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Published: June 19th 2008
Whanne that April with his shoures sote
The droughte of March hath perced to the rote,
And bathed every veine in swiche licour,
So priketh hem nature in hir corages;
That longen folk to gon on pilgrimages,
And specially, from every shire ende
Of Englelond, to ST. IVES they wende,
The holy blisful LIGHTHOUSE for to seke,
That hem hath holpen, whan that they were seke.
I include the above (slightly modified) excerpt from the beginning of the Canterbury Tales to try to explain how excited I was to go to St. Ives. Chaucer's pilgrims must have been mighty excited to see whatever relic it was that they were going to Canterbury to see, as it probably took the majority of them along time to wende they're way to the SE. Similarly, it was quite an important monument that motivated me to go all the way down to Cornwall for the last stop of my spring break. Let me tell you what this momument was, friends. It was THE lighthouse. The one V.W., who seems to be mistress over all my affairs these days thanks to this thesis business, had in mind while writing the bestest novel
ever, To the Lighthouse. So that's right guys, I've been to THE LIGHTHOUSE. I know you share my excitement (not).
When I first set off for St. Ives from Bristol, it was looking like the weather Chaucer's pilgrims contended with was going to be a lot nicer than April weather I was dealt. All that had to worry about was a few shoures. I, on the other hand, made journey to what Leslie Stephen (father of V. W. and author of the Dictionary of National Biography) called "the toenail of England" through snow shoures. (Snow in April! I still can't get over!) I was not excited about the idea of exploring the gorgeous Cornish coast in crappy, wet, cold weather, but fortunately, the snow laid off somewhere in Devon--leaving me to enjoy a mostly warm and sunny visit in St. Ives.
St. Ives is a little bitty town with a couple nice beaches, cute winding alleys, and about a gazillion pasty shops. You see, Cornwall is famous for their pasties (pronounced pa-stees not paste-ees), which are pastry pouches filled with (usually) meat, potatoes, and turnips. Pasties have traditionally been staple Cornish fare because formerly, Cornwall was full of
poor miners who needed cheap but hearty sustenance, and pasties fit that bill perfectly. There are also a couple of art museums and art galleries a-plenty. Most of the art galleries sold either tacky pastel things that look like they should be hung in bathrooms or scribbly nothings that I'm guessing aren't art so much as the connivings of certain people to take monetary advantage of pretentious tourists. The museums were okay, though. The friend who was with me, Claire, is an art major and she was particularly excited about visiting the Barbara Hepworth museum. Barbara Hepworth is a famous 20th century sculptor who spent many years working in St. Ives. Claire was really excited about her stuff, but I was kind of ambivalent.
The point of this trip, though, was to get to the Lighthouse. I was sadly disappointed when I discovered it was too early in the season to catch a boat to the lighthouse, but my determination was great, so Claire and I spent one day travelling by bus and foot to try to get to this damn lighthouse This ended up being a really nice way to spend the day. We had to hike across
a great span of sand dunes that were spotted with weird, roofless concrete structures before scuttling across a great expanse of rocky beach. Something I learned during this trip is that this high tide, low tide stuff is no joke. The water level changes so much! We could tell that the beach part we were walking on was completely submerged when tide was in, and I kept flipping out thinking that the tide would rush in and we'd be banged against the cliff and either bleed to death or drown. But the tide stayed out, and all was well. Originally I had intended to get as close to the lighthouse as possible, but after a couple hours of hiking, I was tired and hungry I gave up the effort. I know, I know, quitting is lame, but the lighthouse is on an island so I wouldn't have actually gotten to go in it or anything anyway, and I think I got close enough to be able to grasp the images V.W. must have had in mind while writing her spectacular novel. So we got lunch at a cute little beach cafe called the jam pot and then headed back. Good
Once again, I have dallied too long in writing this entry and have forgotten most of the quirky details of the trip. I remember getting hit on multiple times at the hostel by some guy who was at least twice my age but claiming to be 30. I did not return his advances, oh no. I can't remember any other funny incidences, hmm. Oh well.
Cornwall was delightful, and I would definitely recommend a trip there if you are looking for pretty coasts and relaxation. During the 9-hour train ride back to York I also discovered that Devon is a wonderful, beautiful place of pretty green hills dotted with cute sheep. I wish I could have made a stop there, too, but alas, there are just too many places of interest in the world to hit them all up.
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