Pirates, smugglers, painters and wars

You get a little bit of everything on the Cornish coast. We started our day with a brief bus ride to the town of Mousehole. Now, who could resist a town named Mousehole, even if it’s pronounced mauzel? We couldn’t.

Mousehole can be seen from our Penzance bedroom, as it is just 2.5 miles to our right, as Mount’s Bay curves. And from Mousehole, we could see our bedroom window on this bright, sparkling day. We’re staying in the red building just below the church tower.

The town is teeny and precious, as its name might suggest. All but one building – then a pub, now a private home – were destroyed in a 1595 raid by those greedy Spaniards.

The harbor is a major feature of the town, and picturesque cottages jockey for the sea view. This town hasn’t been completely gentrified, but it may be close to the tipping point.

Competing gardens and explosions of flowers were everywhere.

There was even a little girl playing on the rocks who could have been lifted out of another era. So glad to find a complement to the young boy at Charleston Farm.

And then there was a sad reminder of less bucolic times. July 1 was the 100th anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Somme. Today in Mousehole, they commemorated the event with a solemn ceremony at their war memorial. Four of their men died in that costly battle.

We headed back toward Penzance, stopping in the little town of Newlyn, between home and Mousehole. Equally lovely in its setting, Newlyn attracted a colony of artists from the 1880s to the early 20th century, now referred to collectively as the Newlyn School. We saw an exhibit of some of their work yesterday, but I couldn’t take pictures, so these examples of some of those artists – cribbed from the web – will have to do. (Even Turner painted here!)

Newlyn had a number of things guaranteed to attract artists: fantastic light, cheap living, and the availability of inexpensive models. Doubt the models would be cheap today, but the town is still delightful.

Our day ended with a boat ride around Mount’s Bay. The day was so lovely that we couldn’t resist it. Our boat looped around St. Michael’s Mount, which looked very inviting on a sunny day, rather than the cloudy stormy day we visited it. Ah, the castle life.

The rest of our trip was lovely – very fresh air, sun and rocking waves. The main features of note were the caves along the coastline. It is easy to see how pirates and smugglers made use of all the nooks and crannies that couldn’t be seen from the cliffs above. And then there were the nasty folk who lured ships to their doom on the rocks, just to pillage what they could from the wreckage. If these rocks could talk..

Cornwall is another place we will leave with regret, but we are so happy to have experienced this special corner of England.

Don’s Food Corner

We were in Newlyn for lunch and of course we had to try the local catch.

While the inn where we had lunch was ancient, the approach to preparing the fish was decidedly contemporary. We started with a platter of tempura plaice, a type of flounder that I don’t remember ever having before. Delicately prepared, it came with a garlic mayonnaise and an interesting salad. How interesting to encounter a dose of garlic in Cornwall after rarely sensing any type in our three months in Italy.

For our main dish, Jo had breaded pan-fried hake. Again, very delicately breaded and perfectly prepared, it sat atop a medley of kale and potatoes with asparagus, seasoned with smoked bacon and hazelnuts. Unexpectedly elegant for such a rustic setting.

I went for the pan-fried sea trout. On the menu it only said “trout.” I assumed it was freshwater trout because I had never heard of sea trout. When I questioned its origin, the server waved a hand toward the harbor and said:  “It came from there.”  As I found out later, sea trout is similar to salmon. However, the texture of the fish was nothing like salmon, more like a very hearty white fish. It too was perfectly prepared and rested on top of a combination of kale, (not mushy) peas and potatoes with a creamy sauce.

It’s always a treat to know you are getting the freshest of fresh fish when you have a meal at the sea shore. Interestingly, at this inn there were no meat dishes at all. Only fish and crab. We should have had one more fish meal and one less pasty meal while we were here. I guess that means we’ll have to come back. (I know a very sweet cottage available for rent in Mousehole.)

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