Toodle Pip Penzance……..Ca va, Saint Vaast?

So our three night break in Cornwall was pronounced one of my better ideas and much enjoyed by us both.  It’s not quite such a long schlep to the Land’s End Peninsula as it was in the days when we drove a cartload of monkeys down for their two-week summer holiday.  Much of the A30 is now dual carriageway but we needed to stop every 45 minutes or so to enable Nick’s leg to get some exercise.

We turned off at the sign for Perranporth to seek out a cafe with a seaside view and we found just such an establishment where we drank our tea and watched families at play.  The thing that most struck me was the clothedness of the children running around the beach.  Nearly all clad in protective swim/beachwear, very little young skin exposed to the sun.

We were almost at our destination when we spotted a sign for Hardy Exotic Plants.  Tucked up a lane just off the A30 it is a delightful nursery with many unusual plants for sale.  The website has some useful features like a zone map which helps you identify plants that are suitable for your part of the country.  It looks as if we are Zone 5 in Surrey whereas southwest Cornwall is in Zone 2.  The plant labels are marked up with a 3 star scoring system, the more stars the more robust the plant.  Nevertheless I buy a gorgeous one-starred Dietes bicolor (Zone 1-4) for France and a second plant for Anne.  If our banana plant and the Tibouchina managed to get through this last winter I am hopeful we can have some success with the Dietes – Peacock Flower.  We choose a few other plants including Polygonatum multiflorum, an old fashioned plant which I remember in my grandmother’s garden and which goes by the name of Solomon’s Seal, or if you are a fan of Edward Lear, Manypeeplia Upsidedownia.

Although the internet has given us a good idea of what we might expect at Hotel Penzance, we are delighted to find it does not fail to satisfy.  It has a small verandah overlooking a bijou swimming pool planted around with exotics, palms in particular.  The dining room is light and airy, a sun lounge/bar is adjacent to a room where tea, coffee and cakes are freely available.  There are two fluffy Persian cats, Tom and Jerry, which lounge around in decorous fashion.  The location is handy for the town centre and harbour, our room has a sea view.  We spent three happy days based at this hotel and ate our dinner there each night.  The menu, service and cuisine are quite as good as Hotel Fuchsias which is a bit of a benchmark for us.

On the Monday I visited Shang-ri La Nick walked to Newlyn and back.  This was perhaps a rather ambitious expedition but he returned to the hotel in good time to have a lengthy afternoon nap .   Although our trip to Porthcurno was perfect, and we drove round the north coast towards St Ives stopping for views from Pendeen cliffs and tea at a hostel in Zennor, our attempts to visit Prussia Cove, another old haunt, on the day of our return to Surrey were thwarted by a Car Boot Sale gone wrong.

Far too many people had arrived with laden cars expecting a plot to be available only to be told the field was full.  Cars arriving at one entrance gate had been sent to the other to gain access.  The result was a complete bottleneck at the top of the lane to the Porth-en-Alls estate and with no immediate prospect of angry drivers being dispersed, we abandoned the idea.

Back in Godalming and we must prepare for departure on the following evening.  We are booked on an overnighter to Caen.  Arriving at our French house earlyish on Friday morning we find the lesser of two evils awaits in terms of the state of the garden.  We might have found a dried up wasteland but instead the weeds are llush and more than knee-high and plants are flourishing.  There has evidently been enough rain, topped up by the watering carried out by good neighbours.

It’s a month since we were in France.  A new assemblage of plants are in flower and there are dramatic results from the last minute plantings I managed before we had to leave, as always, in a tearing hurry to catch our ferry…………………


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