Broomfield denouement averted in St Ives (Cornwall). The answer’s one, BTW. Saucy seagull wins my affection. My beautiful hometown needs a makeover a la Padstow or Marlow but can we learn by their mistakes?
But first my TLHDaTDW quest from Part 1/2
Why plan go to Padstow in the last week in mid-autumn? Nights drawing in and all that stuff. There are two parts to this question: 1. Padstow? 2. Time of year (beyond Summer)?
Padstow because BinTwo is there, set in a potentially idyllic landscape, and the establishment's wine purveyor/maker/bon-vivant seemed like the sort of decent cove we would very much enjoy meeting. Besides my website has always been about travel with a twist and BinTwo sets out its stall as a wine merchant with a twist. Evidenced in the first picture below taken from a bottle of BinTwo product consumed in early summer. Its partner, 148, was burning a hole in our wine rack.
Beyond Summer because our intended holiday had fallen victim to Covid-19 lockdown. It had been cancelled. We would have set off to Cornwall as soon as we received this news but (me particularly) being ancient we wanted to avoid exposing ourselves to croaking from overexposure. Shan-lea (The Leader) insisted, when challenged on this, that it was I that was most likely to croak. Reference to my decrepitude and weak chest as a child were never far from my Leader's lips when explaining social distancing to sceptics. She was considerate enough to avoid continually reminding me of the refrain from the sub-40 cohort that its members should be allowed to revel sans frontières while anyone besting 60 should be locked away in a care home under extreme isolation. As The Leader fits in the undefinable gap between, it seemed churlish to challenge her logic.
In between deciding when to go and actually getting down to Gormenghast, another bit of excitement raised its head. On a visit to Dalwood Vineyard, another Mike had produced the bottle in the second picture above for Shan and me to share with the first Mike. This sparked off a twonvo in which acolytes of the two Mikes, including Lee Isaacs, begged to be at the party, which was to have included FBB 148, too.
We arrived at the "holiday park" on the outskirts of Padstow on the last Sunday in September. Decided to venture into the town the next day when it would be quieter. A recce of the route provided three options. Drive a 50 cubic metre motorhome into the centre ✘, cycle down the middle of the local version of the A1 ✘ or walk along the public footpath shown on our Ordnance Survey map ✔︎.
I was keen to forge a repeatable path between Campy and the watering holes of peaceful Padstow for our weekday perambulations. As we were about to make the first of many journeys, the single bottle of Dalwood went into my small rucksack for the journey. This decision was vindicated by the next door farmer's attempts to turn our route into a Grockle-free right of way. Walking was difficult enough as the path was ploughed up (third pic above) during our first excursion to the town. Cycling was completely impossible thanks to a few death-defying stiles (4th pic above). It was so narrow that social-distancing was well-nigh impossible, too, but this proved to be completely academic when we reached the town centre.
It was heaving on a Monday morning in the rain. Mostly by the sub-40 cohort, making absolutely no effort at social distancing. Cars were queuing everywhere and every eatery we could find was bulging.
The only place in town that seemed to be making a huge effort to keep its customers safe was BinTwo. Of course this meant that, after three attempts at finding a binnacle, we decided to offload the Dalwood, buy some Chardonnay for Shan and try again the next day. It had been a good decision to hold back the Fizzy Bum Bum from our first excursion.
That evening, fired up by a positive forecast for sunshine, I checked if Mike would be around at BinTwo 'morra. Sadly he'd been called up by the NHS and was having to desert Cornwall for a few days.
But Tuesday dawned fine and we scuttled back down the hill as fast as we could slide in the mud from Monday's rain. We expected bigger crowds, and weren't to be disappointed. There was even the obligatory yoof showing off his/his parents' McLaren (supercar, not pushchair) outside one of the many Rick Stein establishments. But all this seemed less intrusive in the sunshine.
First picture is of an altogether more optimistic outlook from the footpath at the top of the hill and then there's Rock (possibly where the McLaren emanated from) across the estuary from the Camel trail, the bridge across the river looking down towards the mouth and, last, a more romantic outlook of the inner harbour and the town itself.
This romantic outlook set the scene for being propositioned by Sexy Sadie Seagull. Maybe this remarkably unaggressive gal was seduced by my unkempt ancient mariner/Captain Birdseye look, cultivated during a bohemian sojourn in Lockdown.
"Hello sailor," Sadie seems to be saying with this winsome look. Definitely turned the tide on our Padstow luck.
Our next call was another try at BinTwo. Success!
We were ushered to our little haven for the next hour or so, protected from the ghastly virus by the cunning design devised by Mike, Mary and the lovely staff. There was even a staff photographer to capture the Divine Leader looking a bit more glamorous than her hairy husband. Lovin' the doek Shan ❤️.
As I've mentioned, Mike describes this place as a wine merchant with a twist (read attitude). We encountered a delicious selection of substantial snacks including squid marinading in their own ink in a tin reminiscent of midnight feasts ... something delightful neither of us had experienced before. I've had squid in more ways than most. Fried (in batter and tempura), in curry, chilli sauce, paella, pasta, bouillabaisse ... can't get enough of this stuff so long as it's not rubbery or με σκελετό that budgies might sharpen their beaks on when it's completely dried out.
The Leader doesn't do well drinking at lunchtime but loved the ginger beer iced tea. I also had some biltong so I could have a second glass, this time red. I didn't eat all of it and that does not mean we didn't clean the bowl.
Lugged a few Kgs back up the hill to Campy. Some outré stuff I'll tell y'all about when I've discovered a way to share it with Lee, who sent me to BinTwo in the first place. And can someone please tell me a bit more about Jas Swan. The label on the Sif bottle is a teensy weensy bit enigmatic ... and I'm used to Pieter Walser! Lekker to find something low alcohol this tasty.
I won’t deny that I was disappointed not to meet Mike BinTwo but he does great stuff for the NHS, which must, of course, take priority over my ambitions to become as big a pisscat as I imagined him to be (a self-portrait he has created for his Twitter personality)
Wednesday brought another all-day deluge. Time to enjoy being cosily indoors in Campy and catching up with writing and stuff.
The rain hadn't really let up the next day but that was OK as we were off to St Ives with our first actual restaurant (the one lit up in blue above) reservation since the lockdown regime started in March.
"This is a special moment," Shan enthused. "When we check in to our Hellesveor, St Ives site, please can we book taxis there and back." The Leader had cottoned on that 99.9% of places in England where one can park a motorhome involve a challenging walk to any of the local attractions. Especially with Storm Alex brewing. Covid didn't help either. Taxi was the best decision we'd made. Apart from anything else, taxi drivers can be mines of information. On the ride in we were told that St Ives had never been busier at this time of the year. This came as no surprise to us, having encountered the phenomenon everywhere else. It was as if Covid-19 had suddenly become an aphrodisiac. Shades of Leonardo di Caprio and Kate Winslet dealing with the consequences of the iceberg.
We arrived early for our slot at the restaurant and meandered around a bit. We'd been to St Ives before. Fourteen years earlier on a daylight excursion from Marazion. Our daughter, Kate, was giving us an art appreciation tour of the West Country, having just completed her GCSEs.
Bit of of 2006 nostalgia, starting with the view from Marazion, followed by a few in St Ives (including the Tate) and ending with a little reflection on the trip at the Minack Theatre near Porthcurno.
Back to Ben Prior and our booking at the Porthminster Kitchen:
I was treating myself to a Soho wine extravaganza in September last year. It was arranged by wine merchant, Swig, and was presenting the most comprehensive gathering of New Wave South African (SA) winemakers I'd witnessed in the UK. So many people I'd read about, and whose wines I had sampled, were gathered in one space. In fact, it was a little overwhelming. I think some of the winemakers found that, too. I asked one of the winemakers I wanted to "interview" if we could meet later in the week and the response was:
"Would love to but we're all headed to Marazion."
For someone who knew where Marazion was, this was baffling. Especially as the place was not exactly Rome, Paris or even Birmingham. Why would a bunch of SA winemakers be heading off to this relatively obscure place?
"What's happening in Mara-a-a-a," I tailed off as my interlocutor was herded away.
I subsequently found out that they were off to see Ben in his acclaimed restaurant. Why not an acclaimed London restaurant? The answer was in the wine list. Ever since then, I've been scheming on how to get to Marazion again. Before I could, Ben had moved to St Ives and I'd acquired some fab wines from him, including The Leader's favourite Chardonnay: Die Kat se Snor.
Now we were there with time for a quick stroll before our rendezvous with the maestro
First of all, I have to say that both BinTwo and the Porthminster Kitchen were the two places we observed that had done the most to make their guests feel safe in their environments. My conclusion: if you love making your guests happy with food and wine, it follows that you care about their safety, too.
You won't have to guess which wine Shan chose after Ben had presented us with an aperitif of bubbly. She felt like the cat's whiskers while I had a Dirty Little Secret to confess to. We took the remains back to Campy, aided and abetted by another friendly taxi driver.
All of our food was superb. Nibbles of olives and mackerel pate. Tempura squid starter for me (I would, wouldn't I) followed by seafood linguine and line fish with clotted cream mash for Shan and me respectively. I couldn't resist necking a Caffè Affogato as I was edging towards the door to comply with lockdown. So much more we wanted to say to Ben. Each plate was superb but a few stood out most: stuffed olives, the mackerel pate and "the best linguine I've ever had," Shan exclaimed to the serving staff and Ben. She does love her linguine so that's going to be a hard act to follow.
Perhaps the beautiful moon was a harbinger for the worst of Storm Alex. We had hoped to spend some time the next day making the most of St Ives in daylight but relentless rain and wind gusting to 60 mph meant another cosy day in Campy with half bottles of Kat se Snor and Dirty Little Secret.
We were to have moved on another site near Truro the following day and meander slowly home over 6 days but there're only so many cosy days indoors one can spend in a confined space within a high-sided vehicle exposed to buffeting gales. We escaped back to Oxfordshire to watch the foul weather through our picture window. We do have a great bucolic view,
Coming later: What can we learn from the likes of Rick Stein in revitalising our own Faringdon in Oxfordshire? Looking at The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of touring English resorts in late September. Covid was a wild card but ...
 As I was going to St. Ives,: I met a man with seven wives,: Actually, there is another question: was the nursery rhyme talking about St Ives in Cornwall or Cambridgeshire?
 Did I just make that up? Tweet Conv[o]ersation?
 We all have one of those ... should we call it a Twinality?
 200 miles away ... more than six hours by road and 12 by train.