Our Vacation Across the Pond

Views from our walk around St. Anthony's Head Dave and I just returned from spending one week in England. It was a lovely vacation, with a good mix of relaxing, hiking and sightseeing. The reason we went to the UK is that a good friend of mine, Robin, was getting married. I’ve known Robin for ages, since grade 9 I think, and I really wanted to be able to go to his wedding. So, we booked the tickets a few months ago and decided we might as well make a vacation out of it!

We booked our tickets on Air Transat, and aside from our flight from Pearson being late to leave, I really have no complaints. It’s a budget airline and you get what you pay for (e.g. we got blankets and pillows on the overnight flight to London, but on the daytime flight home you had to pay for such amenities), but service was good and there was more leg room than I had expected. We left Saturday night (August 15), and arrived in London’s Gatwick airport around 9am. Once we were through customs and baggage went to pick up our little rental car and headed out of town. We didn’t spend any time in London on this trip.

Stonehenge Our destination for the part of the trip was St. Mawes in Cornwall, which is the south west peninsula at the bottom England. My aunt and uncle have a house in St. Mawes which they generously let us use for the majority of the week. On the way to St. Mawes we stopped at Stonehenge, as neither Dave or I had seen it before and we were going to be driving right by it. It was interesting – we wandered around, took a few photos then got back on the motorway and headed to St. Mawes. We arrived there in the late afternoon, but too late to get groceries in a larger town on the way, as we had planned.

St. Mawes My aunt and uncle’s house is a lovely three-bedroom stone house near the top of the hill that St. Mawes is built on. The town itself is a fishing village, although now it runs mostly on tourism. August is the time of year when Britons tend to take their summer vacation and they love going to the seaside, so Cornwall and St. Mawes were full of people. We made the most of our day and headed down to the main street on the water to a pub for dinner.

Monday we headed into Truro to pick up some groceries for the week. We took the King Harry Ferry across the river rather than drive the long way around. It was a fun experience – pretty short ferry ride! But from the ferry you could see some of the large freighters that are “parked” on the river while they are not being used. In Truro, the Tesco’s parking lot was an interesting experience! We had to circle it about 5 times before finding a parking space. It was kind of fun to be back in a British grocery store though! We also visited the shop for the local brewery (Skinner’s) while we were in town and stocked up for the week. Monday afternoon we headed on a walk around St. Anthony’s head, which is across the bay from St. Mawes. We walked along the coast for about 3 hours before heading back to the house for dinner.

St. Michael's Mount Tuesday we decided to head west and see some sights. We drive along the narrow and winding roads to St. Micheal’s Mount, a castle on a small island just off the coast. The castle is joined to the beach by a cosway, which you can walk across to get to the castle at low tide. At high tide you have to take a little ferry.

Minack Theatre After a picnic lunch we headed to Minack Theatre, which is an outdoor theatre built into the hillside a little further along the coast. It was pretty neat, and it would have been great to see a play there but unfortunately we didn’t book our tickets in advance and everything was sold out for the week. From there we headed to the north side of Cornwall to St. Ives which is a town known for it’s artist community. We wandered around some galleries and shops for a while and then headed to a pub for a bit of a rest. Then we headed down to the seaside for some fish and chips! By that time it was time to climb the hill back to the carpark and head back to St. Mawes for the night.

St. Just in Roseland Church We did some more walking on Wednesday. We started out the misty morning at the bakery on the pier in St. Mawes and then headed along the coastal path to the next town, St. Just in Roseland. There is a beautiful old church there, which we wandered through. Then we headed out of town and around the long way back to St. Mawes where we had Cornish pasties for lunch. After lunch, we visited St. Mawes Castle, which is a well-preserved castle built during Henry VIII’s reign. After returning to the house for a bit of a relaxing, we headed out to Smuggler’s Cottage, which is down a concrete laneway which was widened by the Americans for D-day movement. The tea was delicious and the pub/café itself was full of interesting photos.

Thursday was our last day in St. Mawes. We took another ferry (people only) across the bay to Falmouth to see what there was to see there. We went on a short hike from the main street out to the castle that guarded the other side of the bay (opposite the St. Mawes castle). We didn’t tour the castle, but continued around the point and along the beach for a little while before heading through a garden and back into town to half our picnic lunch on the wharf and wander through some shops. We headed back to St. Mawes mid afternoon, and in the evening headed down the hill (very steep!!) to the main street to try out a few more pubs.

Early Fri morning we left St. Mawes in the rain for Bristol. It was the first rain that hadn’t occurred overnight, but it didn’t really matter since we were driving. Through the narrow windy roads one final time and out onto the motorway. We were in Bristol about 3.5h later where we checked into our hotel and went for a quick lunch at a nearby café. In the afternoon, we wandered around the city a bit then headed over to the church where the wedding would take place the next day to say hello to the bride and groom! We had dinner with Robin, his family and other out of town guests later Fri night before turning in for the evening. Saturday morning we did some more wandering and widow shopping in Bristol and had an early lunch at a delicious little café in Clifton, after searching without results for an Indian restaurant that was open.

Helen and Robin entering the Chaplaincy Garden The wedding itself started at 2pm, and it was a full house. Robin told me earlier that there were 220 people expected at the church, and 185 at the reception later in the evening. After a lovely ceremony, we headed across the street to have champagne in the garden while photos were taken. Lots of confetti was thrown on the bride and groom on their entrance to the garden (a tradition that seems to have faded in Canada). Wedding Cake The reception was held outside of Bristol in a lovely country mansion, with a big garden. There were tables and a yurt set up outside and inside more tables and lots of food. After the speeches and cake cutting, everyone helped themselves to the food that was prepared and shared by the guests (mostly like a potluck). And all the food was delicious. There was plenty of local beer and plenty of wine to be had, as well as dancing later on in the evening. I couldn’t be happier for Robin and Helen! Unfortunately Dave and I couldn’t stay too late as we had to be up early to get back to Gatwick in the morning. It was a lovely wedding!

The flight back was uneventful and we arrived back in Canada late on Sun afternoon. From Toronto we drove to Belleville where we stayed the night and then woke up very early on Monday morning (thank goodness for jet lag!) to get Dave back to Ottawa in time to start his MBA course!

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Posted in bristol | st mawes | travel | uk Submitted by Meg on Sat, 2009-08-29 17:51

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