South Coast Road Trip-Part 3

Friday 14 – Saturday 15 July 2017 – East Sussex, Kent and back to London, England

It was another light breakfast this morning, for today we are feasting. Well, maybe not feasting exactly, but we did have lunch booked at the highly regarded Fish Cafe in Rye so it was important to save space.

To maximise the pending dining experience we are going to take in some sea air and enjoy the delights of two of Kent’s finest but totally different beaches. First on the list is Camber Sands, renowned for its Pontins Holiday Camp and long sandy beaches. With a bit of sun out it did not disappoint, though I could never come here for a holiday. Not with a Pontins nearby. I am also sure if a beach with a German sausage hut on it is really for me either.

Nor a terrace.

But the beach is big, and the sea is miles away. It is a big beach, with a pretty tame sea, especially by the standards of Auckland’s Piha. But tragedy is never far away from water and five young men died here last summer when they were trapped and stuck on a sandbank and were caught by the incoming tide. A terrible tragedy. Never underestimate the sea.

We took a brief walk before driving further up the coast to the surreal, desolate and totally ‘me’ beach at Dungeness. Like Camber Sands and its German sausage hut, I am not sure if I can really do a beach with a nuclear power station on it.

Though you do not come here for the beach, it is all pebbles, but it is a beautiful place and I have vowed to come back and spend some proper photography time here, preferably in a big storm! We stopped for another bad coffee, though the least bad of all the bad coffees we have had so far, so things were getting better. Must be the influence of London. Dungeness is going upmarket.

One of the reasons this is a magnet for photographers is the old fishers’ cottages, I am still using the mobile phone camera so none of these are brilliant, though I am pretty pleased with most of the photos I took. We were lucky that a few dark clouds managed to stray across as we were there.

With lunch not that far away we drove on up the coast to Lydd. I spotted this wrecked boat as we drove past and just had to stop for a few photos. The Jeniray, and her younger sibling Carole Ann. I could have spent a bit of time here, but we didn’t have much left, so it was a few quick snaps of the boats and those magnificent clouds before we were back in the car again.

I liked Lydd!

Completing the loop past Lydd and on to Romney, before heading back to Rye. Though I had to stop for one last photo of those clouds settling down on top of the windmills.

Parking up in Rye we had a few minutes for a stroll before our reservation at the Fish Cafe. We had walked most of the way there before I realised I had not ‘paid and displayed’ in the carpark, so I had a mad dash back to resolve it before I ended up with some monster parking fine. I was lucky…

Lunch, as we expected, was very nice. As was pud, the two (small) glasses of wine, though the coffee was a let down… a recurring nightmare for me. We had an afternoon to kill so took a longer, slower walk around Rye. We loved it when we stayed here in October 2014, though we were not so enamoured with the town this time, maybe it was just busier, and it has gotten a lot or expensive in the past three years. I still like it, just less. There are loads more posts of Rye in the posts from Oct 2014.

On the way back to the B & B we picked up a couple of snacky things to nibble on as we didn’t fancy another meal come dinner time . There was a big breakfast waiting if we wanted it in the morning. We finally spent a few hours doing nothing, reading and having a holiday rest. I did try out the big, deep and wonderful bath in the room as well. Bliss!

The next morning it was holiday all over 😦 After breakfast we were back in the car and taking a slow journey homewards, mainly due to me not really knowing which way to go. Funnily enough we did manage to find Chapel Down vineyard quite easily. It was 10:30am, I was driving, so it was only a very small tasting. We have had, and enjoyed, a few of their wines in the past, so it was quite simple for them to lure is into buying some product. No complaints mind. The English pinot noir was really nice. Who would have thought!

I will say, that finally, after almost a week, I managed to get a good flat white in the cafe at Chapel Down. We must be getting close to civilisation again.

I was not looking forward to London, and yeah, this was why. A very long and slow journey through the Blackwall Tunnel.

It was a great week away, we stayed in some interesting places, found a couple of towns that we want to return to and stay a few more nights in. Maybe one of them will finally turn into our place by the sea!  We shall see.

I love being on holiday, but equally I love coming home after one as well. The return from this one was slightly less enjoyable as we have the decorators in from Monday doing some insurance work after a minor subsidence issue. We have to shift all the furniture out of the front room, not a lot of fun, hopefully it will only last a couple of weeks, but who knows…..

South Coast Road Trip-Part 2

Wednesday 12 – Thursday 13 July 2017 – Hampshire and East Sussex, England.

We asked for a slightly later breakfast this morning, we had a much shorter day of driving than on day one.  The better news was the weather was much improved on yesterday.

I wanted to show Eleanor one of my favourite parts of the south coast, a place I was surprised she had never been to before. Durdle Dor. I even like the driving around here, some nice villages and lovely countryside; even if a large part of southern Dorset is a series of large army bases.

We were shocked (sadly, not really) at the price of the car park at Durdle Dor, but it is such a lovely place, that it is was worth the cost. I will come back here for sunrise again one day.

Almost, but not quite as nice is Man O’ War Bay, the beach next to Durdle Dor.

For me however, the main event is that wonderful arch of Durdle Dor, just lovely. The steps down to the beach were gone last times I was there, washed away in a storm. It looks like at least one other set of steps had been partly washed away since as well, though there are more there now. I walked down to take a couple of photos, though El stayed at the half way  point as it was very muddy and wet,  and very slippery after the heavy rain yesterday.

Walking back up to the car park whetted our appetite so we stopped in nearby Swanage for a Dorset cream tea. With coffee, in my case. I sort of like Swanage, it was really busy today, which was a good sign, but with no rail connection it would never be on our list of places to buy.

The rest of the day was a bit of a blur, we crossed Poole Harbour on the small ferry, from very very expensive Studlands to very very expensive Sandbanks, and then took a slow crawl through Bournemouth.

We stopped for a leg stretch and a walk at Mudeford, 

Before driving the last few miles to Milford-on-Sea where we had a room in a B & B booked for the night.

We arrived quite early so stopped for a drink in a very modern wine bar, before taking the two minutes to enjoy the sights of the town. It is not big, but it is quite nice.

After checking in and taking a wee rest we walked down to the cliff tops, with their amazing views up the Dorset coast and over to the Isle of Wight. Though I have no photo of the island.

The sea front was quite extensively damaged last winter and had recently been rebuilt and reopened. We later understood, not that this was not entirely popular with all. Even though the beach is pebble I still quite like it.

Our B & B hosts had forgotten we were coming and had bought tickets to see Coldplay in London. Coldplay of all people. Luckily they had remembered at the last minute and had arranged for a nearby friend to look after us, whew! We really liked Milford-on-Sea, and our ‘host’ advised us of a few places to try for an evening meal. In the end we went back to ‘The Cave’, where we had our afternoon glass of wine. They serve tapas in the evening, which suited us just fine. They were very nice too, though London prices. It was a good evening though.

Thursday was another big driving day, but we did take a lie in before eating a slightly smaller than normal B & B breakfast. We were offered the full works, but a whole week of full English breakfasts would be too much! On the way we stopped in nearby Lymington for a look around, it is three miles from Milford-on-Sea and has a mainline station to London, it is not a bad looking town, lots of shops, and a very nice looking deli, that served what was possibly the worst coffee of the trip. This was my third bad coffee since leaving London. Maybe it is time to review the leaving London plan! It was so bad I threw it away.

We spent the next three or so hours in the car, bypassing Southampton and Portsmouth. I wanted to stop at Bognor Regis, just because of the name, I am sure I went there as a child, something I will check with mum when she is here. We didn’t stop, nor did we stop in Worthing, Brighton or Hove. We drove past them all. We planned to stop in Eastbourne, as we have heard it is quite nice, however the traffic was bad and I could not find anywhere to park and, well I was getting sick of driving.

We did stop in Bexhill for a leg stretch, I wanted to see the famous De La Warr Pavilion, which was totally underwhelming from the road, so we drove on past. The pavilion was built in 1935 and is considered Britain’s first modernist building. I know it from the first book in the late Spike Milligan’s war memoirs – ‘Adolf Hitler, my part in is downfall’, one of the funniest books I have ever read.

We carried on up the coast to Hastings. The coastal area from Bexhill up, is slowly being renovated, tidied up and gentrified. I like it, it is a nice bit of coast. Though with slow train routes in to London, and a still slightly ‘chavy’ reputation, it is not quite us, yet. We stopped in Hastings for a walk, primarily as I found somewhere to park with very little faffing and stress. The area around the old town is quite nice, we particularly liked the old fishing net stores on the seafront. A place to come back to.

Our final stop for the day was the B & B, on the edge of another no shop village, Fairlight, a few miles north of Hastings. Another lovely old building, the most expensive room of the trip, and by far the best. A magnificent shower and a big old claw foot bath. 

There was nowhere in walking distance for dinner so we drove to one of the local and recommended pubs for some food.  We took a detour on the way to buy some wine from the closest shop in Winchelsea-on-Sea. Our first choice pub, over the road from the shop was not serving food so we turned to choice too in nearby Pett.  We did on the massive sea walls near Winchelsea, for a view out over the sea.

After dinner we retired back to the room, had a glass of wine and went to bed early, and knackered.

South Coast Road Trip–Part 1

Monday 10 July – Tuesday 11 July 2017 – Devon and Dorset, England.

I am writing this after July turned into August and the big news is that I have finally started my new job; the job I applied for in January. I am now a civil servant, at least for the next two years, working in an IT role with the Cabinet Office in London.

Four weeks ago, back in blog time, my daughter arrived from her extended stay in India and Nepal. I haven’t seen much of her in the past 18 months; she was in a different part of India when I visited there and New Zealand last November and we all know what happened on my India trip. So I did not get to see here then. It was with much excitement that I headed out to Heathrow Airport to meet her and bring her back to our place in Walthamstow.

It was kind of bad timing as El and I had a holiday booked for the following week, however Meliesha and I got to hang out for a few days before we went away, including a walk in my favourite forest.

Meliesha had been living in Bristol when I arrived in the UK five years ago and she still has numerous friends there. Bristol is sort of on the way to Exmouth so we dropped Meliesha there on the way, and I suspect now she is with her crew I won’t see much of her again for a while!

Our plan for this week-long break was to drive along the south coast of the UK from Exeter in Devon to Rye in East Sussex. We are scoping possible locations to buy a property, and escape some or all of the time from London. The idea is to find a few potential places and then go back and spend a few more nights and see how it ‘feels’ over a longer period. While the overall distances are not vast, there will be a bit of driving each day, but it’s a good excuse to go and hang out in a variety of places on the coast. I love this part of the UK.

I thought we left home at a reasonable enough hour to miss the worst of the M25, but I got that call badly wrong. It was a really slow drive to Bristol, taking close to 4 ½ hours. This set the whole journey back and we did not arrive on the coast at Exmouth until almost 2:00. Lunch time. We stopped for a pub lunch by the quite nice beach – lime and soda for me. Even though I am in my mid-fifties I still find it weird/uncomfortable ordering a non-alcoholic drink in a pub.

Lunch was very average, setting an unfortunate precedent for the rest of the week. It was here that I discovered I had failed to pack a camera! I had originally planned on bringing the big Canon DSLR, and then rejected it in favour of bringing the small G16. This was a holiday and not a photography trip. I just failed to pack the G16, though I did have the charger, a spare battery and the tripod… So all photos were taken on my Samsung S7 phone.

Our next stop, and the first on our new list of places to return to, was Budleigh Salterton, just along the coast from Exmouth, but with a totally different feel, and a totally different beach. Budleigh Salterton was also where I started my 50th birthday 50 or so km run. A place that has ‘good’ memories for me.

We also liked Sidmouth, and will return there as well, though it was a drive-by liking, as we could not find anywhere to park and I was getting tired and we still had a way to go. We did stop in Beer, for an ice-cream. I like Beer, and beer, though it is a little too remote for us to consider buying somewhere here, plus it is a bit pricey.

Plan A, before we left home, was to lunch in Lyme Regis, but that was blown right out of the water by the traffic leaving London. We have both been to Lyme in the past, so decided to skip it today. It is a lovely town, too expensive for us, and there are so many other places to explore. I was tired, and getting over the whole driving thing, so we carried on through Bridport, where El’s sister once lived, and then down to West Bay. I finished my birthday run in West Bay so while my memories of Budleigh Salterton are good, my memories of West Bay are clouded in pain and tiredness. Not really, I was very happy to finish my run, and my memory of West Bay was filled with the joy of completing something pretty amazing. Shame it did not live up to that memory. We didn’t stop.

We didn’t stop again until we found our B & B for the next two nights in Piddlehinton, Dorset, so small it could hardly be described as a village. It had a pub, but nothing else. Naturally we went to the pub for dinner. It was a lovely building, had some pretty good beer, though the food was disappointing. It had been a long day, 10 hours in the car.

We are staying in a 16th century house that is now a B & B. As we had such a long day we called it a night pretty early, and it was great to just be able to blob out on the bed and watch TV for a while.

We had breakfast booked for 8:30 on Tuesday morning, we are on holiday so no rush. Today’s weather forecast was not looking too good, and after 10 hours of driving yesterday I had no real desire to spend a lot of the day in the car.

Our first stop was the village of Cerne Abbas, to pay our respects to the Cerne Giant. We arrived in Cerne Abbas about 9:30, and it was very quiet, a beautiful old English village, we both immediately fell in love with it. So we parked up and went for a short walk,

Past the old church and its lovely little garden,

Through the grounds of the old abbey,

And into a field of wheat, so far un-trampled by our illustrious leader!

The Cerne Giant was just above the field, though the view was not very good, so we walked back to the car and drove round to the viewing area. The Cerne Giant is a 180 feet tall human figure carved into the chalk hillside. It is the largest hill figure in the UK. There is much uncertainty over the origins of the giant, it could be pre-Roman or it could be from the English Civil War and a mockery of Oliver Cromwell, a mystery yet to be solved. The figure was quite unclear and my cell phone hardly did it in any justice either.

Our next stop was Abbotsbury Swannery. I wanted to visit here last time I was in the area, but did not get the chance. As we arrived it started to drizzle so we stopped in the cafe for was the first in a seemingly never ending run of awful cups of coffee. When the rain stopped we walked around the swannery, it was not overly exciting, lots of swans! It started to rain more heavily as we left, and that was pretty much the end of the nice weather for the rest of the day.

The swannery is the only place in the world where you can visit an active swan nesting sight. It was established by Benedictine monks in the mid 11th century as a source of food for the many banqueting halls in the area. The monastery was destroyed during the dissolution in 1539, but the management of the swannery continued.

It was raining quite heavily when we left. We did not stop at the ruins of the abbey as I had intended, and decided to go on to Weymouth for lunch. It was tiring driving in the rain on these narrow and quiet roads, but I don’t mind too much, there are so many little stone villages, like Fleet.

I love driving like this, so much nicer than the busy roads of London. We arrived in the outskirts of Weymouth and it was madly busy. It was raining heavily so we decided to turn around and go somewhere else for lunch. The thought of parking and walking miles in the rain did not appeal. I did stop, nip out of the car and take a photo up Chesil Beach, an area I wanted to explore more. Another day.

We decided to go to Sherborne, inland and north of where we are staying, it was another nice drive through the lovely Dorset countryside, even though it was constantly raining. El has been to Sherborne before, with an old friend living here, though we did not make contact this time. We parked the car (so many bloody parking metres – is there no free parking left in the UK ?) and had lunch and a quick walk around. Sherborne looks really nice, though with only one hour of parking we did not stay in town long. Shame.

We did stay local and went to visit the ruins of 12th century Sherborne old Castle. There is a newer privately owned ‘castle’, but the old one is the one that interested me. Though it was pouring with rain we still chose to visit. I somehow managed to set my phone into some weird setting that made the photos look like they were taken on some old Holga type camera. I am not sure if I like these or not, but I could not edit them back to ‘normal’. We will be back to Sherborne, and I will come back to the castle as well.

It was getting late in the day so we went back to the B & B for a rest before heading into nearby Dorchester for dinner. We wanted to explore the town a bit, but it was absolutely tipping down by then so we found a big car park near a mall and had dinner in Carluccio’s. It was better than the pub the night before. I will leave it at that.

St Ives!

Monday 07 December 2015 – St Ives, Cornwall.

In an unusual fit of organisation El and I booked this weekend away in St Ives quite a few weeks ago, hopefully all this pre-planning – and pre-paying for things will become habit forming. It gives us something to look forward to, as well as saves us quite a lot of money on train fares ! This will be our last weekend away before the end of the year, but we do have one last midweek night somewhere new booked in between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. One last splurge before a new year of reduced spending, on food, drink, holidays and other things. Save for a trip to New Zealand.

Saturday

After some slight confusion around which train carriage we were going to meet in, we settled down with coffee for the almost three and half hour ride to Exeter. We had tossed up whether it was easier and/or more cost effective to hire a car and drive or catch the train to St Ives. In the end we decided to combine them and get a train to Exeter to avoid the hell that is London traffic, and then drive from there. It was a good plan – on the way down…

The train trip was pretty good, it was more crowded than I expected, but I got a bunch of emails written and other things done on the way. I have bought a new laptop – I could not help myself on the Black Friday sales – the price I pay for not being at work ! Though to be fair, both my laptops are old and my main photo-editing laptop is starting to warn of pending battery failure. My new laptop is so much lighter than both the old ones, perfect for travelling !

Our hire car was waiting for us at station, and after a quick hand over we were on the way out of town, heading west towards St Ives – Wahoo!!!

St Ives is definitely at the top of the list of future places we would like to live in. I know moving to Cornwall is a bit of a cliché, and I am sure a lot of the Cornish are really unhappy with the flood of outsiders moving in and buying up property. St Ives is very high on that list as it is a beautiful spot, and for us it has the added bonus of being an art destination with a number of galleries and residencies, including a Tate Gallery – which has just closed for renovation… Not that we are artists by any stretch of the imagination, but artists attract a similar type of folk which in theory means a less conservative bunch to hang out with, and more importantly – it should be less UKIP than Folkestone is.

We arrived in St Ives late in the afternoon, just as the sun was setting, so decided to skip checking in to the hotel and go straight to the Barbara Hepworth Museum as the garden was closing in an hour and we wanted to see it today. Tomorrow the weather forecast was not good at all.

We had a GPS in the car, but I am not a fan, and it was a bit confusing, I am not sure how accurate this one was either. I ended up turning it off and finding a car park near the small centre of town, it is not a big place ! It was good to actually see some of the streets away from the centre of town as we are more likely to want to live off the main streets, lovely as they are in winter, in summer it would just be horrendously noisy I suspect.

St Ives is steep !! That sign shows a gradient of 25%.

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And very quiet on a winter’s day, in summer this would look a whole lot different.

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The Barbara Hepworth Museum and Garden.

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Barbara Hepworth was an English artist well known for her sculpture work, she spent many years in St Ives and the house where she lived, worked and tragically died in a studio fire in 1975 is now a museum. El and I went to a Barbara Hepworth exhibition at the Tate Britain about six months ago and I had been intrigued to see some of her work in the museum garden as El had said it makes more sense in situ. Work that had been inspired by, and made, in St Ives and finally sited by the artist in her garden. The garden is a lovely spot and things do make more sense there than in a museum setting. It was also interesting see the studio much as it was when she passed away.

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Though it was still only late afternoon it was dark by the time we left the museum so after a quick look around on the way back to the car we headed off to our hotel. We had a little bit of ‘fun’ when I took a turn up a street that was so narrow the car only just squeezed through, and then after realising it was not the way to the hotel overflow car park, I had to reverse back down, there was some cussing. I was not used to the car.

We had dinner in the hotel, it was rather average, but at least the fish was very fresh, and then it was an an early night as it was raining and very windy outside and the final of The Returned was on the telly!

Sunday

As expected it was still raining and windy when we got up, the forecast was for on and off drizzle, and high winds all day – the forecast, for a change, was correct… After a pretty reasonable breakfast in the hotel and a bit of lingering for a break in weather we headed out the door for the morning, suitably attired in many layers topped off my waterproof jackets. It was that kind of day.

We had a loose plan to head down to Portminster Beach, which was sort of below the hotel, then walk along the beach into St Ives itself, round the headland to Porthmeor Beach then slowly back through the streets of the town to the hotel. We had lunch booked at the Porthminster Beach Cafe, and as it was open when we got to the beach we decided to grab a take away coffee – I needed a proper coffee to start a holiday day ! The cafe location was fabulous, we stayed for coffee just to stare out the window, and as we left I asked if we could get a window seat for lunch – and we did. I am glad I asked as it was quite busy for lunch.

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After coffee we wandered out the door and back into the drizzle. It was really hard taking photos today, I had again just taking my pocket sized G16 camera, and I was constantly wiping the lens. Unlike the trip to Poole and Bournemouth a few weeks ago we were not walking along with the wind blowing the rain in to our backs, it was swirling and gusty and all over the show. I had loads of shots ruined by water splashes on the lens, but this is the only one I have left of Porthminster Beach and its lovely cafe.

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We walked along the harbour side, it really is a lovely place, there were more people around than I expected, and more than are in my photos. I was quite surprised at how many shops were open and how many people were there. A good sign that this is not just a summer town, but an all year tourist destination. Important.

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We walked out along the Smeatons pier – stupidly, as it was really cold and wet and there was nothing much to see, apart from a fat and lazy gull that did not move when I stuck my camera in its face.

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At the end of the pier there was a small lighthouse, worthy of a photo, and under better circumstances a better photo.

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I briefly watched a small finishing boat head out of the harbour, it must be a hard life being a Cornish fisherman, depleted stocks and cheap foreign fish make each catch tough work – though it was not particularly stormy I would not want to be out there today. But I did appreciate their efforts last night.

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Into the howling wind we walked around the point to Porthgwidden Beach and its very cool beach huts.

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And then onto the headland known as The Island. The South West Coast Path goes around the perimeter of the island, though today we were not willing to even walk that short section. It was a bit rough out there.

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The top of the Island is home to St Nicholas’s Chapel. Not much is known about the history of the chapel, accept that it was attracting funds for maintenance as far back as the mid 1500’s. It was rebuilt after years of neglect in 1971.

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It was really gusty on the top of the point overlooking the popular surfing spot Porthmeor Beach, I was surprised to see so many surfers out, though to my inexperienced eyes the swell looked reasonable and with a bit of an offshore breeze it was probably ideal, though cold, conditions.

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We did not linger on the beach. With lunch beckoning we did not stop for tea and with the Tate closed we just followed the arrow into town.

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We really liked the small town, there are some interesting shops, most of which were open on this miserable late autumn day, a lot of galleries and nothing really that caught the eye as being the normal tourist tat you get in beachside towns. St Ives has done well to keep it a bit more boutiquey !

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After a brief respite, and change of clothes in the hotel we headed back down to the Porthmister Beach Cafe and our promised window seat for a wonderful lunch. I am not normally one to name businesses we visit, but the food, English wine and service was all excellent. This is not a cheap place and it is very popular. I am really glad we popped in for coffee and asked to get a window table, as we just sat staring out to sea over an after dinner whisky, not really wanting to leave.

What did make us leave was a seal! Not something we expected to see out the window, it did not really come close but it was swimming up and down the beach and attracted the attention of a bunch of walkers, and eventually us. So we settled our account and headed out side to have a closer look. Though it was just out of useful photograph range. I did spot a rare SWCP sign though, they are as rare as seals in towns.

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Maybe it was the lunch time whisky, but I thought St Ives looked remarkably like Auckland’s Rangitoto Island!

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We took the long way back to the hotel and after a relax in front of a bit of telly, a catch up on the Bridge and Dr Who, we wrapped up again and headed out for a late afternoon walk to see what St Ives looked like on a rainy Saturday night. Quite nice in fact.

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We checked out a couple of pubs – fact finding of course, and finally settled in one for a glass of wine and a small shared nachos for tea – not that we really needed either! And that was the end of a long day in St Ives. Even though the weather was not at all on our side we really enjoyed the place, the feel and the look, and it would definitely be somewhere we could see ourselves moving to one day.

Monday

Naturally as we were pretty much spending the whole day travelling Monday dawned with a bit of sun, and turned into quite a nice day.

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We reluctantly left the hotel, which we also enjoyed, we had one of the front rooms with a balcony that over looked the road and a neighbouring hotel before a lovely expanse of sea, sand and the far side of Carbis Bay.

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I won’t go into the journey home Needless to say it was horrible, with bad traffic, poor GPS, delayed trains and packed tubes. London – why !!!!

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