Jenny has been filling out Roman’s baby book; as part of her research she looked up the meaning of the name Roman (a citizen of Rome) and then for fun checked on my name (from the Roman god Mars). She also learned that a sixth century King of Cornwall was named Mark, at least in the legend of Tristan and Isolde. He’s the villain of the story, but at least he got to rule over the beautiful land of Cornwall.
The thrill of travel is in gathering new experiences–those that are wildly new, not just mildly novel variations. It’s the difference between walking onto Red Square for the first time and eating a Big Mac with cabbage instead of lettuce. The cliffs of the Cornish coast are like nothing I have ever experienced before; on one side and hundreds of feet below, the wild Atlantic Ocean; on the other, flocks of sheep grazing in their pastures spread across the rolling hills. When we visited Cornwall earlier in the summer, I was busy and didn’t make time to go see for myself what Jenny was raving about, but since I had a few days to myself and a more free schedule I went for some runs along the coastal pathway. The path itself is hundreds of miles long and must make for a great long backpacking trip; one morning I saw some travelers leaving a Bed and Breakfast, packs fully loaded, probably headed out for the day towards the next town along the path.
As nice as it was to spend a few days on my own, I was excited to pick up Jenny, Elena and Roman from the train station on the day they came to meet me. They had some excitement getting onto the train–my telling doesn’t do it justice. They left home a few minutes later than Jenny had planned for, but she didn’t think it would cause any trouble until she arrived at the train station and noticed that the station clock was a few minutes faster than her cell phone, and their train was already pulling into the station. It was on the other platform, requiring that they use a bridge over the tracks to get there. Jenny picked up Roman in his stroller and made a run for it, telling Elena to follow as best she could. As they descended to the proper platform, it looked like they were going to make it. Then Elena’s umbrella fell off the stroller where it had been hanging, and then she lost a shoe. Jenny told her to pick them up and run for the train, which she did, and they both made it! The adrenaline rush following that experience lasted for hours–Jenny still gets nervous at the memory, and Elena still talks about how scared she was.
After they had a day to recover we took a road trip. Our designation was Penzance, in the southwest corner of Cornwall, but we took a longer route so that we could take a break from driving to watch the Tour of Britain. We pulled off to the side of the road at the top of a little hill and waited for the riders to come by. There were five or ten other cars in the same area that had stopped to spectate, a far cry from the throngs at the Tour de France. It was much less stressful, but still exciting enough when the first escape group, then the peloton reached us, followed by the entourage of team cars.
Penzance did not live up to our hopes; in particular, it was not very pirate-y. The town center looked much like any other, and the walkway along the harbor edge wasn’t particularly scenic. We wanted to visit St. Michael’s Mount, but it isn’t open to the public on Saturdays, and there was a Festival of Sport all around it, so we couldn’t even walk around near it. We didn’t find out about these problems until the day before, and didn’t have time to make alternate plans. Jenny has vowed to return there someday for a tour.