Thursday, September 29, 2016

Lanteglos - Bath - London - Day 14

Sunday, September 25, 2016
Our last full day in England. After mostly decent weather for two weeks, we awakened to a gentle rain that followed us most of the day. 
After breakfast we boarded a luxury bus for the 5 hour trip to London for an overnight before our departures tomorrow.
We stopped about 3 hours into the trip in Bath for lunch and a little touring. 
Bath is known for its Roman spas built around the "healing" hot springs. Thus, the real attraction here are the Roman Baths, 18 feet below the ground, which have been well preserved. I saw them when I visited with Ed and Michelle 20 years ago. We were tight on time today so no return visit. 
Sydney, Sally and I found a cute little tea room called "Bath Bun" for lunch. Although our lunch was delightful, we had little time for exploring, but we did catch a few sights.
Among them were the Pulteney Bridge, over the Avon River

which resembles the Ponte Vecchio in Florence - complete with shops above, and Bath Abbey, built in the 1500s

on the site of a former Saxon church.
Much of the town was built in the 1700s when it boomed as a spa resort with the wealthy elite.
Today it is a huge tourist mecca with more than 2 million visitors a year. Definitely a place for another return visit.
Soon we were back on the bus for another 2 hours and headed for the Radisson Blu Heathrow Hotel. Traffic was predictably bad but we made it with time to spare before dinner -- for one last cocktail gathering. We had a nice dinner in a private room and said our goodbyes with hugs and well wishes. Everyone is off at different times tomorrow so this is our goodbye. A sweet ending to a great trip!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Boscastle to Tintagel - Day 13

Saturday, September 24, 2016
When my friend Michele and I hiked the Camino in 2013, we encountered rain, sleet and snow. Today I added another inclement weather pattern as we hiked in gale force winds of up to 50 mph on the northern coast of Cornwall.
With a forecast of wind and rain, we thought seriously about whether to do the hike today. But we had been told by our guides that this would be the most spectacular hike of the trip, so Sydney and I and 16 others forged on. We were advised that there would be a lot of up and down on the trail, but, in many cases, stairs had been installed, although not always with short people in mind.
We lucked out on the rain but not on the wind! Our first view of Boscastle is a tiny place right on the ocean. The white dots in the foreground are sheep.
We started our 6.5 mile hike in this National Trust village with its picturesque harbour cradled in a steep sided inlet.
Our destination was Tintagel where the rest of our group had gone.
Like many of these places, fishing is still part of the economy as evidenced by these lobster traps.
We started climbing right away on the Coast Path. We had incredible views along the way of the coast, of weathered rock formations and of interesting inlets.

The wind started up as soon as we were on the cliffs. Fortunately, it didn't blow me off.
The trail had a cumulative elevation gain of 900 ft.  
We crossed some pastureland with sheep in the distance.
We still had some old stone fences to climb.
And more of these craggy cliffs.

Along the way we came to an interesting rock formation known as "Ladies' Window."
Of course, we had to get our picture taken in it.
Sitting on top of the cliff all alone next to the "window" was this gorgeous red-headed woman with peach-colored skin who looked as though she belonged right there. I told her that she looked exactly how I pictured the damsel in every old English novel I ever read.
Our journey continued on some flat lands
And rolling terrain.
With great views.
Then up again!
Then we dropped into Rocky Valley and followed a mountain stream to Trewethet Mill where we saw petroglyphs -- Rock Valley rock carvings in the labyrinth pattern from the early Bronze Age - 1800-1400 BC.

Then back on the trail. That red dot is a life preserver. Good luck with that if someone fell in here.

In the distance is the village of Tintagel where we engaged in a dose of English mythology. Located nearby are the ruins of Tintagel Castle, said to be the birthplace of King Arthur.  
Actually, most of the ruins are from a castle built by a 12th century nobleman who wanted to live where Arthur supposedly had lived. But in 1930, when archeologists were doing excavation of the castle ruins, they discovered the remains of an ancient defensive complex from the 5-6th centuries, the time that Arthur was said to have reigned.  Although he is legend, it is possible that a King of Cornwall with heroic traits lived here. 
The ruins are actually on Tintagel island.
The stairs leading up and down from the sites are as treacherous as the hike we did earlier.
We explored the castle ruins with its views to the sea.

Doesn't this look like the entrance to King Arthur's Castle?
Then we climbed further up to see what was left of the ancient ruins. The wind on top was as fierce as we had experienced earlier.

After taking in the views, 8 of us intrepid souls, (only 5 of us from the morning - Sydney and I being 2) embarked on another 2.5 mile hike on the rest of Tintagel Island. The wind had picked up even more and those strong gusts were now constant. Estimates ranged from 25-50 mph. Several of us smaller folks were worried about getting blown over.  Thank goodness for hiking poles.
Although we loved the challenge and the great views of the coast,
we spent most of our time with our eyes down making sure we stayed upright. We came down from the cliff tops into Trebarwith Strand and Port William
where our bus picked us up to take us back to our inn.
Tonight we had another lovely dinner at the inn. I should mention that cocktails with our new friends preceded all our dinners on this trip, although at our own expense. Sydney and I enjoyed our evening libations and ended the trip with a $260 bar tab (split, of course so that's only $130 a piece - Isn't that about right for 2 weeks?) Money and time well spent. Packed up tonight for the journey back to London tomorrow, with a stop in Bath, and then home on Monday.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

South coast of Cornwall - Mevagissey - Day 12

Friday, September 23, 2016
We had a beautiful sunny day for our one hour drive from the north coast of Cornwall to the south coast.
Some of our group chose to go to the Lost Gardens of Heligan, but 15 of us intrepid souls chose to go on a 7 mile hike from Dodman Point to Mevagissey.

The south coast is beautiful, but not as rugged as what we have seen. Our hike today followed the coastline on a narrow but well-manicured path.

There was quite a bit of elevation gain and loss (about 900 feet total) but most over pastureland. 
The coastline is dotted with little fishing villages. We had lunch in a very tiny one called Gorran Haven.

We chose to eat carry out or food we had brought so we could just enjoy the view of the coastline.
Then we continued on our hike through Portmellon.
From there it was a short distance to Mevagissy where we met the other members of our group.

This area has been inhabited since the Bronze Age and the first record of a hamlet dates to 1313. It was once the center of pilchard fishing and a fishing community still exists here today.

Looks like some elegant homes above the harbor.
We walked around looking in the shops and along the wharf. It was very crowded with tourists (as all these little villages have been). All the streets are very narrow and people drive on them, which makes it very difficult for pedestrians. We finally just had some ice cream and rested before our one hour trip back on the bus.
Tonight we enjoyed a lively cocktail time before our 7 pm dinner and turned in early to rest before our last day of hiking.