Falmouth is the largest city in Cornwall, the region hanging out from the southeastern English coast like a tail. Mining used to be the way most locals made a living; these days it is the tourists that get mined. It is surprising that cruise ships stop here since the harbor is not up to housing us. Just like our last visit, we had a twenty minute tender ride to shore. But the locals make us feel so welcome. They line the piers and shores, loaded down with friendly smiles, maps, brochures and tourist info. The sunshine and blue skies felt mighty friendly, too.
Today we joined seven other couples who we had met on line while we were still at home for a private tour focusing on Saint Michael’s Mount. The castle on top of the island is connected to to the mainland by a walking path that is submerged by the incoming tide twice a day. When the tide is out, the castle is an easy stroll from shore. When the tide is in, you have to line up to take a boat in. We got there at the perfect moment. After walking in we climbed to the top of the island and toured the caste. Some of it was very old with very thick walls from the time that it was a monastery. The rest looks like a castle that Disney might create. A family still lives there, descendants of the wealthy family that got the castle from Henry VIII after he kicked the monks out. Next week they are entertaining Prince Charles and Camilla for lunch. Today they entertained us. The garden was spectacular and we joined school kids and non English speaking tourists, ogling the silver, armor, and fancy decor. While we ate lunch overlooking the Mount, the tide came in and the tour boats that had been laying on their side in the harbor sprang into action.
Because we were a small group we made the rest of the tour up as we went along with the help of the guide who knew the place like the back of her hand. To beat the larger tour buses she took us down narrow alleys which she called two lane roads. They were lined with vegetation covered stone walls and every so often she had to throw the engine into reverse and back up a ways to let a larger tractor or truck by. We also came to wider two lane roads that had arrows indicating who had the right of way, a bit of a mystery to us since they were two lane roads. We are thinking about coming back to Cornwall and renting a car to do some more exploring. We better figure out what those arrows before we do.
The guide took us to some small towns we would have never known about on our own. Hensley was decorating for a festival tomorrow that features only people who were born in Hensley dancing down the street. Store fronts were being festooned with gorse, blue bells, and other local vegetation. It would be fun to be here tomorrow to see the dancers, but getting anywhere near the place with a car could be a challenge.
Although we were cautioned that not everyone could take the last 4pm tender back to the ship, when we got back to the dock buses were bringing back long lines of passengers from the ship’s tours. It was a classic case of “do as I say and not as I do.” This was a time when being elite came in mighty handy. That little black card put us at the front of the queue and we saved ourselves 45 minutes of waiting. That gave me the time I needed to write this, because there will be more adventures to write about tomorrow.