I know you are all sick of reading about bathing a hen; I’m back from a vacation in Cornwall, UK and helping my daughter move back to OSU for her Junior year. With a gazillion photos to sort through, I’ll do my best to show you the highlights of our travels as well as keep you up on the growing of my gardens.
Why Cornwall? It is a land of legend, infinite beauty, the birthplace of many famous people, and is home of the pastie (a turnover with savory filling made by wives for lunch for their mining husbands). It was also supposed to be the warmest place in the UK in September, and the best place for birding as all the migrants fly near there. What no forecasting website let me know was that the hurricane that had hit the US East coast had moved north near Ireland, and gale-force winds were hitting most of upper Europe. Cornwall was no exception. The winds hit on the third day of our trip, and let up towards the end, so birding wasn’t so great ( you had to look quickly :). )
Our first lodging in Cornwall was at the Jamaica Inn (http://www.jamaicainn.co.uk/ ). How great is that! For you literary types, or those who love Alfred Hitchcock films, you’ll recognize this Daphane Du Maurier title which had been made into a movie. (Hitchcock also made movies of two of her other works, Rebecca and The Birds).
Jamaica Inn sits on the Bodmin Moor in East central Cornwall. When we flew into Newquay (pronounced NEW-key) airport and rented our car it had just begun to rain with a little thunder thrown in for atmosphere. The drive through traffic was slow (the highways have cow crossroads with signal lights!) and as we approached the Inn the fog rolled in.
There had been an accident on one of the highways so traffic was backed up. As we gratefully parked in the main parking lot of the Inn, an older man in a yellow traffic vest that had been out on the street came over and suggested that we park in the small lot in the front. He explained about the traffic, and joked about us being ready to meet ghosts at the Inn. I told him that with a meal, dry clothes and a warm bed, let the ghosts do their worst! He laughed and replied that ‘strange things happen around there.’ I moved the car, navigating a forty-five degree turn in a narrow, brick sided gate without scratching the car (England is infamous for this sort of thing), and re-parked. Glancing back at the road, I noticed that the man had disappeared. We never saw him again! Strange things, indeed.
In three nights we stayed in three different rooms because of the Inn being full.
We moved from the smallest and oldest room, one which the owner vowed had the most ghostly activity, to a larger, slightly less ghostly room, to finally a large room in the ‘new wing’ with a great view of the Bodmin Moor. The staff knew us as the ‘traveling Americans’. The owner told us that only the night before the guest in that first room had stood up from the bed and felt a hand push him back, twice. We walked through the dark pub, up the winding stairway to our room, named after one of the characters in Du Maurier’s book, and entered our room. It could very well have been the source of many unusual phenomenom. Being in the old section, which dated back 400 years, the floor slanted inward so much that you could imagine yourself shipboard stuck on the roll of a wave. It was great. After a visit to the pub, I don’t doubt that the previous guest had fallen down.
The Inn is hundreds of years old, and definately has an atmosphere.
At the Rancho Guajome Adobe in Vista, I havethe feeling that the house is like an older woman who was dressed in her finest, hair done up, back straight and proud, welcoming guests to yet another party at her fine home. At the Jamaica Inn, with its slanted floors, swaybacked roof and settled walls, I had the impression of an old, mostly toothless hag, one eye squinty, the other pierceing you with its gaze to see what you’re worth, and cackling at your dismay when you shudder. Wonderful!
There was a microclimate that surrounded the Inn; it was always colder, foggier, rainier and windier than even the coastal areas both North and South. We’d awaken to crummy weather and defiantly brave it to visit a garden or ruin, and find the weather a lot better once we left the area! Our last night there was the beginning of the intense gale-force winds. Flag poles were outside our room and they beat a strong tattoo all night. In the morning I pushed the window open against the wind to have a look, and wasn’t surprised at the flag that had beat so furiously in the storm.
The moor is not the wild, heath-covered marshy area one would expect anymore. It has been cut into squares for farmland, lined with hedgerows or stacked stone walls. It still is beautiful. The radiant green of British and Irish fields can’t be explained, just loved.
We didn’t have time to hike to the standing stones there, and tried twice to walk to the Dozmary Pool, the legendary home of the Lady of the Lake who kept King Arthur’s sword. We had heard that the ‘bottomless lake’ of legend does, indeed, dry up, and there is another lake that claims the sword as well, so we didn’t feel too badly about missing it. We walked across a field, sinking into wet spots, imagining Jane Eyre collapsed on a moor, and all the other stories and legends surrounding these fascinating places. I was glad to be close to safety!
The Jamaica Inn does brisk business as a tourist stop, particularly for busloads of ghost-seekers. They visit the Du Maurier museum, the gift store, and have lunch in the dark pub.
There are figures from the book lurking the corners, some of which speak to you when you press a button, and stocks in the front yard.
A ghost log sits next to the guest register for reporting any supernatural activity, and it is quite full.
I was mildly disappointed in not being spooked; however, if any ghost had tried to wake me up they would have been disappointed, for I was too tired to care!
Any adventure is enjoyed even more after you are safely home. I loved staying at the Jamaica Inn, soaked up the atmosphere, the grey stones the fog and all the corny spooky stuff set around the Inn. The name Jamaica Inn allegedly came from all the rum that was smuggled through. A plaque on the floor of the bar commemorates a spot where someone had been murdered. I wouldn’t have missed staying there for the world!