The rain poured as we took the train to Gatwick Airport to pick up our car in which we would road trip all around the UK. Excited to see a bit of the country side, I waited as Liam sussed out the details. Lacking experience driving on the left I was going to be in the passenger seat taking in all the sights. We were going to be driving to St Austell, a small town located in Cornwall. Most don’t venture down south until the weather is warmer but I connected with a photographer friend and it worked out to meet up.
The drive was ordinary, traffic along the motorway and sheep here and there, and then something we didn’t expect: stuck in gridlock we look around and there it is. Stonehenge. Just on our right hand side casually 200 meters from the road. Originally we had planned to go but after seeing it from the highway while in traffic for 30 minutes we felt that was all we needed.
We made it to Cornwall that night and our B&B host told us about a place to grab a bite along the water. Our GPS set to navigate us to the cafe, we drive down a windy road. We start to get a bit uneasy (reminding us of New Zealand when we ended up in a deserted national park) as the road began to narrow and descend steeply and it was getting dark. We continued with caution down the windy road hoping to find a town. We come to a small cul de sac and can see in between two old style inns the water lapping against the beach and a small Cornish flag flying in the breeze off the breakwall. The Rashleigh Inn — a converted boathouse with a cozy ambiance, firelit dining room and a calico cat to welcome us, we sample a local beer and enjoy the evening.
Few days later I met up with the photographer, Manny and we planned to shoot swimwear for his friend’s clothing label. The plan was to drive to Porthowan beach. It seemed quiet and sunny when we made our way to the hidden beach, but the wind made it near impossible to stand near the ocean – cars parked nearby had sand built half way up their tires! So we headed back to his place to try an shoot against the simple backdrop of a garage wall. We got some great photos – you would never know these photos were taken in 30 degree (F) temperatures and gale force winds.
Nevertheless we pulled through, defrosted and headed to Bath; home to a natural hot spring on which a Roman Bath complex was constructed and can be seen to this day. Touring the site, you truly feel like you can picture the Romans gathering at the baths for a luxurious afternoon.
To get more familiar with the area formerly known as Aquae Salis, we joined a walking tour. Passing where Jane Austen lived, learning why acorns are found on some buildings, and trying award winning Cornish Pastys, this little town is a delight. We went to check out the Bath Fashion Museum – showcasing European trends and wardrobe through the decades from the 18th century up to more present day designs by the famous Lagerfeld, McQueen, Gaultier, Pugh and YSL. I even indulged and tried on some traditional Victorian garb.
Another overcast morning and we were happy to be able to spend it at the Thermae Spa. The Minerva whirlpool, aroma steam rooms, and roof top pools were all amazing – the water is heated utilizing the natural hot springs beneath. The steam rooms were my favorite, scents for all different kinds of moods. Feeling a bit under the weather you could enjoy Menthal, feeling lethargic we could get a energy boost with lemon, or a reminder of spring, with Lavender. We ended our morning rejuvenation with a healthy, protein filled lunch before heading onwards.
Feeling revitalized and ready to continue the journey we headed north to the birthplace of William Shakespeare, Stratford Upon Avon. A small town evidently proud of Shakespeare’s contribution to literature – every corner or street has some interesting fact about him. The town is packed. People travel near and far to visit the place and I’m reminded of my high school humanities class seeing quotes and passages from plays like Romeo and Juliet, Taming of the Shrew and Hamlet. You have the chance to walk through Shakespeare’s actual home, see his bedroom and a recreation of his fathers glove making business.
Not far from Stratford is Warwick, Britain’s most intact medieval Castle, now turned amusement park. We watched a jousting tournament, a trebuchet in action, a hawking display, tried our hands at archery and toured the castle. I was moments away from buying a crown – if only I didn’t have to carry it around the remainder next few months while traveling.
Next up: Ireland