Sunday, 11 March 2012

Travelogue 2 - Penzance, Cornwall

As promised, here is piece about my recent trip to Penzance down in Cornwall. You would never believe it from the photos, but Diane and I made our most recent visit in February. During the long drive, and at over five hours it can be a bit of an endurance test, we both noticed that as we got nearer to our destination spring had sprung much sooner in the South West. Typically it rained for the entire drive down there, but the trees had green shoots on them and the already green grass at the road side was filled with Daffodils. However bad the drive can be, letting the train take the strain can be worse. Last time we tried it it took over seven hours, and the disabled toilet was broken. Not the most fun I have had ever had. But I did not plan to make this an article on my dislike of public transport.

It is funny, but as we got closer to our destination we both started to feel more relaxed. We began visiting this part of the world when Diane's Mother and Step Father moved there. During our first visit I fell so in love with the place that I stated talking about moving there, causing much panic for my city girl wife. But I do still love the place. It's beautiful and rugged, with a relaxed attitude towards life. There is also a fantastic artistic and creative community. On top of that, property is much cheaper that here in London, but then I suppose there aren't many places where it's more expensive. Maybe living on the moon. Of course it's more the travel costs involved with commuting when you live on the moon than the cost of the moon base. So as our journey ended and St. Michael's Mount came into view the journey was all but forgotten, other than my very numb bum.

As we booked into our hotel, The Queens on the sea front, it kind of felt like coming home. It exudes a feeling of warm comfort that wraps around you like a blanket. It's a typical seaside hotel built during the Victorian expansion of the railways, and has loads of original historic features. The staff are fantastic. Really friendly and helpful, and a stay there does kind of feel like you are staying with family. Just family who have to do there best to make your stay pleasurable. So nothing like family really, but you get the gist.

Our room was lovely. We always request a sea view, as it is a must when staying here. Every time we've stayed our room has been large, very clean and a real joy to come back to. This time our room was even bigger than normal, with a gorgeous Art Nouveau brass fire place and a massive comfortable bed. The bathroom was large too, and I could easily get round our accommodation in my rather large wheelchair. I do think I should mention that none of the rooms have been fully adapted for wheelchairs. There are no handrails, and the rooms have baths and not wheel in showers, but I personally prefer that. I have always found that retro fitting older hotels for wheelchair access tends to be a hit and miss process and there is nothing worse that badly considered adaptations. Who needs handrails at the wrong height that are fitted badly, or sinks that are too low for anyone to use without getting their feet wet? I understand that this means some disabled people would find the Queens a little difficult, but I would still advise you to give it a try. I also know that there are other hotels nearby that do have full access.

One of the key benefits to having a sea view is waking up in the morning with the sun shining into the room, which really sets you up for the day. We ordered breakfast in our room on the first morning of our stay, which is a bit of ritual. Sitting there, scoffing toast, croissant and muesli while drinking fresh coffee with the beautiful vista outside your window is just sublime. Even in February, the blazing sun made our room so hot we needed to open the window and it's was warm outside! As soon as we had stuffed ourselves, we got ready to go for a walk along the promenade outside the hotel. It's one of the key reasons why Penzance suits us. It has a long and very flat promenade, that run from Mousehole, a little fishing village next to Penzance, all the way to the town centre. This is pretty rare in Cornwall. We have visited other places on our trips and they tend to mould themselves to fit the rugged contours of this area. Beautiful but not exactly wheelchair friendly. Penzance itself is still pretty hilly, but they are at least manageable. We once went to St. Ives, but found we couldn't get out of the car. This artistic tourist trap is built on the side of cliff, and so the roads are so steep that unless you are lucky enough to be able to park in the small number of blue badge bays on the sea front, you can forget it if you use a wheelchair like me. It actually felt like something from a comedy show, as we sat parked at an angle that could have been used to launch us into space trying to work out how we get the chair out of the car, and more importantly how we would ever get back into it. Cutting our visit short, we made our excuses and left driving, back to the safety of Penzance.

Diane and I have decided not go travelling this stay, instead we wanted to unwind and just enjoy Penzance. As well as seeing the relatives, of course. There is something that lifts the soul about a walk by the sea, with the bracing wind blowing through your hair on a gorgeous sunny early spring day. If you combine this with amazing views out to sea, and the fact that from Penzance you can see that arc of land that runs from Lizard Point to past Mousehole (which is truly beautiful and is such a large area that you can watch the weather rolling in off the sea) and I must admit I started dreaming of moving down there all over again. After wondering the sea front, we made a left turn next to hotel and fought our way up the hill. One thing for sure, if we did ever move there I would get even bigger muscles very quickly. Either that or a jet powered wheelchair. Now Penzance isn't all wine and roses for us wheelies. As well as some of the steep hills, the pavements are a little lumpy, and not all the shops are accessible. But it is pretty good, for a town with so many historic buildings. I personally found my campaigning head getting all passionate but I have enough battles in my home town to take on the access issues of a place that far away. If any locals want some advice, drop me a line.

Diane really wanted to visit a shop she loves, Mash, that does amazing women's clothes. After our obligatory shopping, we wandered the high street, stopped for a coffee and then used the handy lift in the Wharfside Sopping Centre that leads back down the promenade. Nice. Once back in our room, we relaxed and got ready to go for dinner with Diane's Mum and Step Dad. We met in the bar and then went onto Baba Indian Resturant just down the road from the hotel. All I can say is yummy. Just the perfect mix of traditional Indian restaurant feel with up to date modern cooking. We haven't been there before but it will now become a requisite of future trips. Always the way, find a great Indian restaurant that is a five hour motorway drive away from where you live. After a delicious meal, we went back to our room. Waking from a great night's sleep, which is amazing for me who finds sleep a real chore, we were full of beans and very relaxed. We went down for breakfast and then got ready for the drive home. One last wander down the seafront and we hit the road. It is always the low point of a trip to Penzance, leaving. We promised ourselves that next time we stay it would be for longer.

So if you've never been, I would definitely advise a visit to Penzance. If you want to just unwind it is perfect, but there are also loads of activities to do down there to. While we packed someone was waterski-ing in the bay for instance. Whatever you fancy, Penzance is great place and it is also a fantastic base to see the rest of this beautiful part of the world. We love it, and just writing this has made start thinking of booking another trip there soon.

1 comment:

  1. Just thought I'd add that Nicole from the Queens has contacted me and the hotel does have handrails and loads of other access aids that can be requested on booking. So it's even better than I thought.