Four days in St Ives.

Sunday 21 – Friday 26 January 2018 – St Ives, Cornwall.

El and I had been looking forward to this trip away for a few weeks. While we had a few day trips and weekends away we really only had one week away from the city in the whole of 2017. I was especially desperate for a break from work and the bustle of the city.

We are still looking for that perfect place to buy a house, and St Ives in Cornwall has always been top, or near top, of that list. Its downside is it is so far away from our friends and day to day lives, so this week away was another test of that distance, as well as how we feel about the place during a cold wet January.

What the weather ended up doing did not really matter as it turned out. I was sick for pretty much the whole week and spent more time lying down staring at the wall than I did doing much else. It was lucky that El had quite a lot of work to do, so at least she wasn’t left to enjoy the highlights of St Ives on her own. I did feel for her though, as it was not the week away we planned for our fifth anniversary!

I had plans to take a lot of photos, make this a bit of a photo holiday, I packed my big and small cameras and the tripod. A lot of dead weight in the end, and I think I ended up taking more photos out of the train as we went down than I did while we were there.

The first to capture my attention was small flurry of snow that fell as we pulled into Didcot Parkway station. Snow had been forecast and I was really hoping we would see some in Cornwall, but alas; this was as close as we got.

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The civil engineering genius Isambard Kingdom Brunel designed the amazing rail line along the south Devon coast, including this section in Dawlish,

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and the wonderful Royal Albert rail bridge crossing the River Tamar at Saltash. The coastal route is quite lovely, and would have been an amazing engineering feat when it was built in the 1850s.

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The journey through Devon and Cornwall is lovely, we were not blessed with great weather, but the low cloud added to the mystery of the place. There were numerous occasions when I wanted to stop the train, get out and take some photos. One of the benefits, and curses, of being a passenger rather than the driver. I did take some photos at some of the smaller stations on the way!

After almost 6 hours we arrived in St Erth, where we left the Penzance train to catch the small, single carriage train the short distance to St Ives.

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A third of that journey is along the stunning Cornish coast, with gorgeous views up St Ives Bay towards Godvrey Head. The view was rather obscured by the very grubby windows!

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Finally we made it, 6 ½ hours from London, and I seemed to be getting more and more unwell by the hour.

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Luckily the holiday let we had booked was pretty much over the road from the station, so even though it was drizzling with rain and quite cold, at least it was only a short walk to the warm and dry. The view out of the front window was pretty good though, I am sure it is fantastic when you can see the other side of the bay. Though, I think is is actually my favourite photo from the five days away.

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After a brief rest we headed out in to the late afternoon drizzle for a walk down the hill into the centre of town. We were quite keen to see what was open on wet and cold Sunday. Surprisingly quite a lot. Not that this photo shows it!

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It was cold and wet so we retired to a nearby bar, that had the football on the telly, El’s team were playing, so it was a good excuse to have a pint. Though we did not stay for food, finding a local Italian for pizza instead.

I woke up Monday morning feeling pretty terrible, apart from an urgent work phone call that led me outside to get decent reception I spent most of the day in bed. El and I did venture out for a walk in the afternoon. We stopped for a coffee at a cafe over looking Porthmeor Beach. The first of three great flat whites I had in St Ives; in three cafes. Good coffee is always a bonus for me! There were even a few guys surfing, though I was not feeling up to heading down to the beach to take some photos.

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Tuesday I ‘woke’ after a bad sleep feeling even worse than Monday. Apart from no work call, it was almost a repeat of Monday. Instead of going to the same cafe we visited Tate St Ives. It was the only Tate we had not previously visited, it was closed for renovations last time we came to St Ives. I must admit I was not really feeling it, there was some interesting pieces, and I really liked the local focus as well, the Ben Nicholson and Alfred Wallis works were very pleasing. The Barbara Hepworth museum was closed for renovations now, though there were a couple of pieces here at the Tate.

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Wednesday had me feeling a little sprightlier than previous days, though when we did get out for a walk, stopping at the chemist for more drugs and tissues was high on the list. We started our walk down on Porthminster Beach, below our holiday rental. I really like this beach!

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I particularly like the cafe, and we have a reservation for dinner tomorrow night, our fifth anniversary, we are very much looking forward to that.

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We walked along the St Ives waterfront, and out on to the sea wall. Though the town’s main income is from tourism, there is still a small active fishing fleet based out of the bay behind the sea wall.

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We stopped in a different cafe again and had a really nice hot chocolate. We were given a glass of hot milk and a small wooden spoon with a lump of chocolate in the end, which we melted into the glass of milk. I have never seen that method of making a hot chocolate drink before. I liked it very much! We went to another pub for dinner tonight, my football team, Arsenal, were on the telly, losing as usual. We met a couple of guys down from Manchester for work who we chatted to for a while – and then the power went out in the block.  We hung around for a few minutes and then gave up and went home.

The worst of the cold was over by Thursday, though I was still not anywhere close to being fully well. I still could not be bothered getting the big camera out when we out for an afternoon walk. It was a pretty clear day, definitely the best of the week, though the wind was howling in exposed places and it was quite cold. El wanted to go back to the Tate and I wanted to walk up to St Nicholas Church, and walk around its headland, so we split up for a while and went our separate ways. I had a nice walk, though set a new record for myself by standing in dog pooh twice, one for each shoe. Joys 🙂

The wind over the past few days had created a reasonable swell, and there were a few decent waves lashing the rocks on the headland.

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The walk up to the church was a bit of a struggle, my head was feeling so much better today, but my chest was still constricted and I was quite out of breath when I got up there. Sitting in the sun was not much of an option as the wind was very cold, and I was not that well prepared. I rested in the shade of both the sun and the wind until my breathing was normal, and then, cold and with a damp bum, headed back to town.

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El and I met for lunch in quite a new cafe. it had a great menu, great coffee, and they were playing some quite dark music; I have never heard Placebo in a cafe before. I loved it. Not sure if the rest of the punters did. After lunch we walked back to our holiday home and crashed for a few hours before going back out for a fabulous meal at the Porthminster Cafe.

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As it was time to go home I was feeling much better on Friday morning, I reckon that by work on Monday I will 100% again. Typical. The sunrise was small but stunning on Friday, and I was glad I was actually able to get and out to take a couple of photos from the other side of the road.

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And that was it, back to St Erth on that lovely little train, followed by five or so hours back to London on a not so lovely little train.

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I do love St Ives, it was such a shame, especially for El, that I was sick for most of it. I am very glad I was well enough for us to go out for our anniversary dinner, in one of favourite restaurants overlooking one of my favourite UK beaches.

Even though it has brilliant coffee, some cool galleries, decent cafes and bars, and was not a deserted winter wasteland, in the end we decided it is not the place for us. It really is just too far away.

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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