Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tuesday March 31 – The English “Public Footpaths”

Public Footpaths in England are a way of life. These are paths through farmers’ fields, wooded copses, and villages, that are right-of-ways for all to use. Some allow horses to use them, others are reserved for people only. They have been developed through the centuries in England and you can always be guaranteed to meet a fellow runner, someone out walking their dog, or, if allowed, a horseback rider. This morning Ray and I went out for a 1 hr 04 mins run. We started from Dusty and Fiona’s house on a rutted, residential, unassumed lane, turned into a narrow tarmacadamed road way that wound through an outstanding stand of oak trees, up over the M4, and down into the tiny hamlet of Yattendon. We then ran through the grave yard of the ancient St. Peter and St Paul’s Anglican church, and found a wooden gate leading into a Public Footpath. We went through the gate, carefully closing it behind us and set off across the fields. We probably ran along the edges of the farmers’ fields for about 40 minutes. It was quite a feeling of freedom. We ran in the tractor tracks, or on the grassy hump between them, sometimes muddy, sometimes riddled with horses’ hooves, and at other times uneven grass. It was hard on the ankles but it was exhilarating. Some of the clay-soil fields had been recently ploughed and pig manure spread, so we had full benefit of all the typical country smells! On the way back, we had a slow, steady incline to tackle. When in Cornwall Ray and I watched a senior gentleman run up one of the cliff paths with ease. We marvelled at his consistency and how far he ran up hill. I copied his style and found it actually worked. It’s sort of chi-running in that you take tiny steps lifting your knees up as opposed to pushing them, but there was also almost a ‘bounce’ to the stride. I found the perfect rhythm and it really helped carry me up the hill.

In the afternoon Ray and I went into Reading to find the station and figure out how we could get the train up to London. We found the “Oracle”, i.e. the shopping mall and had a look around. You would love the variety of clothes and we were especially taken with the great display of men’s toiletries in Boots. The clothes are quite chic and fun and seem less expensive than in Canada. Food on the other hand is extortionate, and generally we find everything to be very expensive. It was also really cute to see an elderly couple ballroom dancing in the sunny courtyard of one of the upper levels of the mall. They had ear phones in and were obviously wired to hear their dance music. Reminded us of Argentina where you see tango dancers in the street. We got back around 7 p.m in time for dinner and a glass of wine and bed around 10:30 p.m.

Fiona and Dusty live in a lovely area of England. The country side is hilly and either farming lands neatly divided into unending fields, or woodlands with well developed oaks and other trees. The tiny roads lined by neatly-trimmed, green hedges or stone walls, wind lazily through the countryside The houses are mainly older, all different shapes and sizes but I think it is the tiled roves covered with ancient green moss and brick walls overgrown with ivy that add the final charming touches. But the best is the people: the shop merchants. It still makes me feel special and squirly inside when I hear “hello darling” addressed at me in the identifiable English accent.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Monday March 30 – Frilsham

We were up around 8:00 a.m. to see Toby off to work, then spent a relaxing morning with Keri and the kids, playing in the playroom. After all 3 had had a nap, we set off on our short drive to Frilsham to Dusty and Fiona’s home. On the way we stopped into the pub in Yattendon for lunch before descending on Dusty. We literally dumped our stuff and climbed into Dusty’s car to go and pick up Catherine from the train station in Pangbourne. Had a lovely afternoon sitting in Dusty’s conservatory drinking tea, chatting with Dusty and Catherine, and looking at pictures of their new villa in Greece which is currently under construction. It is being built on the Island of Kefalonia on the cliffside over looking the ocean. Dusty said he told the architect: “I want a ‘wow’ factor”, and I think he has certainly achieved that. The windows, pool, and patio will literally look out over the azure blue Mediterranean Sea. Beautiful, bliss!

Catherine, interestingly, is doing a part-time masters in public policy at Bristol University. She is currently working in a crown corp situation working on innovative business and education – all very interesting. Listening to her talking is like living on another planet, makes our life in Canada feel very mundane. Business executives use Twitter to “impress” their bosses with all the work they are doing, departments have virtual islands set up in Second Life; and no product should take longer than 5 months from ‘design’ to ‘market’ otherwise it misses its mark. She feels that she is in a ‘niche’ group of grads who are being cultivated and educated by government as the ‘country’s’ future civil servant leaders. She envisages she has no option but to do her PhD upon completion of her masters – it’ just expected in her environment. Sounds a lot like Jacky and John’s son Dave who is currently seconded to the Cabinet Office after just completing his PhD. In many ways it seems Canada is like a country cousin to England, so far as progression for the future is concerned anyway.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday March 29 – More of the Kids

We changed the clocks last night so now we are back to 5 hours difference from Canada. Managed to get a lie in this morning, before showering and going downstairs. Apart from a short walk and a hot chocolate at Bracknell Forest at the LookOut, a busy walking, biking, running, area like our community forests but more commercially developed, we stayed at home and played with the kids, down loaded pictures to CDs and phoned Alanna. Peter also called us about some problem with the fridge and the icemaker. Dusty and Fiona called while we were in the forest to firm up plans for tomorrow.

In the evening we had a lovely lamb roast, watched TV programs on Yellowstone Park and the West of Scotland (Applecross) and were early in bed.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Saturday – March 28 – Annabelle and Sebastien

During Friday night, Sebastien was not very well and I don’t think any one got too much sleep that night as he waked often and was obviously quite uncomfortable. Annabelle was in our room about 7:0 a.m. to wake us both up. She read some stories, then dragged us to her room to see her “dancing” to her “music”. This was a vigorous exercise which involved jumping as hard and fast as she could on her bed. When I got on the bed to aid her in her jumps she whooped with delight and we were having quite a great time until her Dad came in to quell the excited shrieks as Sebastien had finally gotten off to sleep.

We had a lazy morning wandering around the house and playing with the kids while still in our jammies.

Toby, Ray, the kids and I went to the pub for lunch, then we went on to the California Paradise, a beautiful park with a big pond where we did a walk with the kids and fed the ducks. We had a few brief moments of hail stones and another of rain, but otherwise the weather was sunny, but cold. Ray and I went out later to Sainsbury’s to buy some desert, wine…and flowers for Keri. In the evening Toby cooked a fabulous Indian dinner. Poor Sebastien did not have a good day, but seemed to perk up in the evening, and we all hoped for a more settled night.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Friday March 27 – The Swimmer

Ray and I were up at our usual time, showered, and had a leisurely breakfast. We had a mission. My swim suit had totally submitted to the chlorine attack of Tuesday, and we all went off in search of the “competitive” swim shop in Waterlooville that the people at the community pool in Havant had told us about. Mmmm, I felt quite elated that they felt I should be sent to a “competitive” swim shop!! I found a “speedo”, and then we went back home for lunch. After lunch Ray and I took our leave from Jacky and John’s and headed off in the direction of Wokingham about1 ½ hrs away.

We arrived in time for Ray’s son Toby and Ray to have a quick pint at the local pub before the three of us went over to pick up Annabelle from pre-school. It was really cute. Annabelle, 3 ½ yrs was actually wiggling in her car seat she was so excited to see Ray and I. Sebastien who is 10 months old, gave us welcoming smiles and eagerly climbed into our arms for cuddles as if he had known us since he was born instead of only a few minutes.

Toby barbecued some delicious lamb-burgers for supper, and I was struck by the fact that he loves to barbecue and does so in all weathers…..much as Ray does in Canada!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thursday, March 26 - A Visit to the Past

I can’t remember if I’ve told you this story or not, but when I was a baby, my Mum and Dad left me in a children’s hotel in the borders in Scotland while they went out to West Africa. The company my Dad worked for had policy of no children under 5 on the mine – probably because conditions were not safe, or suitable for young kids. I was left under the expert care of the Scottish family who operated the hotel and I became every attached to their daughter Joyce who was about 10 years older than I was, but who became to me like a sister. I have always remained in contact with Joyce, .through Christmas letters and infrequent meetings. When I realized that Jacky lived about 20 minutes away from where Joyce lived, we decided to contact her and see if we could visit. Joyce was ecstatic to hear from me and immediately invited all of us to lunch at Bayleaf, her home. What a wonderful afternoon we had. Joyce is a lovely, kind, Scottish lady who gives the impression of never growing old. She tells wonderful stories, is interested in everything, and makes you feel so welcomed and appreciated. After dinner, her son Bruce and his wife Elaine turned up to see us. Bruce tells a wonderful story of one of the times we were together when I was working in London, England. He was about 8 we reckoned, and he was fascinated with my gold chain which I let him put on and off around my neck. The “gold chain” was actually my locket which contained a picture of my Grandfather and the hair of a horse I had been particularly close to. Our memories can be very touching! After chatting rigorously all afternoon we said a sad “goodbye” around 5:30 p.m. and headed back to Havant with the happy memories of our visit sealed inside us.

Joyce’s house is old and beautiful, and although she once ran it as a rest home, she now operates it as a bed and breakfast...she can take up to about 11 people staying….so, if you are looking for an interesting and lovely place to stay in Chichester, I can highly recommend “Bayleaf”. Joyce is a marvellous cook too.

While in Chichester, we also visited Chichester Cathedral which was built in the 1000/11000s. A beautiful old cathedral with some lovely artwork and sculptures.

In the evening we walked for about ½ hour down a dark, unlit, and rather scary lane to The Royal Oak (an old smugglers’ pub on the waterfront) for a pint and scampi and chips. Then it was back to Jacky’s (not on the dark lane but on the local streets) and bed.

Did I tell you Jacky’s son Dave flew off to Kathmandu today for 18 days? Also, Joyce’s son Bruce volunteered in India and worked both with Mother Teresa and Dr. Jack…at the same time, unknown to the other. What an amazing experience he must have had.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wednesday March 25 - The New Forest

Jackie got up early and went to her belly dancing class. Ray and I had a leisurely breakfast, read the local paper, and after Jacky got home we all set off for The New Forest. The New Forest is a large area of woodland, meadow, and heath, which was first discovered by William The Conqueror (King William II) in 1079. Since then it has been a “royal playground” for the hunting of deer. It became a National Park in 2005. For me, the main attraction of the New Forest was to see the New Forest Ponies. It is something I have wanted to do since I learned to ride when I was a child growing up in Edinburgh. The ponies have developed over the years into a hardy, surefooted and easy to train pony. They are owned by practising commoners, i.e. people who exercise their Right of Common of Pasture, which is an ancient right that attaches to certain lands. These people pay an annual “marking fee” which helps pay for the people who look after the ponies – the agisters and the Verderers (http://www.newforestcommoners.co.uk/). The ponies roam freely over the park and we saw them by the side of the roads, in large open areas, and even among the trees when we went on a one and a half walk through the forest. There are also many deer which we also saw on their own dotted among the woodland, and in a large herd of about 20 deer. It was a fabulous afternoon walking and driving through a beautiful part of the English countryside. The small towns in The New Forest are quite picturesque and really charming. We particularly enjoyed Brockenhurst where we saw the ponies on the High Street! Lymington was another special coastal town with its Georgian High Street and pretty cobbled streets leading to the Quay. There we watched elegant yachts and salty fishing boats coming and going.

We got home around 7 p.m. Jackie made a delicious pasta dinner and we headed off to bed around 11:30 p.m.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tuesday March 24 - Wayfarer's Walk

In an effort to “keep fit” on this hedonistic journey, I went with Jacky to the swimming pool in Havant and did my usual interrupted lengths of the pool for about an hour. Then the reward, a hot sauna!

In the afternoon, we had a wander through the market in the town and were fascinated with the merchants yelling out in their sing song voices to enticie you to purchase their fruits, vegetables, and meats. Then we continued on our way and went for a 3 hour walk to Emsworth along Wayfarer’s Walk on the edge of the saltings between Hayling Island and Thorney Island. In Emsworth, a typical English seaside town, we had a cappuchino in a delightful pub, talked with the white swans and their cygnets, and headed back to Havant past Warblington Castle, and St. Thomas a Beckett Church also in Warblington.

In the evening, we had a nice chat with David, Jackie and John’s son who is off to Nepal later this week to trek the Annapurna Circuit with his lovely wife Jules.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Monday – March 23 - Cornwall to Havant, Hampshire

Today we drove from Canonstown in Cornwall to Havant in Hampshire. It was mainly an uneventful journey except for one stretch of the road between Exeter and Lyme Regis. We drove on the A-3052 which a beautiful road running parallel to the coastline, but, not on it, and it teased you with glimpses of the sea. We went through delightful small villages with houses with thatched rooves, old churches, and granite stoned homes. The “ordered” fields were full of sheep with newly born lambs, and pigs with their piglets. We passed through towns with names such as Newton Poppleford on the Otter River, Sidford on the River Sid, and Colyford on the River Coly. Here we stopped at a charming pub “The Wheelright Inn” for soup and a pot of tea.

There were 2 highlights to the journey. First the Donkey Sanctuary (http://www.thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk/). The Donkey Sanctuary’s aim is to prevent the suffering of donkeys worldwide through the provision of high quality, professional advice, training and support on donkey welfare. It was started in 1969 and to date 12, 200 donkeys have been taken into care. The premises consists of barns, beautiful old farmyards, buildings, and fields. They were all in prime order. We wandered through some of the barns and the fields and met donkeys old and young, healthy and sick, all receiving the very best of care. We also learned that they operate in India, so who knows, maybe we will have another opportunity to see the good that this fantastic society is doing.

The second highlight was Lyme Regis. This is a lovely little town with narrow, windy, streets and quaint buildings. I am sure though that in the tourist season it wouldn’t be quite so idyllic and peaceful!

We arrived at Jacky and John’s around 7 p.m. Jacky had a beautiful dinner of pheasant waiting for us, and we spent the evening catching up since we had last met at the end of 2008 in Toronto.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunday March 22 – Wrap up in Cornwall

Ray and I haven’t managed to get up early and we didn’t this final morning in Cornwall either. Our excuse is that we know that once we leave the UK, there will be no slouching around in the mornings as we will have to be up and on our way early.

We set out about 2 p.m. and headed to the western coast of the peninsula. On the way, we stopped at a roadside organic food store and bought an organic chicken for dinner. You might find something like this in the city in Toronto but I am not aware of anything in Uxbridge or Newmarket that even closely resembles the variety of organic foods for sale.

We first went past Trengwainton Gardens and the beautiful pink and white magnolia trees. Camille volunteered there two years ago for a period of 4 years. Then we continued along the little narrow roads to St. Just, and finally Cape Cornwall and Priests Cove. This is another unique and beautiful site and in fact we saw an artist painting it. Amazingly, we also saw 2 young guys in wet suits body surfing among the rocks in the ocean. It all looked a little dangerous to me, then we noticed a “swimming pool” had been built in the rock pools. They boys dove into the pool. Camille told us about “tomb stoning” – a dare game where people jump off high rocks and cliffs into pools of water often ending up either killing or severely injuring themselves. As we walked back up the cliff we found some miniature highland cattle which have been bred in Cornwall because of their hardiness. They were quite cute, and seemed to be quite safe when I went into their field to photograph them!

After our brisk walk at the Cove, we stopped into The Cook Book (in St. Just) for a genuine Cornish cream tea (i.e. 2 scones, a saffron bun, loads of Cornish clotted cream and fresh Cornish strawberry jam mmmmmmm!! Is your mouth watering??

Then it was back in the car and we drove along a pretty road past Tregeseal and the ruin of the Botallack Mine. This is one of the most ancient hard-rock tin and copper mining areas of Cornwall and miners have even sunk shafts and driven levels out beneath the ocean bed. The location is stunning as its built right down the side of the cliff. The miner’s in the 1800s must have been tough people to work under these conditions. We also stopped into the “Count House” – this is the mine administration building – where we were greeted with the sounds of balloons popping and children laughing as a birthday party came to an end.

We continued our drive around the coast and at Lower Boscaswell we walked through the tiny granite houses to the sea’s edge and looked back at Geevor Mine which is a tourist theme site. Our last stop in Cornwall was at Pendeen Watch to see the Pendeen Lighthouse silhouetted against the setting sun. It would be an amazing experience to stay overnight in the lighthouse, which is possible. Our drive home took us along a road voted the most scenic route in Britain. We drove through the moors, and little towns such as Rosemerdy, Boswednack, Zennor (where there is a hostel) and into St. Ives and Carbis Bay, then back to Chy-Lowena.

Cornwall is a dream. It is a hikers’ haven, and a runners “rave run”. The coast line is rigorous and dramatic, and the interior is carved into neat fields bordered by walls or hedges or moorland grazing. Stephen and Camille have been wonderful hosts going way beyond what any traveller would expect. We have sat around their table sharing stories, reminiscing about our days together in Montreal, and then their visit to Toronto and our visit and meeting in London. We have lots in common: love of dogs and animals, hiking and cream teas; and lots of differences such as hobbies, personality, and choice of location. Some how it has worked. I hope they have enjoyed being with us, as we have with them. We look forward to the next time we get together and the further adventures we might share.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Saturday March 21 – Cinderella on Ice

Ray and I went for another 50 minute run again along the charming country lanes and dirt tracks among the farmer’s fields. It’s a good workout as everywhere is up or down hill.

After breakfast and showers, Camille took Ray and I to see the Godrevy Lighthouse near Gwithian in the northern part of Cornwall. This was another spectacular part of the Cornish coast, complete with a number of grey seals resting unperturbed 200 feet
Below the clifftop on the sandy beach below at Mutton Cove.

In the afternoon Camille and I picked up her neighbour Yvonne and we drove into Truro to the “Hall for Cornwall”, one of the few larger theatres to see the Imperial Ice Stars in “Cinderella on Ice”. We sat right in the front row and felt as if we were in the middle of the skaters. You could hear the swish of the skates on the ice, hear the “thud of their landings when they did their jumps, and hear their very subtle comments when something went amiss. Their skating was dramatic due mainly to the speed and breathtaking manoeuvres. The costumes were beautiful colours and well represented the various characters. In short, the whole production was utterly beautiful. The dancers put such energy and passion into their skating. At the end they did an ensemble resembling the ending of Slumdog and the crowd went wild. Cinderella was skated by Olga Sharutenko, the Lord Mayor’s Son was Andrei Penkine. Just fabulous!

Arriving back at Camille and Stephen’s house we met up with the guys who had been out shopping for a mother’s day present for Camille …..and a cream team. There was a message on Camille’s phone from our daughter Alanna who was desperately trying to locate her parents. She had tried emailing (we don’t have e-mail this week); she tried texting; she tried phoning; and she tried e-mailing all our friends. Our cell phone was being charged as I had forgotten to turn the plug on (an anomaly of the British switches) when I plugged it in for charging. Anyway, we called her back immediately and heard the incredibly exciting news that she had received two acceptances for her masters, one at her school of choice at Simon Fraser Uni in Vancouver and the other at the University of Toronto. She received early acceptance out of a very competitive field of applicants and is absolutely over the moon. So are Ray and I. Alanna has been very confident she would be accepted. We knew how committed she is to doing her masters and are absolutely thrilled for her. It truly is so very exciting and we are both so very, very, happy for her. She is very diligent and works hard at what she wants. It is just fantastic to see her being given the opportunity she has earned. In the same evening, Camille received a phone call to say that her 90 year old mother who is living just outside Estapona in Spain has a buyer for her house. This means, if she accepts the offer, she will be moving back to England to live with Camille and Stephen.

All this excitement led to us “cracking open” a bottle or two of wine and celebrating Alanna’s wonderful news and the fact that in the course of an hour and two phone calls, all of our lives would change dramatically.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Friday March 20 – Rinsey to Porthleven

The Cornish air is a natural remedy for anyone with sleep apnea, so needless to say for someone who doesn’t suffer from the inability to sleep, we have been sleeping well…very well…and long. In what was left of the morning, Stephen took us to the picturesque village of Perranuthnoe, east of Penzance, and Marazion. Here one of the local draft stores “Perranuthnoe Village Crafts” has Stephen’s paintings on display for sale. He is very talented and paints Cornish scenes for sale as pictures as well as cards. He is also an avid gardner and grows competition level vegetables and flowers. By trade, he is a pharmacist. We are so lucky to be staying with someone who is as knowledgeable as Stephen about history, and life in general. Camille is no slough either. She has won, and placed in, many photographic competitions in Cornwall and other parts of England.

We drove down the coast to another pretty coastal village called Rinsey, parked the car, and headed out along the coastal path towards Porthleven. This was a 3 ¾ mile walk up and down the cliff path; around rocky caves a hundred and fifty feet above the sea, through kissing gates, over stiles, and along the side of Cornish hedges (i.e. stone walls). The views were stunning looking out over the ocean and the rocky coves. In the late 1800s Cornwall was a tin and copper mining area – mainly in the north. However when Bolivia and Malaya started mining using cheaper labour and easier mining methods, the mining industry in Cornwall started to die. By 1939 most mines in Cornwall closed up although there was a brief resurgence during the war years. On our walk, we passed the remnants of two mines, Trewavas and Wheal Prosper. We also saw a fabulous rock formation called the Bishop at Camel Rock and passed the Beacon Crag guesthouse perched on the side of the cliff and silhouetted in the bright sun.

Porthleven is another charming town with a well protected harbour, and we sat outside a pub at picnic tables on the cobbled streets to eat lunch. Our walk was about 4 hours, and with an hour walking around Porthleven it was late in the day when we got back home. In the evening we went to the Sand Bar in Praa Sands for dinner, a beautifully located beach bar on the ocean front.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

March 19 – Newlyn and Lands End

Tuesday morning brought us another sunny day with clear blue skies and temperatures around 15C. Ray and I did a 50 minute run “up” the lane from Camille’s house, and into the paths around the farmer’s fields waving to the farmers, and saying hello to the various horses we met along the way. Then we hit the car, and drove into Penzance, around the bay, and into Newlyn. Camille took us to one of the local fish shops to buy the evening’s dinner; but I think she was a little disappointed that I didn’t linger longer in the shop! (Those of you who know me well will know that “fish” is not my most favourite food). After the fish buying we wandered around the harbour and up into the tiny residential lanes. There was an eclectic mixture of washing hanging out to dry, flower pots with beautiful arrangements of colourful flowers, and tiny paved streets climbing up the side of the cliff. It was just full of the character that makes England so unique.

Then it was back into the car and we headed towards Porthcurno and “The Minack Theatre (http://www.minack.com/). The Minack is one of the world’s unique spots. It is an open air theatre built up the sides of a cliff. It is spectacular. It almost reminds you of being in Greece. The seats are tiered up the cliffside and you can sit and look out over the aquamarine ocean and Porthcurno Bay and Logan Rock. Part of the theatre includes a cliff garden where even at this time of the year there is an abundance of floral colour. The theatre was the brain wave of Rowena Cade an English girl who lived through both world wars and came from a privileged family. She helped build the theatre by moving rocks to make the seats, the stage. etc. The first play performed there was in 1929. Now there is a 17 week summer season. Whether you look up the cliff from the stage, or down the cliff from the seating areas, the creativity is unique, the views outstanding, and despite the cold nights and hard seats I am sure you will be immersed in a spectacular experience.

After wandering over the theatre, and watching a short video on the life of Rowena Cade, we had lunch in the cliff top cafĂ© consisting of course…. of a Cornish pastie!

Then it was off to Sennen Cove and a mile’s coastal walk to Land’s End past some climbers climbing what we think might be Cairn Gloose overlooking Land’s End. The rugged beauty of the Cornish coast is stunning; but the theme park and monstrous hotel at the point are just one more example of man’s need to dominate life’s most beautiful natural experiences. Anyway, thankfully, they were closed, and we were able to wander around relatively undisturbed by other visitors. We saw a ring of standing stones just near the entrance to the theme park. Then we wandered over to Greeb Farm, where although the farm was closed, we saw a beautiful little Shetland pony and her 3 week old foal. We never did ask their name. Our coastal walk took us just over 2 hours by which time the sun was setting and we experienced one of Cornwall’s spectacular sunsets.

Then it was home, and a delicious dinner of “brill” (yes, you are right, bought at the fish shop in the morning (Camille had a cooler in the back of the car)), and prawns; followed by baked orange caramel custard. A sampling of the local brew “Adnam’s Broadside”, much discussion, and my fair share of wine ensured a good night’s sleep after a very exciting and active day. Are you exhausted?? We were!!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

March 18 – Trevarno Estate

No trip to Cornwall is complete without a visit to a Cornish Garden. After a long lie in, breakfast, and a much discussion, we eventually set off in the Rover to Trevarno Estate and Gardens. Trevarno Estate dates back to 1245 and has been owned by a succession of Cornish families over the centuries. It has been able to survive whereas many other notable estates have been converted to apartments or time share units due to the fact that the cost of maintaining them has become prohibitive and death duties have taken their toll.

Trevarno has been selected as an official UNESCO World Heritage Site Visitor Attraction. The estate offers a beautiful walk through gardens, woodlands, and a daffodil field where over 1000 different varieties of daffodils have been planted and are on show, depending on the time of the season. Peacocks, guinea fowl and gold pheasants wander over the lawns, climb onto rooves, and even join you on top of the table for a pot of tea. There is a beautiful ornamental lake where the South American Black Swans and the ducks laze, and a charming Victorian boathouse is located. The walled garden, a concept unique to English gardens, is just being restored. Some of the other highlights included a serpentine yew tunnel, an extensive bamboo collection and lots of beautiful camellias.

Cornwall is a collection of narrow roads lined with high hedge fences to break the winds in the fields, picturesque villages, and coasts of cliffs and yellow sandy beaches washed by turquoise green waters reminiscent of the Mediterranean. In short, its beautiful, full of character, and everything I ever imagined it to be. The weather has been warm – 15C, but the ever present winds are cold, so you are constantly alternating between being too hot and then too cold.

After our visit to Trevarno, we drove south to Marazion to view St. Michael’s Mount. St. Michael’s Mount is an island reached by walking a cross a causeway at Marazion. We stopped to have a coffee/tea in The Godolphin Arms then set out across the windy causeway. Halfway across, we found the tide on its way in and rolling over the causeway. So, we never reached the island! The beach was a great strand of sand and on our way back to the car, we watched two teams from the Marazion Pilot Gig Club take their gigs out to the ocean for a workout.

I haven’t mentioned Gemma and Bonnie. They are Camille and Stephen’s Shelties. Gemma is 6 and Bonne is 4 ½. Gemma is a shaded sable and Bonnie is sable. When I first met Ray he had a Shetland sheepdog called “Colette”, so we love and understand the breed. They are so demure, thoroughy faithful to their owners, beautiful, and protective!

After a quick respite, feeding the dogs, Camille telephone conversation with her Mom who is living in Sabinillas in Spain, we left for dinner at The White Hart at Ludgvan, which is situated at the back of Penzance. The meal was delicious, and the Shelties, who were allowed into the restaurant with us, behaved beautifully. Then it was back to Chy-Lowena (House of Joy in Cornish) and bed.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

March 17 – Godmanchester to Canonstown, Cornwall

It was sad saying “goodbye” to Adrian, Charlotte, Grace and Eddie on Tuesday morning. They made us feel very welcomed and part of their family. We drove 345 miles down to Canonstown in Cornwall to visit our friends from my Montreal days, Camille and Stephen. The roads in England are very easy to negotiate – lanes are clearly marked, signs are large and early, and drivers are disciplined and courteous. It was a lovely day – about 12.5C to 15C and once we passed Exeter the scenery became undulating with many picturesque villages. Adrian had suggested that we buy lunch for the road, which we did, so our stops were short and our consumption of fast food restricted! We arrive at Camille’s about 6:30 p.m. in time for drinks, dinner, much catching up, and bed around midnight.

Monday, March 16, 2009

March 16 – Fishes, Frogs, and Newts

An afternoon of fun, frogs, and mud! Adrian’s garden pond was to be refurbished, and suddenly, Ivan was there to do it. The frogs, fishes and newts were scooped out of the pond and into a large green basin. Grace, dressed in overalls and wellie boots, was given the task of keeping the frogs in the basin; but every so often one, or more, would escape from the basin and hop its way back into the slowly emptying pond. Eddie chased after the truant frogs, to catch them, and plop them back in the basin. It was lots of fun!! When we thought all the frogs would escape, Stan appeared with a red, plastic bucket, with a net over the top that he used for transporting fish. Soon everyone was covered in mud, all the frogs, fishes and newts transferred into the red bucket, and the bucket carried to Stan’s garden pond. The frogs went in upper pond, the newts in the lower pond, and the fish in the middle pond. I can’t say they stayed that way, because before we walked away, we saw handfuls of frogs gushing down the water pipe leading from the upper pond where the frogs were, to the middle pond where the fish were!! Stan issued his bill for lodging to Grace, 50 p for each fish and frog for one week. Newts were free. Grace duly paid with monopoly money. We are hoping the frogs survive and don’t try and make their way back to their original pond before the work on it has been completed. Apparently, they do try that.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Yearning to Wander (March 12 - 15)

What does travel do for you? As Mark Twain said: "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness." Life is not all about living in Canada. There are many other ways of living life and travel gives us an opportunity to see some of these different ways. I hope it makes us more respectful of other people's cultures, less "prejudiced" in our outlook, and more accepting and understanding of differences. Finally, I hope it teaches us more about ourselves, our culture, and our beliefs and values.

Our trip started on Thursday, March 12, 2009. Alanna, our daughter, drove us to the airport and saw us off. Our British Airways 677 pulled slowly out of Toronto up into the night-time skies. The pilot gave us a beautiful tour of downtown Toronto, showing us the CN Tower, the city lights, and Lake Ontario. Then we settled down to enjoy a 6 hr 20 minute journey to London, England. The flight was smooth and the cabin crew professional. For the first hour, Ray and I went through the audio books on our iPod and listed the titles and authors beside the "number" that was displying in our iPod library to make it a little easier to decide which audio book to "read" along our journey. For some reason which we do not yet know, when Ray tried to update our iPod library we ended up with numbers, 105, 106, 81, etc. instead of book titles. Then we had a delicious dinner. Then I watched a film: "The Secret Life of the Bees" based on the novel by Sue Monk Kidd. I loved the film, almost as much as I loved the book. After that, time was short before the crew started waking everyone up for breakfast. By then, I was feeling like sleeping! So, the end result, the time was too short. I never did really get a sleep. Ray managed a short snooze while I watched the film!

We arrived in Heathrow on time, after having left about 30 - 45 minutes late, picked up our rental car without hassle at Customs, and set off on our journey to Godmanchester to stay with Ray's son Adrian and his wife Charlotte and their two kids Grace (11) and Eddie (7). Before leaving Toronto Ray had printed off Mapquest directions for our various journeys in England and we followed this religiously. I was the navigator, Ray the driver. Our story is that we followed the directions explicitly, but someone or other we ended up headed north west of London in stead of north east! Finally, I realized this, but we had no maps, no GPS system, to see where we were, and our knowledge of England had faded in our greying memory, so we pulled into a service centre, bought some lunch, bought a map book, and called Adrian to say we were nearly at Luton. He was horrified! How did we end up there!!! Anyway, back in the car and on the road again, we hit the centre of Luton. How different this was than anything we have experienced in Canada. The town is obviously primarily Islamic (at least the part we travelled through). The men and women were dressed in the typical Islamc fashion, that is many women in hijab and black burkhas over their face and the men in traditional jubbah and pajamas. And....so, on my first day out of Canada I realize that I cannot "describe" the dress that Islamics wear properly. I tried to look on the WWW but can't really find any illustrations to be able to properly describe what I saw. It seems to me that these are brave people. They have chosen to retain their natural dress while living in an environment in which they are a minority. They are saying that they are different from the "mainstream" and identifing themselves as belonging to a religion that not everyone has a positive view of. I wonder how they find life in England. In my book club we recently read "Unaccostomed Earth" eight short stories about immigrants to the United States. Then one of our book club members distributed an article which talks about the disallusionment of many immigrants and how they are moving out of the US back to their home territories.

Finally, around 3:30 p.m. we arrived at Adrian and Charlotte's in Godmanchester. Our time with them has been a mixture: playing with Grace and Eddie, walking through the high street of Godmanchester, going out for dinner, going for a 55 minute run.....and unfortunately, helping them "nurse" a sick son. Eddie obviously has a bug and has been "man down" today, suffering with a fever, and sickness. We are hoping he will be completely better tomorrow.

We also visited a running store. Quite unique: you walked outside the store into farmer's fields. Adrian didn't even know it existed, but Ray found it on the Internet. They had set up 2 tread mills with video cameras and anyone looking to buy running shoes ran on the treadmill, then in slow motion on the playback, the staff critiqued the biomechanics of the runner. Very impressive. The store had a variety of products that I have never seen in Toronto and I felt like a little child going around discovering everything.

To put things in perspective: While out walking we came across a sign that said "Godmanchester: Chartered in 1212". We have passed several houses "built in 1603" or in the 1600s that are fully inhabited. It truly is like walking into a movie scene. England has so much history, and character, and you lose sight of that living in Canada.....to be continued....sorry, wine and jet lag have overtaken the spirit!!!