No Escaping Pasties and Poldark in Cornwall

Pasties. Poldark. Paved road the width of goat trails. And, oddly, sea salt. That’s what the Cornwall area of England is known for, if the proliferation of pasty shops, Poldark-themed maps, damned tiny roads and sea salt displays in stores and restaurants are to be believed.

The equivalent in Atlanta would be … let me think a minute … pasties (oh wait, our strippers are totally nekkid), the Walking Dead, 16 lanes of asphalt and chicken and waffles?

Tiny roads, great views

Seriously, Cornwall is the quite beautiful southwest tip of England, known for its rugged beauty, coastlines, beaches, cliffs and a history rich in mining—and smuggling. We took a quick trip to the Lizard, the southernmost point of “mainland” England. It was that morning, when hedgerows allowed for only one car for the last couple of miles, that prompted the post on puckering.

At one point, when the road still allowed for two lanes, a pheasant ran out in front of the car. I moved over half a lane. The pheasant did, too. I moved over more, and so did the pheasant. Let’s just say the end wasn’t pleasant for the pheasant.

Declan asked me whether the pheasant was OK because he saw the bird flapping. I explained it wasn’t likely given the speed I was going, a point backed up by the driver behind us. When we all arrived at the car park for the Lizard, he asked about the pheasant. I said I hated that it happened. The man replied, “That’s OK, because I put him out of his misery.”

What’s in a name? Product placements

Writers and marketers apparently have appropriated the names of many Cornwall towns, including St. Ives (lotion), Penzance (pirates) and Land’s End (clothing). I have no idea whether the links between places and products is true, but it certainly is interesting.

St. Ives, despite its confusing, rage-inducing, tiny one-way streets, was worth a visit after a beer to calm one’s nerves. The town has a vibrant harbor that’s still in use by commercial fishermen. Seals also visit, judging by the signs in the harbor. Virginia Woolf spent her childhood summers in St. Ives, gazing across the water to the Godrevy lighthouse, which was said to inspire “To the Lighthouse.” The proprietor of the B&B in St. Ives showed Declan and Marilynn the lighthouse in the distance while I apparently was stuffing my face, because I missed that little detail.

We also spent a day in Falmouth, another seaside town, so Marilynn could give a talk. It’s a fine-looking town, but I’ll admit that at this point Declan and I had had our fill of seaside. Instead of taking a ferry trip (too late in the day) or visiting the maritime museum, we spent considerable time in Trago, a huge store that sells everything from guns and gnomes to toilets and teacups, and kayaks to kitchen cabinets. It spreads over what looks like at least three buildings and four stories at one point. The website claims it carries 180,000 items, which, if anything, is an understatement. It even has a cafe with impressive views of the harbor.

Everything Poldark

Now back to what Cornwall is known for. If you don’t know what a pasty is, neither did I before coming to England. Basically, it’s a meat pie that looks like a fried pie we Southerners would instantly recognize. I can’t eat them because they invariably contain onions (I’m allergic), but Declan is quite fond of them.

And if you didn’t catch the Poldark reference, then you’re not a fan of the Winston Graham books, the 1970s miniseries or the current BBC series that’s shown in America as part of “Masterpiece” on PBS. The scenery is another star on the show, often used as a stunning backdrop as some character or another walks, gallops or cavorts by the sea, the wind sweeping back hair and horse mane with equal ferocity.

The community certainly caught wind, and quickly, of the popularity of Poldark, evidenced Poldark (2)by Poldark tourism map where visitors can see various big houses used in either series, mines and scenic spots, including the secluded cove where a pivotal bathing scene takes place in Season 1. We attempted to glimpse one of the mines used in the series, but a succession of wrong turns left us running out of time to get to Falmouth. However, we did see signs for the township of Warleggan, also the last name of Poldark’s nemesis.

As for the sea salt? I have no idea why it would be popular, but apparently tourists will buy anything during a vacation. Pillow with Poldark’s very large face on it, anyone?

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