq. While Jacqui went to pick up the tickets, I walked down the river to the church where Shakespeare is buried. It was quite beautiful and peaceful.

The play itself was fascinating. It was all in Iraqi Arabic, with subtitles on screens to the left and right of the stage. It wasn’t a word-for-word translation of the play. Instead, the writer had incorporated a lot of the feel of the culture–with proverbs and traditional songs. Romeo and Juliet is by far not my favorite Shakespeare play. But it was the first time I’d seen it on stage, and it was very well produced. I teared up twice, I think. Not at the sappy or even romantic parts. I think the first time was in the opening scene, which is a war zone with women being shot down. The second part was when Juliet is in a church, and there are gun shots outside and she starts panicking and screaming for help. Seeing a drama set in a very modern conflict made it feel more real and terrifying than it does on TV or in movies. Anyway, it was a cool experience.

After a quick stop for a snack and a few visits in shops, we went back to the train station. It was a quiet ride to Reading. All in all, a good trip.

On Thursday, my friend Mary Cate is coming from America! We’re going to explore some of central England. Then we’ll be off to Yorkshire, Wales, and Ireland. I’ll bring her back to England, drop her at the airport and run to another airport to pick up my Mom. Then Mom and I set off for Yorkshire, Scotland, then back to central England (with a detour into Cornwall). It’s going to be crazy, but awesome! I’ll try to keep up with entries as I go.

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